Shane Baker | Photography IS art
Wind-blown grassesWind-blown grassesDry grass blowing in the wind near Canberra.

Photography IS art

January 13, 2015  •  2 Comments

On my morning walk, I often listen to podcasts, including This Week in Photo. TWiP 393 was entitled Is Photography Art? and was prompted by a piece by Jonathan Jones published in The Guardian: The $6.5m canyon: it's the most expensive photograph ever – but it's like a hackneyed poster in a posh hotel.

As it happens, I largely agree with the title of the piece - but I can't agree with Jones on much else.

He begins with the following:

Photography is not an art. It is a technology. We have no excuse to ignore this obvious fact in the age of digital cameras, when the most beguiling high-definition images and effects are available to millions. My iPad can take panoramic views that are gorgeous to look at. Does that make me an artist? No, it just makes my tablet one hell of a device.

What a load of rubbish!

David MooreSisters of Charity, Washington DC If photography is not art because it's "technology", then no art is "art". The fact is that all art, from the earliest petroglyphs to the latest work has been dependent on technology. Our ancestors could not have engraved their images on rock without the technology to work rock. Leonardo could not have produced the Mona Lisa without the pigments and poplar panel with which it was created. Rodin's great works could not be realised without industrial-levels of technology.

Of course, much of this ridiculous debate hangs on the question of "what is art"? For my part, for an object to qualify as art, it must meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.
  • It must rely on a degree of skill to be produced.
  • It must evoke strong emotions in the viewer.
  • It is done with intent.

On that basis, great photography is art.

On the other hand, a good deal of the "art" over which the likes of Jonathan Jones wet themselves at regular intervals is not art. It requires no skill, it lacks aesthetics - and the only emotion that arises in this viewer is rage.

The story of the emperor's new clothes is something that we should all bear constantly in mind - particularly those pretentious individuals writing in newspapers and running art galleries, who deign to tell we lesser mortals what is art.

Have a good one.





laurie westcott(non-registered)
Glad you got that one off your chest, Shane and I agree with you whole heartedly. But I do hope the rest of your day is more satisfying.

Robin and I are in NZ visiting with daughter and family until 21/1 and I have had time to do a bit of touristy photography. Have been urged by the 11 year old grand-daughter to "hand over the camera" (the lovely OMD-EM1) on a number of occasions and have been rather struck by her innate sense of composition, subjects and ability to try every angle on everything, firing off shots at rapid rates and with gay abandon - obviously a product of the IT era! The gal has a future if she develops an interest in photography. She has asked me to also bring the old Oly 620 DSLR when I come next so she and I can both go out and photograph together. Sounds promising and she certainly knows how to take good shots with her mini iPad.

Rod Burgess(non-registered)
Hear Hear!
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