Can a Screenshot be ‘Art’?

Can a screenshot be art?  This question is intrinsically linked to the wider question of whether video games can be art.  I have read a few discussions on this and whilst most people within the video game sphere argue that there is art to be found in games, some outside of this sphere believe that there is none to found.

I guess it pays to ask what is art?  I don’t have an art or philosophy major but I think I can answer this question.

Art is whatever the beholder considers it to be.

Sure, there are the classical masters and other such works of art that I believe no-one would ever argue the point on, but then there are some post-modern type works that I cant see the artistic merit in but others can. Does my not seeing the artistic merit make it any less of a work of art? I don’t believe so. There are a group of people out there who value such works, I just don’t happen to be one of them.

This concept applies to other mediums as well.  Music is a great example.  I don’t really like Country & Western and a lot of the R&B out there just doesn’t do it for me.  It’s still music though, and whilst I don’t understand how, is enjoyed by people the world over.

So essentially, if you as the beholder consider what you are looking at as art, then it is.  It may not be in the same league as a painting by Rembrandt or a composition by Mozart, and never will be, but it cannot be dismissed as art to me and many of my guests.

A finger painting by a 4 year old that a mother proudly hangs on her fridge is art to her, and one of my photos that I have had framed and displayed in my home is also art.

As far as screenshots are concerned, the easiest direct comparison to make is with photography.  Having dabbled in both sides, the major difference between the two is the skill in recogising and being able to manipulate the number of variables.  As I discussed in my one my previous posts, the only variables to consider when taking a screenshot are composition and subject.  These expand to include angles and distance and post-shot work.  However photographers have to consider light, shutter speed, exposure and more.  Understanding what playing with these variable will do to your photo is a major part of being a good photographer.

One thing that a good photographer and a good screenshotter (is that a real term?) have in common is the ability to see the shot before taking it.  Having an eye for what will look good. One technique some photographers use is to wander around looking through a card cutout in a small rectangle so as to isolate the shot from whats in front of them.  After a while the card is no longer necessary and the shot can simply be seen.

There are plenty of people who consider that photos can be art, so I believe that this can be extended to screenshots.  I would like to stress however that in my opinion not every screenshot is art, and neither is every photo.  Having said that, something that for me isn’t art, may be for the next person.  It is a fine line to tread and not fall into hypocrisy!

The short answer is yes, I believe screenshots can be art.  They may not be for everyone but this does not disqualify them.  I choose World of Warcraft as my subject due to the variety, others choose all sorts of options.

What do you think?  Can screenshots be art?  Is there in fact any merit whatsoever in having this discussion as I’m not Claude Monet?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Till next time,

V

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