The value of visual art is partly captured by the old
adage "A picture is worth a thousand words". This can be applied to
both the quantity and quality of the information conveyed. A single
image can provide a significant amount of relevant information that
might otherwise have to be described in a long written form. But
more importantly images can also convey qualities of the past that
are very difficult or impossible to convey in words.
Why do advertisers use images rather than detailed
descriptions to sell their products? Describing in words the content
of an image or moving images is impossible beyond the superficial,
surface features. An image may have the power to shock and move the
viewer to tears; a description can only be a pale imitation, like a
poem translated from a foreign language. Trying to explain in words
Guernica means is almost pointless. As the aphorism says,
‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’,
Democratisation of photography in the 20th century means that the
common man and woman now share a visual representation from the past
with the rich oil paintings from earlier times.
Visual art like literary art is under no obligation
to be anything other than artistic. Even photographs which appear to
be chemical or digital reflections of reality, are subject to
artistic priorities in their execution. The painter (or his patron)
chooses what and how to paint and the photographer selects what is
in and outside of the frame. The subjects whose image is taken may
behave differently in the knowledge that they are being painted or
In societies where media is strictly controlled
censorship and propaganda images may be used to serve the political
interests of the state. Even photographs may be manipulated
(airbrushed) to remove current embarrassments from the past.
The value of the photograph is limited to the ocular, what can be
seen by the eye. The other four senses are ignored.
Air brushing has been done since since photography
was invented. See this interesting piece in