In order to learn more about photography, one should obtain nutrients from all art forms other than photography, no matter whether it is painting (the origin of photography), sculpture, poetry, music, stage performance, poem, philosophy or cinema (the derivative of photography).
The first message layer carried in an image contains the “message required as basic instincts for the survival of living being.” Within it, it contains a/plot, b/difference, c/feature of the contour line for recognizing different objects. The second layer contains “visual elements and their structures.” The third layer contains “semantic meaning of the image.” If an image can only narrate a story and relay a story like a news photo, it can only be subordinated to the state of matter of the scene, being at the level of “recording the reality” at most. In human civilisation, this kind of photo merely has news value, only used by the mass media to tell the public what is happening.
An image that wants to surpass the lowest level of narration and storytelling must achieve something in the second message layer “visual elements and their structure.” It is the basis for an image with “information thickness.” The first one that emerged is the blank space photographers intentionally produce, which is referred as “Ground” by visual psychologist (some called it negative space). In contrast, “Figure” is called “positive space”.
“Other than what the image shows on its superficial level, what possibly can the image also be?” “Did the photographer try to address a ‘metaphysical content’ through the ‘physical content’ of an image?” The metaphysical message, the third message layer, in an image is usually the art value of an image. It is also the soul of an image.
“Is this artwork’s ‘style’ stronger or weaker than its ‘content’? What kind of content should be deemed as valuable for an artwork to be invited for display in a museum of arts.
Naturally, a work of art is created by an artist as a “human being”. It is thus important that the content of an artwork is able to showcase the creator’s subjectivity.
Since the creator and the audience are both human beings, the value of the artwork is certainly determined by the content an artwork wants to carry. Is the issue an artwork tries to illuminate important and memorable to the majority of people and does it address the shared culture among people? Or is the issue (such as gender, environmental protection, the gap between the rich and poor) very important to the shared history of mankind? Maybe some of these issues have become cliché because they have been available for a long time, but then you can ask: Does the artwork in front of you approach the issue from a different creative angle? Or even when the topic is important to its creator, can it still resonate with the majority of audience?
You finally realise the value of the painted artwork has nothing to do with what was printed. You finally realise the value of artworks by renowned masters in the art history is about the visual experience you feel when standing in front of them.