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Is All Photography Art?

Updated on February 9, 2014

Is Photographic Art A Question Of Taste?

Why am I asking the question, is photography art? Is there an answer? I am going to try to answer it to my own satisfaction.

Photography has been accepted as art for many years, but still people question it. I came across the same question on the internet recently and although I very nearly passed over it, something at the back of my mind made me read some of the answers.

I thought that this had repercussions for some of the art work that I am doing at the moment, such as collaging and using found objects. Both also accepted by the mainstream art establishment but often neglected by the ordinary members of the public.

Perhaps the question should be, "Is Some Photography Art?"

Take this photo of a dandelion seedhead. I think it is a beautiful photo, such a wonderful structure and not a bad photo, even if I do say so myself. But is it art? What makes a photogaph a work of art? Is it the subject, the technical specification of the equipment, the skill of the photographer or the post processing (in the darkroom or in photoshop for example) ?

I would like to try to answer some of these questions in this lens, based on my own experience as an artist, the owner of a camera and an ordinary member of the public. I will try to bring together some published views and put these into my arguments using examples of photographs and images from some other art medias. You can see some of my photographs in my blog, Photography For Fun.

All photographs unless otherwise stated are by Artyfax

Work In Progress

I have published this lens but it is far from completed.

I hope to be adding to it in the future, when I have something of value to add, to make it more robust and a more personal interpretation of some of the published comments that I have quoted. Thanks for your patience.


Great photography is about

depth of feeling,

not depth of field.

Peter Adams


What Is Your Opinion? - What Makes A Photograph A Work Of Art?

flames from a fire in a brazier
flames from a fire in a brazier

I suggest above, several things which may help to make a work of art out of a photograph, how do you feel about this before we start? You can leave a comment to amplify your answer.

The photograph here was taken by me on a recent bonfire night. We can't have a large bonfire in our back garden but a few logs in a brazier is very welcome on a cold night whilst we let off a few fireworks and eat ourselves merry with hot dogs and baked potatoes and a few hot toddies.

What Makes A Photograph A Work Of Art?

See results
icicles on a roof from inside
icicles on a roof from inside

Let's Start With Some Definitions....

.....And Quotes

"Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging symbolic elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions, and/or intellect." is a quote from a definition in Wikipedia and which actually lists a number of activities including photography as being included within the compass of this definition. It also summarises the definition of art as being " made with the intention of stimulating thoughts and emotions."

In "Photography - Photography As An Art Form" you can read, "The Museum of Modern Art in New York formed a department of photography in 1940, showing that the medium had been accepted as an art form. This seems very definite and would point to the general acceptance of this claim.

One step further, we can read in Reflections on Photography and Art that, "Photography is both an art and a science. Photography allows us to express our feeling and emotions, but to do so we need to master the scientific part of the medium. Unlike a painter, who is in direct contact with his subject and his canvas, a photographer is separated from his subject by the camera and from his "canvas" by computers and printers today and by darkroom equipment previously." This writer goes on to say that perhaps one of the reasons for so little being written on this subject is that many photographers are "uncomfortable writing about photography as art, or lack the practice and knowledge to do so". He also writes, "an artistic photograph is created when technique is used to express a vision and an emotion, not when technique is used for it's own sake."

And finally for now, we go back to Wikipedia for this quote which differentiates between classes of professional photography. "Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism, which provides visual support for stories, mainly in the print media, and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to sell products or services." So we should probably look at these classes of photography and see where they fit into our arguments. Also don't forget that many people take photos for fun or as keepsakes and give no though to how the resulting photo may be classified.

So the answer from a brief web search seems to be that as suspected, some photography is art but not all photography is art. This brings us back to my question above, what makes or where do we draw the dividing line between those photographs which may be called art and those which may not.


The photograph here shows icicles hanging from our guttering, taken from inside, in a recent cold spell with lots of snow, which lasted several days.

Fine Art Photography on Amazon. - A little light reading on photography as art

Some inspiration for all you artist photographers

Interesting Links On The Subject of Photgraphy And Fine Art

I will be building this link list slowly, but surely. perhaps if you know of a potentially useful site which could add value to the discussion you could help me add the link by using the comments module below, "Do You Have A View On This Lens?", You would earn my gratitude.

A Selection Of Cameras and accecssories available on Amazon

I cannot recommend these particular cameras personally but they do seem to be popular. I am afraid that my photography is of the "shoot what you see" variety, and my cameras are fairly basic and getting past it.


Buying a Nikon doesn’t

make you a photographer.

It makes you a Nikon owner.

- Author Unknown


In any case why not let me know what you think?

Do You Have a View On This Topic? - Is it Different From Mine?

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    • profile image

      bossypants 5 years ago

      Not all photographs are art but certainly many are! I'm enjoying your discussion and hope to come back and see how it evolves!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @anonymous: Thank you for that observation, I guess the question of good or bad is actually personal. I would say however that my holiday snaps are not necessarily art but I do endeavour to create images of some things which will convey meaning and I like to think of these as art. Then again if I edit these images within photoshop, does this enhance them artistically. This was the essence of the question I am posing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Photography is definitely an art form, anything that can be stretched beyond limits creatively is art. Whether the end result is good art or bad art is the real question! - Thanks for this lens!

    • GregoryMoore profile image

      Gregory Moore 5 years ago from Louisville, KY

      I don't think that all photography is art, but think that you can find something artistic in many photographs. A lot of it comes down to the photographer, and some people just really have an eye for capturing a moment or an image that really stands out and makes you take a longer look at it. I've always liked black and white photography.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      Everything you said is right, but is also a talent... "an eye" for photography. Yes i consider the photography an an art.

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 5 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      Delighted to see your quote from Peter Adams here, a local photographer in my area. And no, not all photography is art but some well executed photography can certainly be considered as such

    • xposedbydesign profile image

      xposedbydesign 6 years ago

      Photography is certainly an art form. Whether its good is another question.

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      Art is very much in the eye of the beholder, but I definitely think photography came into its own as an art form decades ago. I consider something to be "art" if it makes me feel something.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      My sister is a photographer and her images are most definitely art...they arouse emotion and you think about the images long after you are gone from her exhibits.

      I love my Nikon Coolpix by the handy and it takes great photos.

      Thanks for the thoughtful lens.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Is photography art? My answer would have to be that it can be, but I don't think all photography is art. Of course, 'art' is very subjective in any case. For me, it is all in the interpretation of the subject by the photographer and how much creative input has complemented the technical capability of the camera to capture what is in front of it. Art tends to provoke an emotional response. A most interesting topic for discussion, in any case.