Monday, June 01, 2009

Is photography art?

My assignment: write a three page paper explaining why I believe photography is or is not a form of art. I posted this question on twitter but as some of you know, you can't really have a discussion on a site that only allows 140 characteristics. So, here I am.

Art: "Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression..."

Visual Art: "The visual arts are art forms that focus on the creation of works which are primarily visual in nature, such as drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, and filmmaking."

Photography: "Photography is the process, activity and art of creating still or moving pictures by recording radiation on a sensitive medium, such as a film, or an electronic sensor."

Twitter responses: "Digital, no. film, usually. some say the camera doesn't lie, but that isn't the truth. digital manipulation, yes. darkroom, yes."

"In my book, yes, photography=art. It uses specific means to reveal the world via the artists' unique eyes/perspective. Dorky?" No, you're not dorky!

Text message response: "I think it's an art because the artist let's the person know what they are feeling through their eyes."


Appeals to the senses or emotions? Feelings? Is it the photographer who has the power to actually do that? When another human being looks at a photograph, they determine if it is worth a two second scan or $150,000...they determine if they allow a photograph to stir up feelings, to make them contemplate, to make them question, to make them laugh, cry, want to be there, they in turn take a photograph and manipulate it to how they want to see it. What is really the art of it? A photographer capturing and freezing a moment that might be beautifully lit, slightly awkward, allows you to see the vulnerability of another human or a landscape, an innocence that normally one would pass by, or is the photographer being selfish and only presenting what they choose, in turn cheating the world out of other points of view? Maybe the art of it all has nothing to do with the one snapping the photograph. Maybe the art of it is ones ability to recognize there is something there...but a photograph can symbolize anything to anyone depending on their emotional state, where they have been, what they have seen, what they haven’t seen.

Manipulation? Anything can be manipulated. A painting, a sculpture, words, love...if manipulating something means it's not art...then why stop at photography? Maybe some photographs need to be manipulated to be stronger, to get their point across, to evoke rage, happiness, in a person. Is there art is manipulating something so perfectly the person viewing it doesn't even know they are being manipulated? That in itself could be art.

I was walking in San Francisco once and stopped to look at a painting. I made the comment that I could've done that...I was told, "but you didn't." It was that simple. That painting was so simplistic that I couldn't even wrap my head around it...what was I suppose to see? Maybe I saw nothing because I didn't want to see anything. Someone probably purchased that painting for a few thousands dollars and I would've just as easily pissed on it.

Is photography an art form?



Blogger 13 Stoploss said...

Photography is science; a chemical interaction between light and light sensitive materials. But, it is simply what the person/artist captures and preserves that makes it art.

for example, take out your iPhone and snap a portrait of yourself. is that art? I'd say no. the process was simplistic and provides almost no value for the observer.

now, get a tripod/monorail out, hike yosemite until you find that perfect spot where Halfdome is illuminated during cloudy weather. Set up your 8x10 view camera, and make a light reading. Then, determine the light reading, decide on what filter to use for the lens. Maybe a yellow, possibly a red to accentuate the clouds some, but then what about the shadow area?. maybe an orange filter. then, you're going to have to overexpose due to the filter factor. then, depending on the mood, and the specific envisioned picture mentally, you might want to reduce development. that's just the negative though. Ansel could have gone through 30 wet prints in the darkroom before he was satisfied with the one we've all seen. in fact, 30 years later, he would have done it differently.

point is, it is the process of creating that it becomes art. I can also bake a cake. it might not be art, but it can be artISTIC.

also, digital photography is not art until is has gone through photoshop. that much is opinion.

6/01/2009 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger NUGHT said...

i think a very simple argument can be made in favor of it being art.... my own low level noneducated definition of art is... creativity.... just look at all the different things that are considered an art.... singing, playing an instrument, acting, the obvious painting, sculpting, and drawing..... shit now im drawing a blank but theres a shit load more... i think these abilities garner the consideration because of the creative element involved...

if you deside to write the paper on the in favor side of things... this would be a very simplistic approach, and it would be extremly hard to rufute....

this is the side i think everyone, including your teacher would expect to to write on... its the easy way out.... but if you want to challenge yourself.... try to write this paper on the other side... make a strong case for photography not being art... that would make for a great paper.... even if you dont believe it to be true, if you can formulate a strong and convincing arguement, then you will have effectively went against the grain... you will catch the readers attention immediately with this approach, and score higher for your own creativity.... i did this once when i had to write a 25 page paper on weather or not we should reinstate the draft back in 2003.... my stance was yes because it wasnt expected and i got an A because i applied myself to the arguement even though i didnt believe in the argument itself...

just and idea...

6/02/2009 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'D say photograpy IS an art form, just like writing.

6/03/2009 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, photography is art. It is art because it is an act that can have the ability to affect or change the viewer or the even person making the shot.
It doesn't matter if it is a representative or manipulated image as long as there is an affect.
If representative, and it has an affect, it is art. The art lies in the capture.

A random shot snapped by a machine can be art if it affects the viewer.

Art cannot exist independent of experience. Art is the interplay between the viewer and the photograph, or the interplay between the photographer and the image.

Art IS an experience, not a "thing." z

6/08/2009 02:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is a tree art? What about the clouds? Or a sneeze?

6/09/2009 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger olgreydog7 said...

Yes it is. You seem to like it, and I'm sure you have a DSLR, so do this for us. Take the same pics using one of those throw away single use cameras, I bet the results are quite different. Just like an artist wouldn't use a 99 cent brush and get the same result. Not saying that either can't be art, just explaining why equipment doesn't really matter. Same with manipulation. Anyone who has ever done oils knows this. I've seen people paint an entire canvas black, only to then go back over it with other colors to produce something great.

Oh and, who cares? If you like it, do it. But, that's just the engineer in me. I hate classes/assignments like that. You are at the mercy of the instructor. You'd be hard pressed to get counted off for saying 2+2=4 in an engineering class!

6/10/2009 10:29:00 AM  

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