Updated: Aug 7, 2022
Michaelangelo once said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved it until I set him free.” so is photography. There is more to photography than just taking pictures. One could use their phone to take a photo of the airport right now, but that doesn't translate as art. It's just a picture. What then turns photography into art?
Similar to art, photography can have a deeper meaning.
On the basis of Michaelangelo's assertion in the first paragraph, one might infer that Michaelangelo, one of the greatest artists in history wasn't an artist, that he merely removed the extra marble to reveal the figure buried within the stone. As a result, he can be tagged as just a knowledgeable technician rather than an artist.
The discussions around what qualifies as art and what does not are age-old. Though one cannot help but take note that some photographers are artists in their essence. Their works go beyond taking pictures with the camera.
So, what qualifies photography as art?
The creative use of technology:
People's obsession with photography's technological underpinnings contributes to their difficulty in defining photography as an art. They could argue that taking photos isn't particularly creative because it uses technology, but it's obvious that with technology comes a new form of art like we've never seen before.
The rebuttal to this is that technology is also used by painters when they decide between using oil or watercolor, one type of color over another, etc. Once there's an element of creativity, it is art.
The collaborative efforts:
In photography it is easy to note that the overall picture one sees is as a result of the collaborative process of every artist from the model, to the photographer, to the makeup team and all and one might be tempted to ask; who's the artist in this case, is it the photographer who took the pictures or the artist's team? Maybe, a collaborative effort? Or is it a technical trick? All of these questions are valid and everything comes together to give the picture in the photographer's head.
Considering this picture as an example. Is this a work of art or is it research?
Many photographers will take a black-and-white photograph of a mechanic's grimy hands and caption it, "The working blue collar woman." and lots of people will consider that person to be #Woke for making comments about a blue collar working woman, some would see it as a means of activism, some would view it as him using his craft to pass a message. And that can be termed art by some audiences.
This further shows you that photography involves the audience's and both the photographer's perspective to be termed art.
Artistic photography can be incredibly challenging. For particular purposes, the ideal subject, lighting, distance, angle, etc. must all be considered for it to be qualified as art. Ten pages on each of those and 100 pages on the various sections are what an actual photographer could consume to give you a variety of images that could qualify as art.
The difference between finger painting and Van Gogh is that while taking a picture it is very simple, but getting a picture that is deserving of the label "art" is much more difficult, but can be achieved and has been achieved by various photographers.
The debate over whether or not photographers are artists can never end. But for me, the ultimate choice lies with the audience, "Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so too is art," to borrow a phrase from an old saying. I believe that if my gut tells me something is art, regardless of the medium—painting, sculpture, music, dance, or even photography—once I can connect to it, it is art.