Photography, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

Claims that photography is aesthetically different from and, in many versions of the argument, inferior to the arts of painting and drawing have taken various forms: that photography is a mechanical process and therefore not an artistic medium; that it is severely limited in its capacity to express the thoughts and emotions of the artist; that its inability to register more than an instantaneous ‘slice’ of events restricts its representational capacity; that it is not a representational medium at all. Some of these arguments are thoroughly mistaken, while others have an interesting core of truth that will emerge only after some clarification. Central to this clarification is an account of the precise sense in which photography is mechanical, and an explication of our intuition that a photograph puts us ‘in touch with’ its subject in a way that a painting or drawing cannot. Both these ideas need to be separated from the mistaken view that it is the nature of photography to provide images that are superlatively faithful to the objects they represent. Throughout this entry we shall consider only the case of photographs of a relatively unmanipulated kind, ignoring darkroom techniques that blur the distinction between photography and painting.

    Citing this article:
    Currie, Gregory. Photography, aesthetics of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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