500px. What is fine art?

September 13, 2012

Welcome to #photogeeks, the home of “Tough Love” school of photo critique

11:52 thefsb   nFFF: don’t get me started on teh 500px “house aesthetic”

11:52 virhilo   and be well done in all other ways not neceserty post

11:52 thefsb   i really don’t like it

11:53 thefsb   it’s often more digital fine art than photography

12:05 Morinaka   what’s their house aesthetic?

12:09 virhilo   thefsb: just curious(not native english) what’s difference between fine art and art?

Good question.

First: What is art? Hard to say. A few concepts I personally find useful:

All art is human artifice. All art is an attempt to communicate something ineffable. Anything perceived as art *is* art.

No tangible object can be said to *be* art. Art comes into temporary existence only through the act of perceiving it, which may also be while it is being created or imagined. Like truth, art does not exist in any materialist ontology except in the minds of humans considering propositions.

Next: fine art is a tradition in two and three dimension visual arts. It is not really categorical although polar opposites such as illustration vs. fine art do exist. Good examples (that I love) include Breugel’s Icarus, both Vellasquez and Bacon’s Pope Innocent, Ernst’s L’Ange du foyer, Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa.

Various things that can be art but not fine art: poetry, music, decorated pottery, the photography of Weegee, Cartier-Bresson, Graham Watson.

Regarding 500px, there appears to me to be a coherent aesthetic emerging from the front page of that web site. I can’t easily describe it. The photos are highly proficient in their technical aspects. Extremely dramatic. Unnatural and/or hyper-natural in general appearance. Very digital-looking. The flow of this stuff has been accelerating in recent years as various tools (both hard and soft wares) have become affordable. As a meme, this aesthetic has taken root in many photogs’ minds and is replicating rapidly through the available population.

This is an aesthetic of fine art through digital manipulation (of digitally captured high-res images). Consequently it is less “photographic” to me.

And I don’t like it.

I am also into music and the current situation in digital photography reminds me of when Pro Tools became affordable and everyone was overusing the same popular plugins. You could distinctly hear them. That’s when I found it necessary to distance myself from digital enhancements and refocus my efforts on creation and originality.

2 Responses to “500px. What is fine art?”

  1. onre said

    I can’t say that I like the aesthetic either. To me, most of the photos on 500px look more like screen captures from a demo of a cutting-edge 3D graphics card than actual photographs.

  2. ThePeach said

    I tend to agree, we can easily generalise saying that when something that has always been “difficult” to achieve becomes easy thanks to some tools, when we can see the mass flocking in. This brings good and bad things, where the bad things tend to be the most obvious.

    I’ve seen that happening with Flash and web design/development, I’ve seen that with music (as you said) and I’ve seen that with the commercialisation of digital cameras.

    At the end a tool is just what you make of it. So IMO 500px is OK as a service (maybe some things could be improved), but the community is nothing interesting nor new, that produces some futile glossy cover of some random fashion magazine.

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