*Mike’s post there is a much better version of my Title and Purpose post. Although, unfortunately, the photo itself is hard-pressed to be considered art.
Context does matter. For all art. The idea that a piece of art should stand on its own is an impossibly high bar. What the no-context people miss is that there is always a context. Visiting Pier 24 still means you’re in an art gallery, that someone has selected the pieces in question, and that there’s an implicit commitment on your part to look. So what if there’s no libretto, someone has curated these and you trust them enough to look.
This is very different than seeing things on the web or encountering things randomly in the street.* The medium is the message and your mindset in each situation is tuned in to different things. People spend hundreds of dollars to hear him perform a concert but will completely ignore Joshua Bell if he’s busking.
*Something a lot of photoblogs seem to miss. Collecting photos and displaying them without any comment is not curation. There HAS to be a point of view.
None of this insistence on context should be taken to mean that context is more important that content. This is where I agree with the context is irrelevant people. Almost all the time, it doesn’t matter how interesting the backstory is if the photo itself is beyond redemption. Art is meant to be looked at and experienced. If it fails to engage at all, it’s not successful.