Is Photography Art?


HDR Photography. Fake?

Is photography an art or is there just “an art” to photography.

Recently I had an interesting morning discussion with a Professor of music about what is to be considered art and by what definition we can reduce everything down to.

Why is Beethoven’s music sheer artistic genius while Lady Gaga is merely the art of commercial promotion and /or advertising?

The current thought is that anything that is created for ascetic reasons – and serves no other purpose – can be considered art, even if in bad or in poor taste. This argument, of course, is not one that can be resolved as we are all subjective. Objectivity is a cold ideal sought after by empiricists but never achieved.

So why am I addressing this topic? A while ago someone asked me why I no longer paint and draw “by hand”. This was in direct question to my lifelong passion in photography. Before I could answer, the answer was proposed that photography gave me an instant product. This notion is the reason for this article.

Anyone can take a photograph just like anyone can really compose a simple piece of music. The question is WHAT IS art?

Is it measured by the time or energy expended? Perhaps the cost or investment? Can it very simply – and terribly unfairly – be reduced to a simple formula?

My argument, usually met with hostility, is that by reduction, anything CAN be considered art or not! Purists do not like this argument because it reveals very simply that we are all subjectively biased. This is purely because we perceive and analyse everything before us through our very personal filters. The argument must work bi-directionally and not just when it is convenient!

So we need to be very conscious about this if we are to have any hope of achieving some objectivity. Our opinions are not fact for dismissal. Many people fall foul of this very trap. It becomes a dedicated, lifelong avoidance of anything that challenges their opinion driven “facts”. I always say that only a fool has nothing further to learn… on ANY given subject.

If we consider the ability to render something that is of beauty and aesthetic value – even if only to some people – an art, then I consider that art to be a by-product of a skill, a genius even!

Long exposure with flash. Art?

So what makes a photograph a work of art? Surely by the very argument that it serves no functional purpose, it is a candidate for inclusion in the intimate and exclusive group of arts. Definitions cannot just be convenient but they need to remain constant if they are to be applied.

One can also state that by using a computer as an aid in the production of music it is no longer worthy of being called an art. So in fact we are saying that Beethoven would have been “Cheating” if he used a computer but not if he made use of the finest instruments money could buy. I think this illustrates the point quite adequately.

With all this in mind I shall end my discussion and instead focus on why photography is more than pressing the shutter. Some say that digital photography has turned mediocre photographs into art.
So while we can use the “medium” to encourage snobbery, we really should be concerned with the end result. The artistic by-product. We shouldn’t worship artistic talent and definitely not it’s by-products. Instead we should appreciate it or not. If the masses appreciate mediocre nonsense then let them. Yes, it is their right to do so.

Photography is not easier or more difficult than any other artistic form or expression. It doesn’t become quicker or easier because it is taken with a digital format. So it is my honest opinion that anything that brings beauty to the eye of the beholder is art. Therefore any photograph whether it is processed in either a “Darkroom” or a “Lightroom” is art in someone’s eye. Not everyone loves a Picasso…

So I am no more gaga over the Lady than I am over Beethoven. For this I’ve been called a democratic liberalist which is to blame (along with all the rest of the ilk) for the state of current affairs in the world. Then again, I’ve been called worse… |

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