According to Tolstoy (2016), art depends on how a feeling or an affection transfers from one person to another person through hearing or sight. Perhaps Tolstoy’s view of art did not decipher the common meaning and purpose of art as compared to the earlier definition of Koch (2008). According to Koch, Gerken and Codex Foundation (2008), art is the realm, artistic expression, production and artistic quality of what is beautiful in the accepted standards and in an extraordinary way. Comparing the two definitions regarding photography, then photography may pass as an art according to Tolstoy. This is because photography, similar to painting, has the power to inspire, engage and move viewers. For instance, a photograph of a hungry child in a war-stricken African or Middle Eastern country inspires the whole world to give and maintain peace. However, photography as an art in the world of Koch, Gerken and Codex Foundation might generate a range of different views. The artistic production and quality of modern photography are debatable in a world where picture manipulation to improve the aesthetic appearance of images is rampant. The increasing quality of a photograph essentially leads to a depreciating artistic merit such that modern photography is more a science than art.
In Rudolph Arnheim’s book Art and Visual Perception, his key argument for photography as an art lies by likening the principles that apply to more tradition forms of artistic expression to the more modern expression of phtography (1954). The crux of his analysis lies on his interpretation of the gestalt theory, a psychological view that presents the idea that the mind receives all input in a whole and complete form. This leads into his theory that speech in the art room muddles what the artist wants one to recognize with their own psychology. This is an accordance with other literary assessments, such as Alymer Maude’s translation of Tolstoy’s What is Art? (2016).
According to Tolstoy, preliminary analyses of art always begin with the perception of beauty, something he feels has been muddled by the constant discussion and various perspectives of what true beauty is. While this serves his purpose to push that artists should remain connected to the colloquial world while creating art because then the true meaning of beauty can be seen, it seems hypocritical that he is discreding discussion of the meaning of beauty while offering discussion points himself. His view is aligned with Arnheims in that he believes that art is the immediate emotions and thoughts one gathers with sight and hearing, but Tolstoy narrows his view due to his extreme dislike of female nudity within art. This has been a major subject in not only traditional art, but photography as well, and Tolstoy is not the only major literary force to feel this way Koch, Gerken, and Codex Foundations take that definition of art and expand it while critizing, though inadvertently so, a limited perspective of beauty.
In ART : definition five (and other writings), Koch and Gerken focus on the idea that modern art, including largely photography, takes a much more sophisticated albeit complete perspective on beauty (2008). They view that much of popular contemporary art has been saturated with overanalyizations and if one were to remove those viewpoints, the pieces would be nothing but ordinary collections. Although this may appear to be a much more open opinion, it is similar toTolstoy’s opinion that art needs only to be appreciated by those he qualifies as being able to succinctly appraise it. They want to set photography as a pure form like other forms of art, thus damning manipulation further and relating to Tolstoy’s view of art.
Walter Benjamin takes a comparable opinion on the reproducibility of photography in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (2010) but with a different lens. Although he admonishes the reproduction of art, he has recognized its emergence in art as an unchangeable force. The question posed here is how can photography be viewed as a true art when it can be so easily reproduced? He answers this by implying that while the uniqueness is removed from art during reproduction, reproduction has become such a standard in photography that its still succeeds as an art form to be uniquely viewed by the beholder. Kelsey would appear to agree with this view in Photography and the Art of chance (2015, but the warrant on it has been unfortunately juxtaposed. Kelsey’s assertions seems to be that while art can’t be viewed by its mechanical efficiency, it takes the perfect shot to really create art in a photograph. This clear confliction is indicative of how even the most forward and established voices in the art world are having issues trying to classify photography as an art.
Jacob and Kinsley critize this opinion in Photography into Art. Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age (2016) by finding that photography has deep ties to to traditional arts in style. This is a much more concrete definition of art than has been seen in the other sources, being that all art has to relate to the roots of art. Such a definitive view of art does leave out the massive changes present in photography and doesn’t allow for analysis like that of Benjamin’s.
- Arnheim, R. (1954). Art and visual perception (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Benjamin, W. (2010). The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction (1st ed.). Lexington, KY: Prism Key Press.
- Jacobi, C. and Kingsley H. (2016). Photography into Art. Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd.
- Kelsey, R. (2015). Photography and the Art of chance (1st ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Koch, P. R., Gerken, J., & Codex Foundation. (2008). Art: Definition five (and other writings). Berkeley, Calif: Codex Foundation.
- Tolstoy, L. (2016). What is art? (1st ed.). London: Bloomsbury Academic.