The Rules of Art (and photography) - I'm gonna tell them to you

Overread

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Rules

It turns out artists (and by extension photographers in particular) don't like rules.

Maybe its the world "RULES" that invokes some kind of mental image of evil school-teachers and repeated "No Ball Games" signs that just begged to be torn down and ignored. Whatever it is it seems that as soon as art and rules come together fights break out. People lash out - almost in a mindless state of wanting to make sure that their art; their photography; their hobby is without these imposing rules.

Somehow I think its a desire to ascribe the romantic notion of freedom to photography and art in general. To feel that there is something "natural" in the creative world that defies control; logic; rules; books; learning - that is instinctive and thus comes from the person alone. That they are born with it - that they are greater for it; that they can stand up upon a pedestal higher than the rest of us (artistically speaking of course).




Well whatever the reason it leads to fights. Personally I think its because we misunderstand the term in itself- and we couple that to the fact that most of us, honestly - well we never went to art school and we didn't learn it and we don't really understand it.

So here's a thought. Art in relation to photography is about speaking to people.

You are speaking to people in visual terms; in a language which has no verbal component, nor motion and often no written component either (though not always of course - sometimes the words written within a photo are key).

Indeed we accept this very readily - we openly say "A photo paints a 1000 words" and other such similar statements.


So we do indeed accept that photography is, in part, a language form. Now if we build from there we already know that the language we speak; that we learned more by instinct from youth (at least for our mother tongue(s) is a language with structure. It has rules, conventions and concepts within it that allow us to speak to each other and be understood.



Now we've accepted that languages have a structure to them. Rules that underpin how we communicate with them that allows one person to speak to the other. We also know that these structures have localizations and further that the formal structure is not always what we use. In fact most of us bumble along very understandably in a more casual manner. It's not "better" nor "worse" overall; its just different.


Thus I would liken photography and art to language.
We can learn both through the osmosis of growing up and we can learn both formally. We can "break" or "twist" the rules that we are given; but we also cannot just "break" things without learning them first. We have to learn how those rules work; why they work; what contexts they requires to work - then we can work on breaking them.

Art, like language, is built to work like that. Because often from the foundation of twisting things we get new theories; new ways of structuring the language which give rules to new "rules" which can establish themselves in time within the population.

Art is very much the same.




So what are the rules - the rules are in books. They are in great works of the past and present; they are in the studies of visual communication. They are not something to be feared; to be discounted nor to be twisted to nothing. They are a structure and if we can but learn that structure; or at least a part of it, then it can only take our artistic communication further - take our creativity further (because as we understand how to speak visually better thus we are vastly more free to speak on more subjects; on more themes and with more clarity).
 

Dave442

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I grew up with an art teacher for a mom and the first rule I was taught to break was "color within the lines".
 

table1349

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Funny, that's what I told the cop when he got me going 80 in a 60 zone. He disagreed when I advised him that the 60 mph sign was only a guide line. The judge agreed with him. :allteeth:
 

Derrel

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A couple of years ago here on TPF in one of these big discussion-type threads, I wrote about a type of new, beginning shooters who were responding very strongly to C&C's from multiple TPF posters, "They want to work in a visual medium, but they are not willing to learn the visual language." A TPF member here asked if he could use that in his sig file here, and I told him I was uncomfortable with it, because it would be taken out of context. He understood what was meant by the comment, but I don't think there are a lot of people who view studying the fine arts as either 1) worth their time or 2) even a valid exercise because 3) they know what they like, and besides, the fine arts are all a joke anyway. Right?

All photo forums have undercurrents, and different groups. Some people focus on different areas of the art and the craft, learning how to manipulate images in software, how to light things, how to capture birds in flight, how to best render landscapes, or how to do all sorts of things. The craft part is talked about a huge amount, but the art part is often disdained by people who insist that there are no guidelines for things like composition and design. There's a new generation of people who practice photography at a very high craft level...but their framing and composition choices are often atrocious. When these issues are addressed by others, the first line trotted out is quite often, "Well, it's art, so it's alllllll subjective, isn't it! So go **** yourself...I know what I like, and I'm going to keep doing it this way."

Hence the observation, "They want to work in a visual medium, but they are not willing to learn the visual language." it's very difficult to have discussions with people who do not actually value design or the fine arts. The people who belittle those who have made their life's work in the design fields make me aware of how very "democratic" the web, and photography, have become. And I do not mean that in a good way.
 

pgriz

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Hey now. Every generation discovers sex for the first time. Why should art be any different? :boogie:
 

pgriz

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Ok, I must be old-school. I haven't tweeted, texted, or in any way communicated to the world what goes on. So maybe, in line with the thought "if a tree falls in the forest, and there's no-one to hear it, does it make a sound?", if it didn't get tweeted, it didn't happen? Which, if true can be the new contraceptive method. Hmmm. But we're going off topic.
 

Vtec44

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I predict this thread will get to 2 pages without any pictures, then it goes off to a completely different topic. :D
 

Fred Berg

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Really Useful Long Established System

Without them know we wouldn't that Yoda very funny is.
 

Forkie

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The reason there are so many arguments about what constitutes art and what doesn't is that there are so many variables; arguably, infinite variables that no two people can possibly agree on which of those variables, or how many of them are required to, A) qualify something as art in the first place and, B) judge that art as a success.

Some people require one or more of the mathematical elements to be present: the Rule of Thirds, Golden Ratio, Golden Spiral, full range of tonality, etc.

Some people require the technical aspects to be met: perfect exposure, appropriate DoF for the subject, correct white balance, etc.

Some require cultural aspects important: What is fashionable or trendy at the moment? Is the message (if there is one at all) relevant or topical? Is the message challenging, controversial or conventional?

Some consider the very process of making the art more important than the result itself.

The list goes on. Some require at least one of each of these to be present, some require more than one, some require only some of them and some don't care whether the art includes any of them at all. And this doesn't even include personal taste.

For me, that's what makes art so exciting and fascinating. I've always been a bit of an "Art for Art's Sake" kind of guy. I will forgo any message or technical aspects in favour of the thing being made in the first place for the sole purpose of making it.

Generally, when I view a piece of art or a photograph, my immediate thought is "Does it look cool?", if yes, usually the next thought is "How did they make that?". It's only after that that I start to notice the mathematical parts of a composition or the cultural aspects. The technical elements of a piece of art, in photography in particular, are usually the last thing I consider and I've usually decided whether I like an image long before I even get to that consideration.
 

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