It’s a positive way of looking at one of the differences between traditional art and photography. A photograph captures a moment in time in its actuality, whereas something like a painting or drawing, however accurate is essentially a rendering of whatever the artist chooses to see. But can photography itself ever be described as an art form? And more importantly, what is art?
It’s also hard for people to see an artistic value in photography when it’s possible to make nearly identical copies of the same image. A photograph can never be a one-off like a painting (unless of course you print one copy and then delete all traces of its existence!). And of course, since digital photography became the norm, there’s a certain belief that anyone can take a photograph. Entry-level DSLRs are remarkably cheap and the camera companies that push them are partially responsible for supporting this view. Owning an expensive camera can seem like more of a lifestyle choice than anything else these days!
And you don’t even need a camera to take a photograph these days. Most mobile phones come with a camera and a million and one ways to instantly upload and share your work with anyone you choose. The magic of a photograph is somewhat lost when it’s posted on Twitter or Facebook five seconds after it was taken.
It’s undoubtedly hard to justify this instant medium as ‘art’ in the true sense of the word.
But yet, despite all this, I do believe that some photography can be viewed as art. What a lot of people don’t realise is that many of us pros see art as a huge influence in our work.
If you take a close look at landscape and portrait images, you’ll often see the influence of paintings. I often mimic the setup of groups of people in paintings in my own portraiture, along with the interesting expressions and moods that said painters have captured. So, before many of us have even pressed the shutter, the influence of art is apparent in our work.
There is a skill involved in taking images that speak to the viewer and provoke a reaction in them that’s no different to the reactions evoked by art.
So yes, I do believe that in the right circumstances photography is an art form. And it’s an art form that takes skill, artistic ability and an understanding of technology. It deserves its place on the artistic forum.