But I will also just have to inject that I consider "imitating nature" to be a very wrong-headed definition of art indeed. Art, to my mind, is actual creation. In real art, something new exists which did not exist before. And so it is literally divine. Which explains the extreme reactions you get to art.
Letters to Domai
I have been a constant visitor (and hopefully soon a contributor of photographic works of art) of your site for several years now. In fact, it is your site that inspired me to take up photography as a form of art that I have felt I needed to be able to express myself through. Somehow the medium of paint and sculpting had just not done it for me. I prefer realism to a very extreme degree.
In a photography class I was recently taking, we covered many photographic topics. When we came to the section of photography as art, the opinions differed greatly. Many believed that all paintings were art. Sculptures were art. Even twisted hunks of steel resembling a train wreck were considered art. But photography? Is this truly art?
This question caused us to define art. The conclusion we came to was rather deep. Art as defined by Webster's New Riverside Dictionary gives nine definitions for art. At once we could tell where our confusion on "what is art" came from. However, the first definition, defines art as "1a. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter or counteract the work of nature. 1b. The study of this activity. 1c. The products of this activity."
First off it is a HUMAN effort. Art, we came to conclude after much debate, is truly what sets us apart from all animals. Humans have intellect...so do animals. Humans change the world around them...so do animals. Humans use tools...so do animals. Humans create art...animals lack the creative spark given to man to create art. Sure a monkey can be given a brush and he can dip it into paint and splatter it on paper. But only after he sees a HUMAN DO IT. This is not creative force. This is an animal imitating the god-like creation known to the monkey as a man. The monkey only copies what it has been taught by a man. The same as a dog copies what it was taught by a man when it fetches a stick, becomes housebroken or even changes the channels on the TV (for a really good dog). But a dog who can change the channels on a television, can not choose which show to watch. The art of motion photography is lost on the mind of an animal. One set of photos does not mean anything to a dog over another set of photos. Therefore art is without doubt a human creation.
Secondly, art is the imitation, supplementation, alteration or counteraction of the work of nature. Most specifically, the imitation of nature cannot be more complete than a copy of nature. Whether that is sculpting the imitation, painting the imitation or photographing the imitation. Photography is the human imitation of the work of nature, therefore, by definition, it is the very epitome of art!
By definition we all concluded, photography is art. But critically, many were unconvinced that ALL photography was art. Photography as a method of record keeping, documenting auto accidents and other unfortunate circumstances, etc., were universally considered to be not works of art. Photography of automobiles, buildings with character, etc. though not "nature" were considered art. All photos of "Nature" were considered works of art. As a faithful DOMAI visitor, I suggested that the most beautiful thing to spring from nature is the human female in natural form. Thus sparked another debate over what was art.
All of nature was universally considered art. Yet over half felt that the form of a nude female human was not art but pornography. Why? Most could not give a real reason other than "it just is" and of course others cited religious reasons. Since it was handy, I quickly looked up pornography in the Dictionary. The term comes from two Greek words meaning "writing about prostitutes" and defined as "a presentation of sexually explicit behavior intended to arouse sexual excitement." I stated that a photo of a nude beautiful female is not sexually stimulating in and of itself in a "simple nude" format. Others argued that it was sexual because they were nude. I contended that is a person's personal interpretation of art. A person with a foot fetish for instance would find a fully clothed person with bare feet sexually stimulating. Some changed their positions on the subject but others continued to debate the point without making any concrete arguments in their favor. The conversation ultimately turned to an argument where I felt my statements were not being heard. Their minds had shut my words from being heard and comprehended. It is unfortunate that such strong social and religious blinders are still on people in this enlightened age blinding them from the most beautiful sites nature has to offer. All I can do is state the facts and truth and hope it pierces their blindness the way DOMAI did for me.