The Case against Photorealism

I am usually untouched by negative comments, I have come to a point that I simply do not care. And I don’t mean it in a disrespectful way, that I do not respect the opinion of others. I do, I really do. I just cannot waste my energy, my time and in the end of the day my peace of mind, to convince people about something, especially when I know that they are so stubborn and they will never change their mind. 

But this time I am so fed up, I really want my little voice to be heard out there. 

If you are familiar with the term “photorealism”, chances are that you have also heard something along the lines: “photorealism is not art”, “what is the purpose of photorealism?” , “why don’t you just take a photo and call it done?”. 

And even if I try not to care, to just ignore them, sometimes I feel I might explode.

So, what is photorealism? And why some people claim it is not art? 

According to Wikipedia “Photorealism is a genre of art that encompasses paintingdrawing and other graphic media, in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium. “

And I quite agree, if we take the official definition of photorealism literally, that it is simply copying the reference as best as possible, then what it has to offer is limited. (limited, not worthless) But photorealism is so much more that this. It is never about copying, it is about changing and adding subtle details (voluntarily or even involuntarily) to convey emotions, thoughts, messages etc. It is not about recreating what we see through the photographic lense, it is about creating all the details that we don’t “see” but we know they are there. It is about adding what we “see” with our mind and our soul. 

It is just the same with music. There are countless different recordings of the same piece, by countless different musicians. The exact same piece, played exactly the same, again and again. Why is that? Because even if the piece IS the same, each artist’s interpretation is different and each one has to offer something unique to the world. I don’t understand why visual arts should be any different. 

And a little disclaimer here, I am a self taught “artist”, I haven’t studied fine arts and I don’t know the official rules of photorealism. What I share here, is my own opinion, my own thoughts. But in the end of the day, art is supposed to appeal to everyone, right? It is not supposed to be appreciated only by a few elite artists, it’s supposed to be appreciated by everyone. If a piece can “touch” the soul of your humble know-nothing-about-art neighbor, then it served it’s purpose. And once again, I am not trying to be disrespectful to fine art graduates, I am just saying that art’s emotional power can (and should) be sensed by anyone, not just artists. Otherwise what’s the point??

Phew, I got this out of my system, I feel so much better now. To recap, yes ladies and gentlemen, photorealism IS art. It might not appeal to everyone (nothing does, that’s why there are many artists, many art styles, many types of art) but that doesn’t cancel its artistic value. Every artist puts part of his own soul into his artwork, or at least he should. So, next time you wanna say “why don’t you just take a photo?”, … think again. 

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