Beholding Beauty

“Incubus 1”

“Beauty needs a consensus, or at least the possibility.”

– Michael Freeman, The Photographer’s Mind

The concept of beauty in art is one that continues to draw my attention, I guess because much of my work explores subjects and treatments that don’t fit that term’s usual definition.

Freeman, in his (excellent!) new book, The Photographer’s Mind, begins with a lengthy discussion of beauty and it’s evolving role in contemporary art and photography. One of the points he makes is that members of a culture share a common understanding of what is beautiful. Of course, there is disagreement about whether any particular image is beautiful, hence the catchphrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. But when we attempt  to create something of beauty, we are aiming in a general direction that we believe others will agree with. Beauty cannot exist only in the eye of the beholder.

I think this is why I sometimes get a little bored with beautiful images. They speak to culture’s conventions, they are considered beautiful for the very reason that they share common qualities with other beautiful things. Beauty is a confined space that artificially limits our free expression. Ultimately there becomes a sameness about beauty. Images that do not aim at these conventions cause us to consider them on their own merits, without benefit of ready-made criteria. There’s greater opportunity in both creating and viewing such images to experience something new.



3 responses to “Beholding Beauty

  1. I just picked up Freeman’s new book last week and look forward to reading it. I enjoy his work.

    A thought provoking post as usual Bob. Thank goodness we all see beauty through our own biased view. The key for me has been to be more open to the beauty that other see. To understand their view of the world.. their art… their reality.

    The image attached to this post is so cool and indeed beautiful!

    • Point well taken, John! As long as we’re constantly trying to expand our vision of beauty (and the work of others is a great resource for this), it’s easier to remain engaged.

      I wonder if, at a certain point, the word beauty becomes too diluted and what we’re really embracing is something else?

  2. Pingback: Metaphor « Conversations with the Muse

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