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?


1 Answer 1


Not all photography is art, not because of some failure, but because it never meant to be that. Some documentary photography may be art, but most isn't. Some of it is just recording a moment. Most photography is 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 any 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 — or its lack — 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. :)

  • \$\begingroup\$ +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. \$\endgroup\$
    – blunders
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 23:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @blunders: well, in that case, isn't it just to distinguish the "art photography" from that photography not fitting that category? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 23:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 @mattdm: Maybe, though I've always taken it as meaning no photography is art. \$\endgroup\$
    – blunders
    Commented May 19, 2012 at 2:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented May 19, 2012 at 14:52

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