Is Photography Art?

A question I have been asked many times is ‘Is photography an art form?’ or put another way
Are photographers artists? Or Can a photograph be a work of art?
The quick answer is - It can be!

Firstly what is art? An age old question that has been answered by many…
My preference is Tolstoy – ‘art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience’

In this extract taken out of context as it is from a larger piece, art requires:
• An artist (the person producing the art)
• An audience (the person or people viewing/listening/reading the art)
• An emotional link (this has to be intended by the artist? to be created and communicated)
Another more descriptive definition is ‘Art is form and content’
• Form (the principals of design, the physical materials)
• Content (the message the artist wanted to portray, what was portrayed and how it was perceived)

Other considerations:
The artist creates using his or her skills this is the craft part of art, be it painting, sculpture, writing, playing an instrument, or taking a photograph!
In terms of photography, camera craft is a term often used, I see this as knowing how to use your camera, lens equipment etc, but not necessarily taking the photograph.

Creative – in its broadest sense something is created, this can be a photograph as a snapshot of time which is created by the photographer seeing the picture, pressing the shutter, this can then be manipulated further. This also encompasses printing, displaying (on the web or in a gallery), mounting and framing which can all have an impact on how a photograph is perceived.
Subjectivity – The audience decide, this can be affected by many outside factors from individual mood through to political situation, geographical location and when the art is viewed. A piece of art may be considered to be art by one person but not the next.

Contemporary – just means of the moment, however art does not need to be contemporary, Monet’s paintings are still considered to be art however if one of them is locked in a bank vault, there is no audience hence it is not art till it is able to be viewed by an audience!

Art and money - art does not have any commercial aspects, that is not to say that art can not have commercial aspects through out time many artists have had commissions and patrons (sponsors) and pieces have been sold. Obviously the more popular the art, the larger the audience, and probably the more likely to be commercial. However commerce is not an aspect of art.

Fine art - in my book this relates to either painting, sculpture, architecture, music or poetry only, so photography is not fine art. However my opinion does not count as it seems to be a term being used in photography for photographs being taken for arts sake and no other reason?

Photographs I consider art
Dennis Stock - Life magazine photo of James Dean in an overcoat and with a cigarette in his mouth while walking down rain-soaked Times Square
Herman Leonard – photo of Gordon Dexter smoking at a gig

Some tips and quotes from the best!
Ansel Adams
You don't take a photograph, you make it.The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance
A good photograph is knowing where to stand

Edward Weston
To compose a subject well means no more than to see and present it in the strongest manner possible
… to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk…

The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.

Annie Leibovitz
The image may not be literally what's going on, but it's representative.

Berenice Abbott
Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.

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