Scribbles about books (1) – Culture & Design

Art history is about investigating the circumstances surrounding an artwork. Under which conditions was it made? Which factors attribute to the end result of an artwork? Art history is about establishing the context of an art work. In order to do this art historians look at: the age of an art work, style, subject, artist, patron, etc.

When we look at the vocabulary of describing art and architecture we see many words that are relevant in other disciplines as well, not only in scientific disciplines, but also f.e. in commerce:

  • form and composition
  • material and technique
  • line & shape
  • colour & value
  • pattern & texture
  • space, mass and volume
  • perspective and foreshortening
  • proportion and scale
  • unity & balance
  • emphasis and focal point
  • rhythm & motion

Art works can be analysed from many viewpoints: social, political, philosophical, historical, and technical. Different people might come to different conclusions as cultural background and education will have an influence.


Some words more specific to photography, although related to/can be categorised under above mentioned vocabulary as well, are:

  • frame shape and dynamics
  • light & exposure
  • intent & post-production

There are many accounts on the social history of photography and there is just as many debate on those as well.

‘A great deal goes on the process of making an exposure that is not at all obvious to someone else seeing the result later. This will never prevent art critics and historians from supplying their own interpretations, which may be extremely interesting but not necessarily have anything to do with the circumstances and intentions of the photographer’, (Freeman, 2007:6)


For me if we talk art, everything can be summarised in two intermingled words: culture & design.



Kleiner, F.S. (2014), Gardner’s Art through the Ages 14th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Lauer, D.A., Pentak, S. (2012), Design Basics 8th edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning

Freeman, M. (2007), The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes, East-Sussex: Ilex


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