What is Beauty?

Beauty is a word I often use to describe how I feel about a landscape image, but it does not have a single meaning. It means different things for different people and it means different things to me depending upon the content and context of the scene.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of beauty is the one I feel comes closest to my own view, largely because it does not default to including references to the female form as most others do.

“A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.”


“A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect.”

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/beauty viewed on 09/04/2018

Below I have developed a tree of my own ideas on the sources of beauty I see in my landscape images.

  • Beauty
    • 1st Order – one that is generally understood and shared within a single culture
      • Visual
        • Aesthetically pleasing combinations of Shapes, Lines, Colours
      • Mood
        • For example – A scene that evokes feelings of Calm, Solitude, Silence, etc.
    • 2nd Order – a perception of beauty that depends upon the history, education and experiences in addition to the culture of the individual viewer.
      • Meaning
        • Something to be admired
          • For example – appreciating the ability of humans to make a living in such a harsh, remote environment.
        • A powerful narrative
          • For example – Dereliction can evoke powerful narratives in the viewer about the people who formerly lived there.
      • Humour
        • Where an object appears out of place or changes its meaning due to its relationships to the environment around it.
          • For example – something banal that appears like it might be a deliberate, art installation

So, Beauty is a complex concept with multiple meanings and the above is not yet an exhaustive analysis of my own thoughts. Given that a key aim is to make visible, to other viewers, the beauty that I perceived in the scene when making the image I may have to find different methods depending upon the type of beauty I see. In turn this means I must be able to articulate what aspects of beauty I am trying to show, at the time of making the image.