On Photography as Art

I ran across this great post on Matt Alof’s blog that digs a little into the question of the relationship between photography and art.  Just a heads up for my blog readers to mosey over there and read it; I really think he’s hit the nail on the head in the analogy to writing.  Probably the most succinct and right-feeling clarification about a collective long-held anxiety by photographers over the last century that I have read in a long, long time. No, really, go read it. Now.

Photography is art in the same way that music is art, or writing is art, or poems are art. We keep trying to shoehorn it into a label that is too limiting.

While you are over there, just watch out for the Robot Overlords…

4 thoughts on “On Photography as Art

  1. George,

    Some interesting points on your post (as well as some very nice images). I certainly agree that photography can be art. But you don’t see writers touting their own work as “fine literature” the way you see so many web sites proclaiming their owner’s work as “fine art photography”. There is clearly a sort of collective insecurity, such that many feel it is necessary to pronounce it, as though that will reassure the viewer.

    Which is not to say that an artist shouldn’t promote their own work. But art will find it’s place. And good photography can find its place among “great works”, whether or not it is labeled as art.

  2. There is such thing as ‘fine literature’, and there are writers who tout themselves as working in that tradition. For writers, or more often their publishers, tagging a work as literary has the same intent as a photographer tagging their work as fine art. But the vast majority of really excellent writers don’t promote themselves in this way. I think part of the difference is that so many of the finest writers are working as journalists where clarity is king.

    BTW, thanks for the link, and I’m glad you enjoyed the robots.

  3. Matt,

    Good point. There may be a parallel situation developing where journalists in traditional media are embracing blogging (because they can’t ignore it as a force), and yet trying to distance themselves from the “unwashed blogging masses”. But I hardly ever see these “old media” writers somehow actually saying anything like that on their sites. It seems to be more a matter of letting the work (and the site hits, advertising, sales, etc) speak for itself.

    Now art is a different kettle of fish, but maybe not so much in regards to labeling your work. I say make the work and promote it in the right places if you want art world recognition. Good art is not always recognized, but the same forces that work for old media artists will work for photographers too, modulo the realities of the market and how much “product” is in that space. I suppose photographers as artists need a label to tag their work as being directed at a different market? Maybe I just find the tag a little pretentious.

    Fundamentally, I think the question is moot, as you made clear in your blog post. Good photography is visually articulated good seeing. And that is true whether one is targeting fine art, commercial, snapshot, whatever.

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