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"touchstart" : "mouseenter"; $(document).on(triggerevent + ".dropdown.uikit", "[data-prl-dropdown]", function(e) { var ele = $(this); if (!ele.data("dropdown")) { var dropdown = new Dropdown(ele, UI.Utils.options(ele.data( "prl-dropdown"))); if (triggerevent == "mouseenter" && dropdown.options.mode == "hover") { ele.trigger("mouseenter"); } } }); })(jQuery, jQuery.UIkit);; (function($, UI) { "use strict"; if (UI.support.touch) { $("html").addClass("prl-touch"); } var $win = $(window), $doc = $(document), Offcanvas = { show: function(element) { element = $(element); if (!element.length) return; var doc = $("html"), bar = element.find(".prl-offcanvas-bar:first"), dir = bar.hasClass("prl-offcanvas-bar-flip") ? -1 : 1, scrollbar = dir == -1 && $win.width() < window.innerWidth ? 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parseInt($this.attr('height'), 10) : $this.height(), width = !isNaN(parseInt($this.attr( 'width'), 10)) ? parseInt($this .attr('width'), 10) : $this.width(), aspectRatio = height / width; if (!$this.attr('id')) { var videoID = 'fitvid' + Math.floor( Math.random() * 999999); $this.attr('id', videoID); } $this.wrap( '<div class="fluid-width-video-wrapper"></div>' ).parent( '.fluid-width-video-wrapper').css( 'padding-top', (aspectRatio * 100) + "%"); $this.removeAttr('height').removeAttr( 'width'); }); }); }; })(window.jQuery || window.Zepto); </script>

Why Photography is Beautiful

In a couple of articles recently, we've been talking about the concept of beauty.  It's a highly subjective term which can be difficult to define concretely.  However, we've made a brave stab at it alongside may other artists and philosophers in history.  Today, we've going to take our efforts and apply to them to the field of photography and figure out how 'beauty' applies to photography.

Cramer Imaging's fine art nature black and monochrome photograph of part of a sunflower in black and white

Previously, we've defined the word 'beauty' as having a quality which grants intense pleasure or deep satisfaction from sensory input, meaningful design/pattern, manifested higher spiritual qualities, etc.  This is paraphrasing the dictionary definition given in in a previous article.  If you want to read up on the topic of beauty itself, then check out the link at the bottom of this article.

Cramer Imaging's fine art landscape photograph of dawn rising over magical fog the landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

In the next article of this series on beauty, we discussed a fairly recent scientific discovery which comes closer to quantifying 'beauty' than any other explanations or demonstrations given in the past.  This discovery shows that the pleasure centers of the brain activate when experiencing something which we personally consider to be "beautiful."  If you want to catch up on that information and the TED Talk on the subject, check out the link at the bottom of this article.


With that information in place, we can proceed to discuss the topic of this article: why photography is beautiful.

Does Photography Meet the Dictionary Definition?


Given the dictionary definition which we've already established, we now need to decide if photography meets that definition in any fashion which would qualify it to be considered 'beautiful.'

What Photos Should We Consider?


This drawing my nephew made of a character he likes hardly counts as artistic intent.  Beauty doesn't apply.
To start off with, I will say that not every photograph taken will meet this definition.  This is no different than with other mediums of art.  This photo of a child's drawing is a good example of a piece of art without beauty.  There's plenty of snapshots out there which simply document that a group of people got together.  There's also plenty of selfies with Snapchat style filters and the like which would certainly not meet the definition of beauty from above.

To even begin the discussion of 'why photography is beautiful,' we must have already determined that a photo had artistic intentions behind its creation.  Without this intention in creation, there's little point to discussing the finer points of beauty it may or may not possess.  It probably won't have any.


This is a photo I took which would not qualify as having beauty.  It was taken merely to show a glimpse of a typical yard sale.  There's clutter piled up lots of places which is for sale.  While I tend to try for basics of composition even in my illustrations, I knew this photo wouldn't be 'beautiful' from the start.  Photos along this vein need not be considered when thinking of beauty.

The Denotative Approach


As far as is possible with a highly subjective subject, let's look at some examples which would meet that dictionary definition and why.


If you take a close look at each of the examples above, you should notice that I grabbed something which would hit every portion of the definition given above for beauty.  There's plenty of sensory input which would be considered pleasurable or satisfactory.  I also grabbed a meaningful pattern and a "higher spiritual qualities" example to round things out.  Some hard critical analysis of these should easily meet the dictionary definition even if you don't find these particular examples that interesting.

The Neurobiology/Scientific Approach


I must preface this part with strongly recommending that you go watch the video in the second article below.  It'll explain a lot of what you need to do for this portion.  Without it, you'll probably be a bit lost.

Using the more scientific approach discussed in the TED Talk, look at those examples again.  I'll put them below for your convenience.


Now you must ask yourself a few questions and be prepared to answer honestly.  Your answers will be different from anyone else's so I can't answer for you.

  • Do you want to keep looking at these examples or do you immediately want to turn away?
  • Do these examples elicit a feeling of disgust or revulsion?
  • Do you get a feeling of pleasure from continually looking at any or all of these example images?
  • Do you see anything which would represent a meaningful pattern or some form of higher spiritual quality in any of the images (even if you don't believe in any religion which they might depict or represent)?
  • Do you see evidence of skill on my part as the photographer in creating each of these images?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Keep these thoughts and answers in mind as you continue reading.

Why Photography is Beautiful


Cramer Imaging's nature photograph of a silky waterfall in the snow during winter in Idaho Falls, Idaho
Now that we've laid down some of the ground rules for beauty and explored some photography which could be considered beautiful, we can get to the main point of this article.  Why is photography beautiful?

Photography can elicit the same feelings and emotions from us as more traditional forms of art and music which we call 'beautiful.'  A camera in the hands of a serious photographer can create the same levels of masterpiece which a paintbrush in the hands of a serious painter can.  Photography can lift us into realms of higher thinking through sensory input, meaningful patterns, and higher spiritual qualities.  Photography can make us stop and think while adding meaning to our lives at the same time.

Conclusion


Given these well-established (though still highly subjective) criteria for beauty, we have little choice but to conclude that photography is beautiful.  We have the evidence here and that's why photography is beautiful.  Given a similar level of skill, a photographer can meet both the denotative and newly established scientific definitions of beauty which any other artists out there can.  So, we ask why photography is beautiful?  The answer is because it can, will, and does meet the required definitions to be considered 'beautiful.'

Do you have any more thoughts on why photography is beautiful?  I'd love to hear your take on the subject.  Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


This article contains one or more stock photos you can buy a license to. Shop our stock photo library.

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