A newly launched social network came to my attention today. The service, Pixophone, allows people to share the photos they took with their mobile phone camera. This isn’t a new idea, but Pixophone is trying to differentiate itself by claiming a more artistic content. Pixophone promises that in the near future it will provide prizes for the best photos it posts. This started me thinking about art and whether mobile phone pictures can be art or not.
Defining art may be a fool’s errand, but I need some kind of starting point. Art can’t be for a purely commercial purpose. Soup can labels aren’t art but a painting of a soup can label may be. An art piece requires some sort of craft. A random pile of beer cans isn’t art, although an artist who intentionally piles the same cans with intent can be art. And finally, art should evoke some sort of insight or emotion. It needs to tell a story. Sometimes the story stimulates the intellect and sometimes it touches the emotions. A piece of art that can juggle all these things well is good art.
Pictures taken with a mobile phone camera can be art, given the parameters I set above. But can a Site like Pixophone gather enough artistic photos for a gallery? None of the pictures I saw posted showed much craft or stimulated me in anyway. To be fair, it just launched, so in the future some great photos may be posted. But I’m not convinced the general public has enough artistic education to create pictures worthy of being called art. I may sound snobbish and so be it. That’s what I think. There are some online galleries that require the artists to pay a fee to post their work. Pixophone is going in the opposite direction and I predict that almost all of photos sent to them will only be interesting to the people who took them.
If you think you are an artist with a mobile phone camera, post some stuff on Pixophone. Prove me wrong. You may win a prize, get discovered, and end up in a New York or Paris museum of art. Remember, as technology marches along, it pushes the edges of artistic expression into unforeseen territory.