by ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq

Submit your Photo
Hall of Fame

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Always puzzle me to hear people list photography (in the context of it being art) and something different than art. Is there a reason for this historically?

share|improve this question
That's perhaps (only somewhat) comparable to not distinguishing between "Science Fiction" and "Fantasy". Any hardcore SciFi addict who enters a secondhand bookstore seeking some worthwhile contribution to their collection and finds that the two subjects are combined i one section knows that their pilgramage must continue yet awhile to some better place :-) – Russell McMahon May 19 '12 at 2:38
@RussellMcMahon. I'm a voracious reader who's never seen any point to thinking in terms of genre. It seems to me one of the least important things about a book. – TRiG Oct 27 '12 at 0:01
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Not all photography is art, not because it's bad, but because it never meant to be. Some documentary photography may be art, but most isn't. Much photography is just decoration, or otherwise functional, not meant to be art, let alone upper-case-a Ahhrt, or Fine Art.

"What is art?" is a constant question — in fact, it's a question with no fixed answer, but a continuing conversation. See some of this in the context of photography at What makes "fine art" fine art? In fact, a useful definition may be that art is any work which participates in that conversation — it's the dialog itself which makes something art rather than an intrinsic feature of the work. Clearly, that's beside the point of much photography, which simply isn't interested in that.

But you don't have to even be concerned with this question to appreciate the craft of photography, as many people do. Art is important, but the label isn't necessarily a value judgment.

And of course, there's no question that there's plenty of art that isn't photography:

Venn diagram showing the intersection of art and photography

I probably should have made the photography circle much smaller next to all of art, but hey, this is a photography site after all. :)

share|improve this answer
+1 @mattdm: Right, that's why I said "(in the context of it being art)" -- as if even "art photography" was not "art", though I guess what art is and is not is never meant to be understood. – blunders May 18 '12 at 23:42
@blunders: well, in that case, isn't it just to distinguish the "art photography" from that photography not fitting that category? – mattdm May 18 '12 at 23:48
+1 @mattdm: Maybe, though I've always taken it as meaning no photography is art. – blunders May 19 '12 at 2:52
Some people probably do mean that. Photography has always struggled for that sort of respect, since it is a uniquely accessible. But in general, that debate is long settled and it's clear that some photography at least does stand as part of Art, and it really comes down to arguing about the specifics. Anyone so dismissive of photography in entirety probably just doesn't know what they're talking about. – mattdm May 19 '12 at 14:52

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.