Is a photograph a work of art? Does it have as much value as a painting or drawing?
There are three broad answers that would answer this question: ‘Is photography art?’ Each of these answers represents a different school of thought.
Photography Is Not Art
On the surface, photography is not art. Why? There is nothing ‘original’ about it. It is simply reproducing an image of something that already exists. There are no subtle interpretations.
For most of the pictures we find around, this is true. In fact, you can take a stunning photo with a click of your camera phone. There are selfies, groupies and snaps and all kinds of pictures available to everyone. You certainly do not have to be an artist for that.
In this sense, you can argue that photography is not art. There is nothing creative about it. whatever ‘creativity’ you may find comes from the object itself ad not the photo. The photo is ‘just there’.
Photography Is Sometimes Art
Sometimes, people stumble on an incredible picture. Not all selfies are the same – some can make your head explode with wonder. In moments like that, you are forced to admit that pictures might have artistic value after all.
Examples of this kind of photos are pictures that are taken to create illusions. When you stare at them from different angles, you arrive at different conclusions. Sometimes these pictures mess with your mind. They are photographs – photographs with artistic strains.
In this case, you would say that photography is sometimes art. That sometimes, photographers can exhibit a level of creativity that would trigger the wow response.
Photography Is Art
There are photographs that transcend merely taking pictures and creating illusions. These photographs attempt to recreate concepts. They try to introduce new perspectives. They are subjects of the photographer’s interpretation of the world around them.
Photographers in this case rely on more than just their camera phones or stroke of luck. They are patient and international and experimental. Some of them take days, even weeks to interact with their subjects. They combine skill, experience, imagination and environmental influences to create what you can call a work of art.
For those people, photography is more than just taking a picture. It is a way to interact and interpret the environment they find themselves in. The painter or sketch artist labours to get each stroke right. The artistic photographer struggles to get the setting, lighting, placement and a thousand other variables right.
In this case, you cannot say their product does not have artistic value. You cannot say photography s not art.
Ordinarily, the third position –photography is art – should be the default position. One should not have to argue to great lengths to defend it. However, the rise and ubiquitousness of camera phones and low budget DSL devices have made the field of photography open to everyone. For every artistic photographer you find, I am inclined to think you can find ten thousand non-artist photographers.
That said, the place of art cannot be removed from photography. It is an integral aspect of the kind of photographs were skill, technology and intentional setting are involved.
To answer the question: is photography art? The answer is simple: Yes! Photography is art.