The Nature of Beauty

March 5th, 2007

DSC 5872 The Nature of Beauty There’s an on-going discussion on one of the photo forums about the origin and nature of the idea of beauty. If you’ve read my artist’s statement on my website you know that I have some definite ideas about the origin of our idea of beauty and that it is one of the major underpinnings for my work. I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve been writing on that forum thread here.

I believe that the female body was the original aesthetic object. The most important thing in the world was that woman in the cave. She was the source of life. When the caveman looked outside his cave anything he saw that resembled that female body was something he also valued, simply because he connected it somehow with the woman in the cave. Thus, I think all our ideas of what is beautiful can be traced to the female form. That’s the origin of the concept of beauty. And that’s why I photograph naked women in natural settings…exploring that relationship…and because it’s fun to get beautiful women to take their clothes off, of course.

I believe that beauty as we humans perceive it is entirely a human construct. It’s narcissism. We think things are beautiful because they look like us. More specifically, we think things are beautiful because they look like women. If we were constructed differently we would have a different definition of beauty that would reach across all cultures.

This is not a new or original idea. Remember the movie “Men In Black”? The bug-style aliens thought humans were very ugly. Imagine the most vile disgusting living creature you’ve ever seen. Now suppose that creature were sentient. Do you think it would have a different definition of beauty than the one we humans use?

At the core, beauty is sex driven. It’s a derivative of the reproductive imperative. As such, our concept of beauty is meaningless absent the presence of humans to see and appreciate it. Beauty as we understand it is entirely a product of the human mind, hormones and instincts. Different creatures would construct a different idea of beauty.

On the broader question of the place of beauty in art…well it seems to me in contemporary art (as opposed to art that is of any lasting value) beauty has little place. Since I want to make beautiful photographs I assume from the start that my work will not be valued in the world of contemporary art. I don’t care. I like to think that when I make a beautiful photograph, in some very small, almost, but not quite, insignificant way, I’ve made the world just a tiny bit more beautiful, and hence better.

So, here is a photograph of the beautiful British model Eden in a beautiful slot canyon in the red rock desert of southern Utah/northern Arizona. We think the slot canyon is beautiful because the shapes in it are very similar to the lovely shapes present in Eden.

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About this Blog

Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

All photographs and written comments on this blog are protected by the copyright laws of the United States.

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