Is Photography an Art?

This post is inspired by Victor Burgin’s “Looking at Photographs”

While reading Burgin’s article “Looking at Photographs” an interesting question came to mind. I began to wonder if photography is truly a form of art.

The main function of art is to be a form of expression. Everyday we use various methods to express our feelings. Some of these methods consist of singing, drawing, painting, acting, and even writing. All these art forms consists of expressing oneself in a unique manner that relates directly to the artist themselves. However, is photography an art?

Bergin says “The significant structures which early semiotics found in photography are not spontaneously self generated, they originate in determinate modes of human organization.”

Unlike the art forms mentioned above, photography does not really allow one to express themselves with their own personal method. Photography is not a self generated image, but a captured image. A photo is not a creation of one’s own design, but an image taken by a camera. It is different from a painting where one gives physical form to their emotions in the form of what they paint. Photography seems to be more used for catching a moment or memory instead of expressing oneself.

When performing a form of art, how do you feel? When you paint do you feel like you paint out your emotions with each brush stroke? When you act, do you feel your various forms of emotions create the character you play? When you write, do you feel your words speak the emotions you cannot say out loud?

Art seems to always have an emotional feedback to the artist. It serves a purpose of expressing emotions that cannot be expressed in words alone. When you take a photograph, does photography give you some form of emotional feedback? When you take a picture of something randomly beautiful, do you do it to have a memory of the beautiful sight or because of the artistic value?


Above is a picture I took at an Earth festival. It is a picture I took of a wolf. I did not feel any form of expressionism when taking this picture. the only thought in my mind was “Cool, a wolf” snap. I only took that picture because it was the first time I saw a wolf. I was not expressing myself in any way or form. The other thing that makes me wonder if photography is an art is another picture I took of that same wolf.


The two pictures look almost identical, right? That is because they are identical! They are almost if not exactly the same. these two pictures are two completely different photos taken within five seconds apart from each other. I cannot tell the difference. That is because photos can be pretty much reproduced. I wonder how many people took almost the same exact picture as I did. Photos have no unique form of emotion to them. They completely detach the artist from the viewer. Certainly a photo can be beautiful or have meaning but once again is it art?

What is art to you? Is it something beautiful to look at? Is it an image or form of expression that holds meaning to you? What does a photo do for you?

The definition of art is the conscious use of the imagination in the production of objects intended to be contemplated or appreciated as beautiful, as in the arrangement of forms, sounds, or words.

If I were to say my opinion I believe photography is not an art. Honestly I believe photography is not a form of art, but a form of capturing a memorable moment. Whenever I take a photo it is done by reflex. Like the definition says art requires you to use your imagination. That use of imagination allows you to figure out how to express a variety of your emotions in different shapes or forms. However, where is the imagination in photography? When you look at my photo above, what do you think? You think it’s a wolf right? Where is the imagination in that?

The imagination is a wondrous thing all humans have. Imagination allows us to access fantasies within our minds and make creations based off this fantasy like thoughts or emotions. That imagination can be seen and felt in all forms of art. Take a poem for example. When you read a poem you often find yourself asking what does the poem mean? What meaning does the poem have? What was the author feeling s he wrote the poem? However, the experience of looking at a photo lasts but a moment long. One does not ask a lot of the questions I just listed. They do not try to put their own form of imagination on the photo to create their own image of what they are looking at. Instead they just figure out its a picture and go to look at the next picture.


One thought on “Is Photography an Art?

  1. this post really made me think about what art is and if photography is really a form of art or not. I would post my opinion if I had one lol. obviously, some images more than others, but a lot of photography now a days is like you said, just “oh, theres this, let me take a quick picture”


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