Why Art Must have Rules

smoke665

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I mostly agree with this, but in my classes, when we discuss "the rules", I explain to my students that these are "time-tested", but that there was a time previous to these rules that people who created art really had no rules- cave drawings for example are just a series of works bunched together with no real compositional rules guiding them, but we still consider them to be "Art". So, it's good to know what the rules are when appropriate, but also OK to envision your creation in a way that breaks these rules as well. This to me, is all about the creative process and allows the free expression that we all desire to have in our work. Just my $0.02.

Be well, one and all,

Mark
if you dig through common/standard lists of "the best or greatest photographs of decase x" youll see that MORE photographs on those lists DO NOT FOLLOW ANY OF THE so called RULES of photography"

And to many of these "rules" contradict each other in ways that a person just says screw it and goes and plays with a yarn ball

I'd disagree with "Do not follow any" part of your statement. Somewhere within their composition I would bet they've followed a rule or two whether consciously or unconsciously.

There are some rules rooted in fact that if you break them your composition won't be viewed the way you intended. Color theory is one aspect that comes to mind. Marketing and advertising people are well known for their use of color to elicit a response or mood from the viewer, the subject has been the center of countless studies. IE: If you wanted to show a warm pastoral fall landscape you'd want warm colors (orange, red, yellow), whereas as a cold winter landscape would follow blues. Other things like placement of focal point can lead to the viewer missing the intent of the artist.
 

star camera company

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True Art is “the concealment of effort”, that quote is from Geraldine Chaplin.
 

Grandpa Ron

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I believe this is a bit of over thinking the subject. The best description I have heard is "Art is junk and junk is art" it depends on who is judging.

Bach, Bluegrass and Rap all have large followings, bring in good money to some and most folk could care less about the style the do not like.

Sounds a lot like photography to me. :)
 

mrca

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Overread, you are spot on. Once a photographer knows why he is taking the photo, using his personal choice of how to capture it to maximize that reason is his style and if his not following some arbitrary "rule" it is done for a specific reason. When I used to compete alot, I would always add a rule violation that contributed to the meaning of the shot to screw with the judges to see if they would score it less because of not blindly following supposed rules. Since most competitions are judged primarily on technique, not what the image expresses, we see such images scored lower. Many competitions have no title for images that can give a clue to the makers intent for the image so people can determine if all the elements contribute and support it.
 

JoeW

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I have a slightly different take. Of course visual art has rules. But there are hundreds of them, maybe thousands of them. And you can't comply with all of them at once.

What makes photography possible as an art is the photographer's deliberate decision as to which rules to use or adhere to. Do I have a level horizon and shoot in landscape mode? Or go with a Dutch Tilt? Or use a portrait mode? It is those deliberate decisions (which compose a picture) that determines if we're just taking snapshots or making photographs. And our ability to then make a choice (I want your eye to be drawn to the bright lights so I'm deliberately go to shoot with a background full of bright white orbs. Or I want your eye to be drawn to the sky so I'm going to compose my sunset shot so 80% of the photo is the sky rather than the foreground) and achieve the look we want with that choice is what makes it art.
 

Grandpa Ron

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I think the "rules" of photography are a collection of things that have shown themselves to be the most appealing to the majority (not all) of the viewers. So photographer use them as guide when taking photos. There is also a certain amount of popular fads mixed in.

The harsh truth is that, you do not get to decide if you are a good photographer, your audience does.
 

mrca

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Ron, I disagree, most of the audience doesn't have a clue about excellent photography or art. You ARE a good photographer based on what you produce whether or not the masses like it or not. You may be CONSIDERED a good photographer by the masses, who generally have little photo or art knowledge yet be a terrible or one trick pony photographer. Like Joe mentions, tilting was a fad done without purpose other than to do it. Same with blurring, excessive warming or saturation, bokeh. All valid techniques, but when not appropriate for the image, it is crap. I don't think "rules" ie guidelines are created by the masses, they rarely know why they like something, but painters through the centuries and photographers for 160 years have noted them. The only thing the audience determines is if they like or buy your work. Sorry, the reality is if you are putting great work out there it is casting your pearls among swine. If you let the mob tell you if your are good or not, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and instead of concentrating on creating great work, you will only chase approval. Who was that recent painter who couldn't paint without a cliched warm light coming through a window. He made a fortune. I'd rather have a velvet Elvis.
 

jcdeboever

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I have no clue. I am happy to be able to press the shutter. I have zero deep thoughts anymore. I am a robot with a camera who gets a thrill by various shutter sounds. I get all warm and fuzzy from the sound of a mirror slap produced by a Zenza Bronica S2A
 

Scott Whaley

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I mostly agree with this, but in my classes, when we discuss "the rules", I explain to my students that these are "time-tested", but that there was a time previous to these rules that people who created art really had no rules- cave drawings for example are just a series of works bunched together with no real compositional rules guiding them, but we still consider them to be "Art". So, it's good to know what the rules are when appropriate, but also OK to envision your creation in a way that breaks these rules as well. This to me, is all about the creative process and allows the free expression that we all desire to have in our work. Just my $0.02.

Be well, one and all,

Mark
I think of "Cave Art" as prehistoric graffiti. Can you imagine what people 2,000 years from now are going to think when the uncover a brick wall in the Hood with Graffiti on it?
 

mrca

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JC, think that has a great sound, try 1 more cm with a rb67. Pull a dark slide, cock mirror, advance shutter, manually focus with reversed waist level finder. Push shutter, Kalunk, repeat. Don't worry, If I recall, you can find deep thoughts from Jack Handey on old SNL episodes.
 

Grandpa Ron

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mrca, I certainly do agree that the "masses" do not know much about what makes a good picture. However, even the best photographers do not always agree on what is a good photograph.

As you mentioned there are many electronic enhancing features available today, whether there usage is a brilliant display of creative talent or just plane crap; is, has been and always will be subjective.

At the root of the the Ops question, is the fact that there is no law that says you must use this or that photographic rule or you will be throw in jail until to do. Like most things, the rules are economically driven; i.e. this sells, but that does not. A job that you are not "dependent" on for all or part of your living, is basically a hobby, even if it brings in some cash.

In the USA you are free to starve in the occupation of your choice, You may be among the the top 100 best stagecoach drivers in the land but I would not advise it as a career choice.

I have always loved to play banjo, but as they say, I never quit my day job.
 

Soocom1

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To a point I agree, but then also disagree with some of it.

The cave drawing aspect is IMO a bit of a fallacy. Study many of the cave drawings in places like France and India and you will see rules of perspective engaged, and in some instances distribution, rules of thirds, etc. Were they written? Who knows. Maybe they were, maybe not.

Gobekli Teplie which is a favorite of the Ancient Alien bunch has on it reliefs of animals that fall well into proportion. But that was done some say as far back as 12,000 years! (Look at medieval drawings and tell me about perspective!) That bunch was HARD on rules, but art was secondary to the memes of the day as it were. (Mostly trying to survive plagues and the occasional sieges.)

But the rules are not designed to be absolutes. They are there as guidance to make an art piece something understandable an enjoyable.
The whole Andy Warhol thing was designed to challenge those ideas and in some cases worked, but even ol Andy did things that followed basic rules.

Petroglyphs of the SW US have many multiple drawings carved in rock that also follow some basic rules. Art is successful to the beholder. The artist can be looked upon as a worthless drugged out wannabe or a master to be remembered for all time.
So to me the rules are in my opinion guidelines to help create, not absolute that can never be broken.
 

mrca

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I like McNally's quote referring to Pirates of the Carribean where the girl comes on board the pirate ship under the Rules of Parlay, like a white flag but the Captain tell his men to toss her over board and she says he can't harm her under the Rules of Parlay and he says, they aren't really rules, more like guidelines. Want to get more "keepers?" You can be the blind squirrel and just shooting away hoping to find an occasional acorn, or you can learn the guidelines, but only use what fits YOUR VISION. I like the words of a successful, accomplished member of PPA, I don't care if they like it, so long as they BUY it. I would add, and be true to your vision. And there is more to photography than "following the rules." I have judged competitions and often times they are judged on following the rules. But it takes much more to make a great image. McDonalds workers follow the Mcdonalds rules to the letter but do they make gourmet food? Never. But go to a restaurant with a gifted chef who will chose fresh local ingredients, carefully combine flavors, textures, colors to create a work of art out of basic ingredients understands some guidelines but relying on his vision, his creativity. That is food as an art form. Same applies to photography. Now, everyone wont appreciate what he has done, but his heart and mind is in the dish. Cartier Bresson said a great image results when the eye, the mind and the heart come together to produce the image. He said nothing about rules. But not everyone is trying to make art, they may be just documenting a moment. Sorry, but aping what is in front of a camera can be done without you there. Most of the images we are deluged with do only that. A camera can't have something to say then craft an image that powerfully conveys that message. Someone who can do that consistently is a great photographer. Why is Steiglitz one of my favorite photographers? When the NY Camera club guys told him his photo wasn't sharp (you know a rule even in 1900) he told them :it isn't supposed to be. No one remembers the camera club guys.
 

flyingPhoto

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Montaigne had good thoughts on the rules of proportion used by children drawing oversized body parts when they drew graphiti on the castle walls..

Rules can be better looked at as THEORIES of practice. Look at leading lines for instance, we all know we can use a leading line inside a photograph to draw the viewers eyes to what we want them to look at most.
Say a model holding a candle to her chin to put the viewers gaze at her lipstick instead of her low cut dress.

But following the rules cannot make a bad photograph better. Read about all the nude photos of women on random train tracks. Sure they use leading lines, but the photo itself is CRAP because the whole setting and combination has no purpose.

But if the image is meant to be pleasing, it needs to meet requirements of the target audience. Poster for 5 year old girls? basket of kittens please..

Poster to make a target group of people vomit in their lunch? a picture of their favorite meal surrounded by aborted fetus' will do the trick nicely.
 

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