Is Photography Art? Why/ why Not?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by BradS, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,219
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    S.F. Bay Area
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I found myself engaged in a conversation with somebody in the Administrative side of the company at lunch today. Her educational background was in Art History. The conversation turned from the usual topics to my interest in Photogrpahy....anyway, at some point she asserted that Photography is not art. She said that it is not considered art because, in essence, there is no artist. The final result was simply a matter of chemisty and physics.

    Now, I am no artist. I don't even aspire to be an artist...but, try as I might to convice her otherwise, she steadfastly maintained that Photography is not art...in some kind of academic sense, I guess.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. roteague

    roteague Member

    Messages:
    6,671
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2004
    Location:
    Kaneohe, Haw
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Of course, Photography is art. Why? Because in order to produce a pleasing image, even for commercial use, it requires input from the artistic portion of the brain. But, don't waste you time trying to convince your coworker - you can't convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,943
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    That's a fairly primitive view of photography. It is true that photography wasn't taught in art schools or studied in art history programs until relatively recently (1960s or so), but that's not really the case any more.

    I wouldn't worry about it, really. Just do the work, and let the critics sort out what it is.
     
  4. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,571
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Tonopah Neva
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    What a bone head. That's why she works in Admin. Too bad. Sometimes ignorance is a player. My "inlaws" don't consider anything besides what Getty has from the Greek classical period to be art. Mostly that is because of ignorance. They simply have no clue.
     
  5. Daniel Lawton

    Daniel Lawton Member

    Messages:
    474
    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2005
    Location:
    California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The word artist is such a loose term I think it is difficult to positively label any activity as "art." I'm sure everyone has seen a fair share of paintings hanging in museums or galleries that we would have a hard time labeling as "art." I don't think I would ever feel comfortable calling myself an artist because the term has always seemed a little pompous to me. On the other hand, I've never been under the impression that the word itself requires that the activity be devoid of chemistry and physics. Seems a little silly.
     
  6. Rick Haug

    Rick Haug Member

    Messages:
    93
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2005
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I guess I don't worry too much about what is considered art and what isn't, but I have to chuckle at those who automatically exclude photography as art yet consider something such as hanging up some colorful ribbons to be art. :smile:

    This thread made me think of an older one here on APUG about what or who is a photographer. One view held that you were a "photographer" only if you were a professional, making your living from the use of your camera. The majority of APUGers likely are not professional photographers. So we're not photographers, and apparently are not artists, either. What are we then, camera owner/operators? That sounds too much like an IRS job code on the tax form.
     
  7. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,219
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2004
    Location:
    S.F. Bay Area
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Well, I just spent the last hour or so using data from Amazon dot com's "Customers who bought this book also bought..." listings to build a directed graph of books related to The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup. So, I guess, that makes me a programming/ statistics nerd.

    Back on topic...I'm too old now to worry much about what others think but, I just thought this woman's point of view rather odd. It just never occurred to me that the whole field could be dismissed like that. To me, some photography is clearly art. Some is not. Paintings are the same way. For me, there's always been a large gray area. Not so, apparently for my co-worker. It was an interesting conversation.
     
  8. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Brad, buddy, one of the first laws of debate and logic is to use their own arguments against them. For someone to be able to tell you that photography is not art, they first have to define for you what is art. Let her struggle with that for a while.

    OTOH I am not surprised. This opinion is very prevalent. The beleif that all that is required to be a photographer is the ability to pick up a camera and press the shutter, the rest is just mechanics.

    I wonder why is it that "non art" is being shown in museums and galleries...... :smile:
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    16,818
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Photography isn't Art, but photographs can be.

    It's not the process, but rather the use of the process, by the artist.

    I wonder what she thinks of Andy Warhol?
     
  10. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

    Messages:
    1,804
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    Location:
    Denmark
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    Here in this little undeveloped contry (Denmark) the issue has been delt with in a strange matter..
    On one hand we do have photographic museums - and other museums regulary exhibit photography..
    One can even be "put on the law of Finances" - for some years or for life..... That means the state will pay you a yearly income in that time..

    BUT we also have a ruling by the court that states that photography isnt't art....

    Why?

    because everybody here pays 25% VAT (moms). Except artists.. They don't pay VAT .

    So even if one is payed by the goverment, one has to pay the 25% for all one sells..

    I guess it is because they fear that all Danes with a camera would claim they are Artists to avoid the taxes...

    But it is silly.

    one problem related to this is, that ex the museum of Photography once had an exhibition of a Canadian photographer..
    the Tax authorities calimed 25% of ALL pictures - up front.
    in case they were sold.....
    if not the museum would get the money back..

    well - this is a huge problem for many, if they want to exhibit foreign artists, as not too many places have that kind of cash....
     
  11. Andy K

    Andy K Member

    Messages:
    9,422
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Sunny Southe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Painting is chemistry and physics too.
     
  12. 127

    127 Member

    Messages:
    581
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2004
    Location:
    uk
    Shooter:
    127 Format
    Now there's a book I'm glad I don't have to read any more!

    When I worked as a C++ programmer (about 10 years ago) I came to the conclusion that C++ was invented by Bjarne as a stunt to promote his book. Why else would it have so many boobytraps? Completley unfathomable rules about virtual/non-virtual contrutors/destructors. Practically every chapter of the book concludes with a paragraph "You would therefore think you could use the feature we've just discussed in this other very similar way. However it doesn't work, so I added an extra feature to the language to get round it".

    Practically everyone in the company had a copy of that book within arms reach at all times. I came to the conclusion that Bjarne new NOTHING about object oriented programming, and an awefull lot about planning for his retirement...

    Ian
     
  13. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

    Messages:
    3,984
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
    Location:
    London
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    "Her educational background was in Art History"

    Thing about Art History is that you either study it because you have a passion for Art, or you study it because its an easy way of getting your parents (or the state) to pay for another 3 years of school without too much effort on your behalf. I think I can guess which of the two groups this person is in.

    By her logic painting isn't art because chemists make the pigments and the brushes are mass produced in factories, Sculpture isn't art because the person just hits bits of rock with a hammer and chisel and... well... it's all just too silly for words. She needs to try putting her brain in to gear before engaging her mouth - but then, why change what I am certain is the habit of a lifetime?...

    Point her at some of Gandolfi's images and see what she says then!

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the argument of whether photography is art or not was originated in Walter Benjamn's theory/essay called "The Short History of Photography."

    http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=true&UID=357

    Basically he was concerned about the future of the mass preproduction of images. Compared to painting and everything else that's called art back then( this was 1930's), in his view, it was so questionable to call photography as a method for producing art.

    But more or less, some people talk about photography not being art or whatever, and most of the time that's pure nonsense. I think photography is photography just like craft is craft. But if it goes a step further and becomes more than just photography to someone, then we are talking about art.
     
  16. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

    Messages:
    387
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2005
    Location:
    Old Europe
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    About her, yes ! :rolleyes: Did she ever try to take a decent photo ? I guess NO !
    This statement is as old as photography is and came up immediately after the first photos were published in the 19th century. The painters and graphic artists in those days expected a competition and from the very first moment on they claimed photography not beeing art, using exactly the same argument as the lady used it now.

    The argument has got neither more intelligent nor less arrogant since the early 19th century, but it is still pretty popular among those pseudo-academic art parvenues, who cannot keep a... from elbow but keep themselves as beiing competent because just they have had some lectures at the university.

    Their natural environment is usally the "art business", where they sell nonsense to some other parvenues who keep everything they cannot understand as "art" and buy it because they were told it's worth will grow strongly soon.

    bertram
     
  17. Andy K

    Andy K Member

    Messages:
    9,422
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2004
    Location:
    Sunny Southe
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Take her into a Darkroom. Show her how an enlargement is made using dodging and burning techniques.
     
  18. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,518
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Photography is Art. One only has to study Clement Greenberg, the Ultimate Sensai of Art Critics, to reach that conclusion.

    I once had an interesting conversation about art with a particularly brittle gentle... - er, well ...
    He kept insisting that HE knew what was "Art" and what wasn't. Every well respected artist I could think of, in limited gallery schmoozing time, was excluded: "Not art!!!"

    That included: Renoir, Wyeth, Georgia O'Keeffe, Mary Cassat, Sargent, Rodin, Picasso ("Oh, no!! - nothing but a phony!) Alma-Tadema, Fragonard, Suerrat, Michelangelo, Anders Zorn, Rembrandt.... certainly NO photographers/ photographs! - many more... most of whom whose names I can't spell. All of their works were NOT art!

    In frustration, I finally asked him, "So what - whose work - DO you consider to be art?"

    After a fair amount of evasion, he came up with his pronouncement from his lofty mountain (or it must have seemed so, to him): Norman Rockwell!! He is an ARTIST! No one else - ever! Only Norman Rockwell!!"

    That deserved my well-used stock gallery answer - I won't translate it into its true meaning here; "What an interesting observation.", and moved on to the table holding the Gallery Wine / Battery Acid - "Vin Du Exide."

    I think Rockwell is a pretty good artist - brilliant Illustrator ... but "The Only one"???

    What a truly interesting observation.
     
  19. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,888
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just goes to show the state of art history and arts education in this country is pretty pathetic. Our schools just don't value the arts.

    I like Jorge's suggestion... make her define art.
     
  20. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
    He's the only well-known shopping-mall artist in the eye of art historians. I mean, Rockwell's name always comes up as an icon of non-art because his illustrations/cartoons look somewhat cheesy for them.
     
  21. Ralf

    Ralf Member

    Messages:
    159
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Germany or S
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A pencil drawing can be a sophisticated piece of art, as well as a primitive sketch explaining your electrician where you want the sockets mounted.

    Same with photography. Art is not defined by the technical means, but by the person behind it and the intention of the work.

    Stupid example: Making P&S snapshots of our family under the christmas-tree this month most probably will not be art, because it was never intended to be art in the first place, it's purpose is to record a memory. However, if a photographer travels from country to country for ten years, making hundreds of pictures of families under their christmas-trees, then makes a selection of 50 photographs and mounts them on a 5 x 5 meter board and displays it in the pedestrian zone of a large city, you should consider that person an artist.
     
  22. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,560
    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Location:
    Pacific Nort
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Not any more, now it's a business that failed the test of time. Imagine if someone took canvas or paint out of the hands of the master painters. Why are the contact printers putting up with the lack of supply of contact printing paper.

    I just visited the Louvre in Paris and there where not photographs there. I also visited the Orsay and no photographs there. I ask where there were photographs in Paris and was directed to an show hung on a fence.

    Art?
     
  23. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,597
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well, that about sums it up, doesn't it?

    Cheers, y'all.

    David
     
  24. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    St Francis said,
    "Work done with the Hands is Labor.

    Done with the Hands and the Mind, it is Craft.

    Yet, when done with the Hands,
    the Mind,
    and the Heart,
    it becomes Art."







    .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 3, 2005
  25. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

    Messages:
    2,016
    Joined:
    May 11, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, M
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    Yes!
     
  26. rbarker

    rbarker Member

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    Rio Rancho,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think the question of whether photography is art is a wonderful topic for philosophical discussion . . . as long as the other person is paying for the beer.