The Role of Aesthetics in Figure Photography: Part 1
The question of, “what constitutes art?” is no more prevalent than in the arena of figure photography. Depictions of the body that seek only to gratify the audience through entertainment or decoration are assumed to be mere pin-ups, or, worse, simply for prurient consumption. The more explicit the image, the more likely it will be interpreted as smut. But, nude content does not preclude an image from being art, nor does entertainment value or beauty.
Since legitimate are can contain elements of eroticism, entertainment, and decoration, it is not possible to eliminate works simply on the basis of the inclusion of these facets. It is the inclusion of artistic vision and the absence of it that is central to aesthetics. The message of the artist, as opposed to gratification of the audience, is what is central to the nature of art.
Regardless of centuries of study, the nature of art has yet to be defined and evidently never will be. Each attempt, replete with a condemnation of previous definitions, fails to describe totally, what art is and what it is not. Those who struggle to know what is and is not art, do so in large part to assign value to artwork. To be able to say that this artwork is better than that artwork is an enticing goal, but usually a futile one. It is undeniable that nude images attract commentary from legions of critics who have little more knowledge of art than their own opinions.