Essay about Different Definitions of Art and Photography

2361 Words Mar 6th, 2012 10 Pages
To test the validity of the statement ‘All the arts are based on the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence.’ (Bazin 1967: 13), one has to first define what is meant by art. This commentary is going to examine this statement using three different definitions of art, Bazin’s, Tolstoy’s and Arnheim’s definitions.

Andre Bazin believed realism lies at the heart of art, and that art is the process of reproducing reality. He believed that an artefact should ‘helps us to remember the subject and to preserve him from a second spiritual death’ (Bazin 1967: 10). He saw art as a way of immortalising mortal things; he compares painting and sculptures to the ancient practice of mummifying in Egypt, ‘to keep up
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For example Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa tells us more about Da Vinci’s ability to produce such a magnificent piece of art, than Lisa Gheradini, the woman in the painting. Bazin would argue that the artiste can still express his personality in a picture, with the items he chooses to shoot, but in a photograph, as opposed to a painting, the central attraction remains the objects in the picture and not the artiste personality. ‘A painting of a cart doesn’t really refer to a cart but rather refers to the painters painting of a cart. The cart refers back to the painter and his paint,’ (A.R. Duckworth, 2008) a photo, however, would offer a direct representation of the cart at that time.

Bazin fails to account for the editing and modification techniques that developed with the invention of photography. The artiste can use these techniques to alter the photograph, making the end result a subjective creation of his imagination; therefore a camera can too lie. This is where photography can be considered risky, as opposed to other forms of art, people ‘often accept cinematic worlds without question and often photos modified, or “photo-shopped”, are accepted as true and real until people are promoted to believe otherwise’ (A.R. Duckworth, 2008), therefore one can be deceived by a modified photo, and believe it to be true, but a painting or a sculpture could never have the same effect, as we know they are the creation of the imagination of an artiste. An

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