Our favorite blustery hidebound conservative critic is at it again.
Mr. Jones needs to take an introductory college-level course in logic...or his readers do. The argument he's constructed is called a "straw man argument":
A straw man is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.
The so-called typical "attacking a straw man" argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e., "stand up a straw man") and then to refute or defeat that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the original proposition. (Wikipedia)
Here's what Mr. Jones says:
Photography is not an art [...] The news that landscape photographer Peter Lik has sold his picture Phantom for $6.5m (£4.1m), setting a new record for the most expensive photograph of all time, will be widely taken as proof to the contrary. In our world where money talks, the absurd inflated price that has been paid by some fool for this “fine art photograph” will be hailed as proof that photography has arrived as art.
Here's what I could say, to highlight the poverty of his argument:
The highest grossing films in America in 2013 were "The Hunger Games" and "Frozen." In our world where money talks, this will be hailed as proof that film has arrived as art.
To begin with: no, it won't be. "Will be widely taken as proof"? "Will be hailed"? Oh really? By whom, and where, exactly? Stand up that straw man nice and pretty now. The only person who is claiming Peter Lik's good fortune has anything to do with an antiquated hundred-year-old argument about some definition of "art" is our blowsy critic himself.
In fact, the whole issue is a straw man. Nobody's talking about whether photography is an art. Nobody cares. It's not only a steam-engined passenger train that has left the station, but many people don't even travel by train any more. As (I'm told) they say in his native land, Critic Jones is a "wind-up merchant":
Mainly UK, especially south-east England. (v) To use information (true or fictional) to provoke, tease or deceive. (Urban Dictionary)
You know what I say: photography isn't art—but then, art isn't photography, either. Most intelligent people understand what photography is and isn't. Photography is photography, and you either get it or you don't. And it's about to turn 2015, not 1915.
(Thanks to David Boyce and Richard Tugwell)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Andrew C E: "Jonathan Jones has backpedaled quite a lot from just last year, when he proclaimed that 'photography is the serious art of our time.' I think "wind-up merchant" may be an apt description."
Dave in NM: "Art or not art, who cares? What I'd like to know is, how does a guy go from selling decorative wall art (framed or unframed—don’t forget to enter your coupon code) to a $6.5 million photo? If Thomas Kinkade were still alive, he’d be very jealous."
B Grace: "In all fairness, Mr. Jones isn't a writer but he does use nice word-processing software."
B. R. George: "I'm surprised you dignified that column with this thoughtful of a response. But I do sort of think that photography might benefit from an unofficial moratorium on Antelope Canyon."
Mike replies: I've been saying since the '90s that the only person who should be allowed to photograph slot canyons is Bruce Barnbaum, who did it first.
Rob: "With regard to whether photography is or is not art, there’s a quote from Alfred Stieglitz* that I remember from college, which I think goes the the heart of the question: 'I like some paintings more than most photographs. I like some photographs more than most paintings.' Boom boom, case closed. Any further discussion is just the rear guard actions of lost soldiers in a lost war, like the Japanese who hid in caves on Pacific islands for years after the end of WWII.
"(*I probably should say 'attributed to Alfred Stieglitz,' because I’ve been unable to turn up that quote again. It’s not in any of the textbooks I kept from college; my college photo professor doesn’t remember it; and even Google can’t find it. So if anyone amongst the TOP readership can source it for me, I’d greatly appreciate it.)"