Can a blurry photograph be considered artful?

Hello folks,

Last week I posted up this image on my Foto Friday section.

Dramatic Tone Art Filiter, IS0 200, 35mm @ f/5.2 1/250 sec

As you notice, the image is quite blurry and although that was not my original intention, what occurred was a combination of me walking while shooting from the hip (motion blur) and poor auto-focus. Nonetheless, when I saw this image on the computer screen, I was still fascinated by it. Perhaps it was the blotchy tones of the stripped red, white, and blue on the man’s bag with the assistance of the dramatic tone filter creating a darken background. Yet, deep down I was still a bit bugged that the image wasn’t in focus.

Could the image be better if it was in focus? Maybe. I do know one thing for sure though, the longer I starred at it, the more my eyes started to hurt due to the distorted unusual perspective that my vision isn’t accustomed to. But it is what is and I accepted the fact that the image (at least out of that day’s batch) was still good enough to post because of its questionable value. This led me to today’s question: Can a blurry photograph be considered artful?

I did some research on the subject and did find one photographer by the name of Robert Capa (there are probably others, but I’ll stick to one for today). A Hungarian wartime photojournalist covering five different wars in his lifetime including the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II European theater, and the First Indochina War, Capa was one of the co-founders of Magnum Photos and eventually titled his autobiographic accounts of WWII as “Slightly out of Focus” due to the images being out of focus.

Robert Capa, D-Day landings, 6-6-1944.
Robert Capa, D-Day landings, 6-6-1944.

If you look closely at these two images, there is definitely some blur to them. Yet, this is understandable because it hard to imagine absolute photographic precision in a combat situation in an era where auto-focus did not exist. But Moreover, even with the noticeable blur present, the images still maintain their historical value and context to what is happening. The man holding up his gun above water, the men charging the shores of Normandy still tell us a story and perhaps the blur even preludes to the chaos happening around them.

In modern photography, however, does a level of grace apply to blurred images? Auto-focus is regularly available on most cameras and lens; therefore, most images should be expected to have a high level of in-focus sharpness. Nonetheless, we see images that have controlled levels of motion blur in order to detail differences in speed or distances creating an artful scene. Other times the blurriness isn’t controlled and the fault is due to human or technical error and it is left up to the photographer or viewer to determine what the image is trying to say.

My personal conclusion: Art is found within the context and the framing of the subject. If that combination of pixels or ink can come together in a recognizable or interesting form in which a person can relate to, then it is art.

Thoughts, comments, or have something to add to this discussion, write them below. Thanks again for reading, and if you haven’t already, hit the “Like” button on the right-hand-side. I have some projects that I’m getting ready for and will post them up soon. Take care.

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