The debate over what constitutes art has raged for thousands of years. With the advent of photography, it came even more into focus because with photography came pornography. Now certainly, there are other forms of pornographic media besides photography, but photography (and video) are the most common. I don’t think anyone would try to argue that pornographic movies are art. I could be wrong, but I think we all know it is what it is.
As a photographer, this topic comes up almost daily. To the extent that it’s almost boring. But here I am, talking about it anyhow.
As I’ve gotten older and spent more time as a photographer and a student of photography, I’ve seen what used to be black and white in more shades of grey. As an 18 year old, an implied photo that showed a woman’s back, for instance, would have been dirty to me. The fact of the matter is, however, that my perception of it was the problem, not the actual photo. You see, art is in the eye of the beholder. If we exclude pornographic photos (don’t be dumb, we all know what that is), then it’s just art. It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s still art.
People always want to boil the distinction down to “rules”, but that’s really not the point. I’ve seen fully clothed photos of people that were dirty, and I’ve seen close ups of butts that were pure art. Much, if not all, of the distinction is in the intent.
What do I mean by intent? Well, if the intent is to sexually arouse, then it’s probably pornographic. If the intent is to show beauty, it probably isn’t.
Religion loves to get its grimy mitts on this topic. They are convinced there’s nothing more evil than a boob or a butt. However, the last time I checked, GOD created boobs and butts, and intended for them to be beautiful. In fact, the Bible says that we humans were created in His image. I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of being evil. The only reason we have shame at all is because of Eve in the garden. Right, Christians?
Some of the most amazing art I’ve ever seen have been artistic nudity. It wasn’t sexually arousing… it was beautiful… the same type of emotion you might have when seeing a colorful landscape or a tropical flower. Are you offended or aroused by the feature photo with this article (the ballerina)? I took that photo. If you’re offended, why?
To a 13 year old boy, maybe it’s all the same. 13 year old boys are happy with the Sears catalog, so chances are it is. But we aren’t 13 year old boys, are we? If you still have that type of mentality, then you might need some professional therapy. If every time you see a boob it causes you to lust, I don’t believe for one second that it’s the boobs’ fault… it’s your thought process.
Is it my responsibility, as an artist, to only produce art that won’t make your immature thought process kick in? Or is it your responsibility to grow up? If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my life, it’s that NO MATTER what you do in life, someone will be offended by it. Shoot… if you spend your life evangelizing, trust me, people will be offended. Is that your problem or theirs? See… it’s not such a difficult concept after all.
Beauty AND interpretation are in the eye of the beholder. The creator can never control how the viewer will interpret their work. They can only present what they have created and let it be interpreted. I think that’s the entire point of art.
Is it pornographic when a woman breastfeeds? Many women do that in public. Are you a pervy creeper that can’t wait to see a woman breastfeed, lean over and expose her cleavage, or try to catch a glimpse up her skirt? If so, I’m sure that you can’t see a distinction between porn and artistic nudity.
But at the end of the day, that’s really YOUR problem, isn’t it?
Here are some examples of art. There’s really no question in my mind that they are art.