Is Photography Art?
The controversy as to whether photography is art has been raging in the art world for for the last 150 years.
The question still remains whether photography is an art or a new form of documentation seen by the eye instead of the mind. Should photography be considered a creative visual art comparable to painting or sculpture, or does the mechanical process inherent in the action of taking a photograph remove it from the art field? There are many arguments for each side of the question. One cogent argument contends that yes, photography is an art and should be considered the same as painting, sculpture and other recognized forms of visual art. The decisions involved in creating a photograph are analogous to those made by any other artist. A photograph is not just a record of the world, but a created image with its own artistic features. The naysayers advance the theory that no, photography is not art. A photograph is just a record of the world and any beauty or aesthetic qualities a photograph may have are due to the beauty of the world it records and not a feature of the photograph. It is the decisions of an artist at the moment of creation that determines something as art. The mechanical process necessary to make a photograph removes the person from being directly involved in body and soul at the critical moment of creation, and therefore, removes any claim photography has to being an art.
Needless to say, art is a subjective thing. Some people might take a look at a Jackson Pollack “splatter” artwork and contend that modern art is not art, since it “doesn’t look like anything.” Going even further, consider Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings. They appear at first glance to be simply canvases painted black but are actually composed of black and nearly black shades. When first shown at MOMA in the 60’s there were protests and membership was cancelled and people contended that their own children could paint better! Art elicits varied emotions!
So let’s return to the question in question – Is photography art?