New camera raises question of art meaning


At the end of the day, people want to experience art.

Canon’s new camera, the EOS 5D, combines a full frame high-resolution sensor with a relatively compact body. The internal makeup of the camera has been refitted to produce a high quality sensor. For those of us not quite privy to camera speak, this basically means that photos taken with this camera will have a higher image quality, and look like real life. Neat.

This changes the field of photography because this resolution allows photographers to expand their portfolios to include studio work and to expand their professional profiles.

Or is it? Nowadays, you can put a filter on an Instagram photo to give it that vintage or artsy look, but does that actually make that image vintage?

The answer is no.

Is that picture of your lunch artsy? Again, the answer is no.

To what extent do these features on the new Canon camera propagate a disingenuous take on art or what it means to judge art?

If the selling point for this camera is that it produces images that highly resemble real life, a threshold is created where art is critiqued on a basis of how closely it resembles real life.

There are numerous objectives to art. There is some art that works to get an audience to look closer at a social issue. There is art that is a form of self expression. More pressingly, however, there is art in the form of photography which works to take on a new perspective of something that we see and take for granted every day.

However, if all you are giving me is a realistic photograph that you took of our already photogenic campus at St. Edward’s, then are you really giving me anything that I could not experience on my own? There is no depth or value to that photograph; it is just a replication of something else.

The Greeks had a bit to say about this issue as well. The Greek word for art is mimesis. In Plato’s “The Republic,” Socrates condemns art for this same type of mimesis that we would be seeing with these new Canon cameras.

He argues that art is imitation, and that is not such a good thing, because it deprives the individual of experience.

Here, I would bring up a defense by Aristotle. Aristotle argues that sure, art is mimesis, but that should not make it automatically discredited.

At the end of the day, people want to experience art.

Good art can spur ideas and encourage enlightening and collaborative dialogue. These cameras should not be discredited right off the bat as being incapable of producing art. They also should not be given the stamp of approval just because they can generate an impressive amount of pixels due to their shutter speed.

The standard for art should not be lowered. Any piece that asserts itself as art subjects itself to being critiqued and even rejected. The way we interpret and judge art should not change because of a new toy.  

A movie’s credibility should not rest solely on its visual effects, a musician’s talent should not be based on how fantastic auto-tune is, and a photograph should not be celebrated because its rendering of a tree looks so realistic.