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serena933's avatar

What do you think makes photography "art"?

Asked by serena933 (162points) March 19th, 2010

What are everyone’s views are on why some photographs are considered “art” and others are not. What defines a photograph as artistic? As someone who enjoys photography as a hobby, and moderate income source, I was wondering what people think about photography as an art form.

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26 Answers

TheBot's avatar

To me? Composition, hands down.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Vision+imagination+talent= Art

mrrich724's avatar

Capturing the image of something that people wouldn’t normally give a second look to. And allowing people to consider it in isolation from seeing it in every day life and appreciate what might not have been noticed in other circumstances.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Photography, just like painting or drawing, often holds the artists intent to capture and present something in a specific way. Maybe they’re trying to capture the exact way light is illuminating off of a building, for instance, and the building isn’t the intended subject at all. A regular picture, for instance, is head-on, normal lighting, and generally taken not to capture anything more than a memory. An artistic photograph is generally taken for many reasons and can often portray symbolism, imagination, varying angles, on and on. Intent has a lot to do with it, just like with any other kind of art.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Naked women, hands on.

Chongalicious's avatar

Captruing a moment, an emotion, or pure beauty. Of course, it’s always up to the viewer to decide how artistic they think it is.

jaytkay's avatar

For me, art is seeing the world through other peoples’ eyes.

Other time, other gender, other social class, other country..I want to feel something that I can’t feel myself.

Whether it’s photography, movies, painting, novels, I want to pretend I am the artist.

Drawkward's avatar

The capture of a visual arrangement that seems to say suggest something out of the ordinary.

Jeruba's avatar

Thought. Composition. Point of view. Evocative power. Vision.

It causes me to see something in a new way. It changes my experience of seeing. It holds my attention. It gives me a glimpse of the world and mind and reality of the photographer, the human presence behind the camera, while at the same time seeming to be purely what it is.

It has a suddenness about it. It breaks through the surface of the medium and connects.

lilikoi's avatar

For me, photography becomes art the moment you deviate from producing an accurate, realistic image of whatever you’re photographing. If the photo doesn’t look exactly like what was there in real life, it’s art. Like using light reflectors to change the direction of light.

Jeruba's avatar

But @lilikoi, if a photo doesn’t look exactly like what was there in real life, it might just be a really bad photo. Don’t you need some kind of intentionality behind it before it can be considered art?

Also, I have seen many wonderful and very artistic photos that do look exactly like what was there, but from an angle, or at a distance, or with a cropping that brings an intensity of focus to the content. It is not simply a record. It’s a re-presentation. Isn’t that art?

Here, for example, and this was chosen almost at random. There are thousands of images on this site that look like what they are and yet that I would call art. And there are many more that do make use of lighting, editing, etc., to alter the image. Those can be art too.

TheBot's avatar

@Jeruba And what if the intention was to take a picture that does not reflect what is there in real life? I can certainly picture semantic detachment as a legitimate artistic endeavor.

Jeruba's avatar

No argument there, @TheBot. Abstract photography can certainly be art, in my opinion.

I am saying that the intent to take a picture that does reflect something as it appears in real life doesn’t disqualify it as art, and that not looking like the actual subject is not enough to make it art.

TheBot's avatar


But even abstract photography still conveys sense, and the way the photographer “felt” the subject…

What I am saying is what if not accurately capturing the subject is indeed the only intent? What if someone out there with a camera (and a somewhat nihilistic view of the world) took pictures simply to create images that are completely meaningless?

Wouldn’t it be self-expression? Wouldn’t it be art?

lilikoi's avatar

@TheBot Sure.


I haven’t put much thought into what should be art or what is art to anyone but myself on a very personal level. I’m not sure if my thinking is logical or technically correct or even consistent. It is what it is, and it is constantly evolving….so thanks for the discussion!

Technically, I suppose any photo injected with human creativity is defined as art. So if you were to go around mindlessly snapping photos, that wouldn’t qualify as art. Whereas, if there is a specific intent behind the image, if the image is premeditated, deliberate, planned, then it is art. Whether or not it is good art, is subjective.

What about photojournalism? Photos that Zoriah take could certainly be called artistic, and yet at the same time they tell a story. It is documentation, it is news. Is it art? Or is it a documentation of an event that just happens to be interesting or look good? Or both? I don’t know.

Jude's avatar

Contrast, composition and once in awhile you capture something and it evokes a feeling.

Jeruba's avatar

Yes, @TheBot, I’ve already agreed with you once. You are coming at it from the opposite direction. No problem there. It is simply not a response to my point. Being unrecognizable is not enough to make something art. I can take a blurry, poorly lit photograph of my cat. By @lilikoi‘s definition, that’s automatically art if it doesn’t look like the subject. I just said no, there has to be a reason (intent) why it doesn’t look like the subject. It can’t just be because of bad picture taking.

One such reason is abstraction; for example, a shot from an extreme angle or very close up. The photographer is trying to do or say something by taking it that way. That might or might not be art, but it could be. The unrecognizable out-of-focus shot of my cat’s left haunch in dark shadows is not.

By the same token, something can look like the subject and still be art. It’s all in how it’s shot.

TheBot's avatar

@Jeruba Agreed 100% :)

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

For me, it’s context. If a photograph can effectively convey an idea, an emotion or a feeling, then it can be considered art. There are a lot of different factors that go into the making of a picture and how those individual factors are presented can also help convey the intended idea.

liminal's avatar

I also want to point to the developing process a photographer takes an image through. There is true artistry involved in knowing how to ”burn an image to paper”. I think it is rare for a photographer to find an image they desire “as is” directly from their camera.

Certainly the passion of engagement exists throughout the composing, the taking, and the development of the piece. Yet, the intimacy and privacy of unique artistry is found in the moments alone with the image. It is there that the photographic artist expresses, not just notes, what has been captured.

It is the photographers private application of unique skill that allows them to join the ranks of other artists.

mattbrowne's avatar

If it triggers deep emotions and stimulates the intellect.

Fairylover78's avatar

Photography is also a hobby for me. I feel that it comes down to the creative nature of the photo, if it’s something anyone can just shoot, then it’s not memorable, however if it’s unique to your vision and that shows then it is definately art. It’s all about perspective.

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