Wait. Was that Art?



Sunday afternoon I was out on a tennis court as part of a senior portrait shoot and, as I usually do, I took a quick throw-away test shot (above). You can see I didn't even bother focusing. Just fired off a quick frame to check colors and measure the ambient light level before I started setting up the shot. Test frames like this give me a baseline exposure to start from as I add lighting to a scene. Technical purpose aside, I usually just toss these images as soon as I get them onto the computer, but for some reason I really liked this one. So I held onto it. As I've worked on processing the images from that shoot over the last few days, the dreaded mouse arrow of Damacles has hovered over this image more than once, but I can't bring myself to delete it. So what is it about this picture that I like? I don't know. Is it the colors, the angles, the softness of the lines, all three together? Not sure. But wait...Does that make it art?

Whoa. Easy there. That's a big question. Here's a bigger question: What is art? Where's the line? I'll be honest, I have no idea. This shot wasn't intentional, but I dont know if intention is the critical element that defines art. I've seen wonderful pieces that rely, at least in part, on chaos. And on the opposite side of the coin, I've seen impressive intentional efforts that I would not qualify as art. Is art merely that which is pleasing to the senses? Maybe, but that gives us a pretty broad definition. Is a nap on a Sunday afternoon art? On the right day, I could probably be convinced that it is. But then what about works of art that make us uncomfortable, art that's not pleasing to the senses. Do we demote them to something other than art? I hope not.

But that means there must be something else. Some vague intangible concept which defines art that lurks just beyond my ability to describe. I don't know what it is, but I know something about it. It's a living thing always just out of site. It's somewhere out in front of me always waving me over to the side of the road when there's an amazing photo opportunity. It's the nagging whisper in my ear that always says "try that shot one more time from that angle over there and maybe it will be perfect." It's the passion that makes me pick up a camera everyday and try to do something completely different. That's it. That's what it is.