Is Photography an Art?

Is Photography an Art?

You’ve probably seen some kind of art installation where the artist uses found objects to make a statement. Looking at the piece, you probably asked yourself, “Is this even art?” This question makes sense in this context, when art takes a form outside traditional mediums of paint on canvas.

But what about other art forms that aren’t quite so abstract? Is photography an art? Here’s what several artists have to say about it.

1. John Berger, Art Critic (Ways of Seeing)

A respected art critic, John Berger has been quoted saying, “Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a tract of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject the way that a photograph does.”

This brings up an interesting point that photography is capturing a moment in time whereas paintings and drawings will always be a rendering of sorts. A photograph is a literal copy of its subject whereas a painting or drawing will always have at least a touch of the artist’s perspective.

2. Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

In a detailed article published by The Guardian, Jonathan Jones explains his opinion that photography is not art and it never will be. He says, “Photography is not an art. It is a technology.” He specifically references a black and white photograph by Peter Lik which sold for $6.5 million, comparing it to a “hackneyed poster in a posh hotel.” He goes on to say that, “We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions.”

Jonathan Jones comments that simply because he can take beautiful pictures with his iPad, it doesn’t make him an artist. This brings to mind the question, what is art? Every artist is unique and has his or her own view of the world which comes through in their work. Photographers have ways of altering their photographs, but does that make it an art form? Some say that it doesn’t.

3. Bill Brandt, British Photographer and Journalist

British photographer and journalist Bill Brandt became known for his images of British society, publishing everything from nudes and portraits of famous artists to landscapes. He is considered one of the most influential British photographers of the 20th century and has been quoted saying, “Photography is still a very new medium and everything must be tried and dared. Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. It’s the result it counts no matter how it’s achieved.”

4. Ansel Adams, American Landscape Photographer

Ansel Adams was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his images of the American West. Adams has been quoted saying, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

This makes an interesting point that art is not just about the piece itself, but also the experiences that shaped the artist who created it. While photography may not be quite so interpretive as other mediums, it is still important to remember that the photographer makes active decisions about their subject and how they capture it which is exactly what artists who use traditional mediums do.

There is clearly a great deal of debate regarding whether photography is an art form or not. There are many critics who are highly opposed while many artists believe that it is very much a form of art. What do you think?

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