Photography has many purposes. It can be used to document something (e.g.. capturing a person’s identity, such as a passport photo, to capturing a moment in time, such as, a war, wedding, or birth). It can be used to sell a person, product or ideological idea. Or it can be art. Most often, despite whatever other purpose photography serves, I believe that photography is art.
Photography as Art
So I ask the age-old question, WHAT MAKES PHOTOGRAPHY ART?
In my opinion, photographic art is photography that is created with the desire to elicit a certain emotional response. I would argue that a passport photo or driver’s license photo is NOT art. Due to very strict photo guidelines (i.e. flat, one-dimensional light; no smiling involved) the photographer does not have any room for creative ability. On the other hand, look at photographic advertising. Are these types of advertisements art? I would argue, YES!
Think about a mouth-watering image of an ice cream cake drizzled in hot fudge or a half-naked woman standing next to a red convertible. For me, the emotional response to the ice cream cake is a positive one, while the half-naked women with elicit thoughts of “That’s oppressive and degrading to women!” But it doesn’t matter. As a chocolate-lover, the ice cream ad is targeting me (and yes, they won me over!) On the other-hand, I’m not in the market to buy a convertible, it just matters if the man that is the target market has the same lustful emotional response to the half-naked woman as I have towards chocolate. The point is, the photographer has an intent to illicit an emotional response to the image.
What about snapshots? Are they art? I’ll answer this question with a question. Why does a person take a snapshot of their family, a monument or landscape even if they have little knowledge of how their camera works? I would suggest it is because the photo will be a reminder to them of that moment in time or a way to share that emotion with their friends and family. So, for that individual, that “snapshot” is art.
The above photo is a photo that I took this past weekend in Drumheller. This is my art. I wanted to elicit a certain mood. For me, I want to know what’s on the other side of the window. What is the person thinking about? What are they longing or hoping for?
Everyday, you, the reader, are bombarded with images. So let me ask the question to you: What makes photography art?