Not by its own nature, but by human nature, which turns any image into a symbol, has photography become a symbolic form and an art. One should clearly understand, in regard to all art, that the art is in the beholder, not necessarily in the work itself; the aesthetic response is purely subjective. What is art for one person may evoke no response in another.
In the 19th century, artists had become preoccupied with verisimilitude. The prime criterion for art was the imitation of nature. By the 1850’s, many painters and engravers were forced to take up photography because, however technically adept they were as “artists,” they could not compete with the lens’s precision of rendering. (See Ivins, Prints and Visual Communication, p. 178.) Once photography had cornered the market on verisimilitude, the popular notion of art had to be redefined. Art is a state of mind.
“Perhaps the great revolution produced by photography was in the traditional arts. The painter could no longer depict a world that had been much photographed. He turned, instead, to reveal the inner process of creativity in expressionism and in abstract art.” (McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 174.)