The Evolution of Genres


The invention, or creation of “genre” goes way back to Ancient Greece when trying to depict differences in literature, poetry,plays before expanding to the other developing creative forms. The Greeks realised that certain comical aspects are not suited for stories showing tragedy certain actors fitted certain roles better and certain people told certain stories better, as well as having different audiences with different opinions for each one. We could soon see that “genres” are basically the epitome of conventions over time, developing and evolving the creative media through it’s current social state. Genres have to develop and address about the present, as well recurring things. For example, blues music doesn’t really talk about slavery any more even though that’s where it was created from, now it’s more about heartbreak and personal depressive matters.

As life and ideas evolve, genres combine different conventions, mixing, evolving and creating new ones to fit the new theme or to be new and different, as originality is appealing to the audiences. Even in Ancient Greece, they combined elements and invented the genre of “tragicomedy”. Overall, genres are meant to be defined and represented by their literal and visual style, yet there are so many sub genres, mixes and combinations these days, it’s hard to say what one artistic piece is solely one particular genre, but instead many. Although saying this, the specific categories of which photography specialises in – still life, narrative, landscape, portrait, fine art- are a bit harder to talk about, as you can usually categorize photos into a genre they represent most strongly. Yet as art forms strive to evolve and develop and seek originality, they have all collaborated. Photographers have created many surreal and fine art images using the formalities of a portrait photograph all the time. There’s also photographer Carl Warner with their “Gland Canyon” series,turning nude human bodies into massive landscapes, which could be considered both landscape and fine art. We also should not deny that the genres of photography do not just full under their style and techniques, but also the concepts behind them; horror, comedy, romance, drama, fact, fiction and countless others are crucial elements in what makes the image and what draws the viewers attention.

Looking at genres in modern times as a whole, we see that not all art forms concentrate and center around it’s current fads and popularities, this is mainly in subjects such as pop music. However, we can still see these recurrences throughout history. When the world war was happening, as well as the post world war era, people would write, sing, paint and photograph things to do with it. It’s a convention in time, before the war, no one would create any art forms of it, as it never happened but afterwards and during, it was such a crucial part in history and was personal to a lot of people, creating a piece of art related to it was powerful and sentimental to the audience. The theme for this specific kind of art form would be military and documentary I guess, which would have already existed. However, then genres would have developed and evolved, and other genres would have evolved from it as well, you would have had poems and blues songs to do with war, evacuation and genocide, and with all of these being created, surely they come into their own newly invented category?

Another example of the evolution of genres combining would be one such as this; If you’ve got a photograph of a woman reading a war letter, you might not initially relate it to a military genre at first thought, you might just see it as tragedy. This may be true just from the get go, but when you start thinking about it, perhaps with both the image and its contextual/analytic description from its creator, it would come under more than one genre; perhaps tragedy, military, narrative and documentary.

My conclusion I’m trying to get across is that genres and art forms have evolved so much, it’s hard to actually pin point what they solely come under in our modern day culture. The artist and the audience will often have a different opinion about the piece of work created, with the art piece possibly meaning something individual to each viewer, and the author/creator of the piece of work labeling it as whatever the genre they were aiming to create.




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