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British Celebrities Weigh In On Whether Photography Is Art

British channel Sky Arts runs a segment called The Unspoken Truth where several celebrities offer their opinions and insights on a variety of topics. They recently tackled the question of whether photography is truly art or if perhaps it is over rated and should not be considered an art form at all. Their answers might make you a tad uncomfortable.Despite the shock value of this segment I do believe it is a very real and valid question. I believe that for the most part the general public does not always perceive photography to be an art form equivalent to painting, theater, or music. The reactions of these celebrities, though painful to hear, are not all too surprising.

Somewhere in our pursuit of technical advancements and mass accessibility photography has lost some of that exclusivity the art world demands. Photography is everywhere and is so prevalent in our culture today that most folks seem to take for granted the skill it takes to put together a world class image.

How do you feel about this? Can photography be considered art?

[via Bokeh]

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Aaron Brethorst's picture

Alfred Stieglitz is rolling in his grave. This was argued 100 years ago; it's a done deal. Yes, it's art.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

Stieglitz was kicked out of the New York photography club that he helped to form precisely because his views were considered too harsh and had the effect of scaring away amateurs.

The fact that the amateurs turned against him is the real story of Stieglitz's attempt to bring photography to the level of a consecrated art (like painting or poetry.) Amateurs always get nervous about discussions of form and technique which are precisely the topics that matter the most. As long as amateurs dominate discussion in photography then the general public will never consider the medium itself to be capable of producing art.

Eric Hodges's picture

It would be interesting to see images created by those being interviewed.

Eric Hodges's picture

Similar to people who judge photo contests.

Karl Petersson's picture

Why do you even post this stuff, we will always have people who will discuss arts in different ways who are not qualified to do so.
If you could have these people discuss acting, music and standup if that could be art or not, now that would be an interesting thing to watch.
Otherwise I think we should have Walter Benjamin, Victor Burgin and Roland Barthes have a discussion about this.
Besides photography is 100% not art its just a media as much as the sound out of someones mouth can be singing or shouting at a football match.
Please can we let the dead horse lie down.

Stuart Smith's picture

To me it's a meaningless argument. Not everyone who paints is an artist or creates art (the person who paints a house for example is a 'painter' but doing that role does not produce art). So, in the same way, not every photographer is an artist and not every photograph is art. Duchamp concisely summarised the debate of 'what is art' in his piece entitled 'Fountain'- it is art because the creator says it is (my paraphrasing summary).

I think the Photography community has to shoulder a lot of blame about why there is a dismissive view with so many as to the artistic value of photography. Most of the time the community obsesses with gear or technique and never considers the intent or outcome of the creative process in artistic terms.

Prefers Film's picture

The guy that painted my last home was also a set painter in Hollywood. I have seen him create faux woodgrain and marble finishes, along with rock, brick, and other textures, with nothing more than paint. And it looks 100% realistic on the TV or movie screen. Is he an artist, or not?

Stuart Smith's picture

In that context Brian, I would argue he is an Artisian rather than an Artist. I think for something to be considered Art there has to be some form of artistic intent in the creative process. Your painter sounds highly skilled and those skills could be used to produce Art but simply producing a Woodgrain or Marble effect is not art of itself but it is skilful.

Doc Pixel's picture

Sounds alot like the definition of a photographer... pro, artist or other.

Percy Ortiz's picture

So who are this people? no, seriously...

Jim Cunningham's picture

you must know Pete Townshend...seriously...

Percy Ortiz's picture

nope... I had to google it. Seriously... I did knew the band but didn't know who was in it or their names

Chris Newman's picture

Thank God! What would we do without celebrities to legitimize life's unanswered questions. Maybe I can finally sleep at night.

Darren Nana's picture

If someone can place an unmade bed surrounded by casually strewn mess in a gallery and call it art, anything can be an art form. I would say it is about intention. I would argue that certain genres of photography are less artistic than others but if you are creating rather than documenting i'd argue it is art.

Ken Kotch's picture

I was unaware that C list celebrities are the undisputed critics on deciding the age old question, "What it art."

Karl Petersson's picture

Ummm be a bit careful now that might just be a little bit US centric statement, in Europe and particularly UK these people are household names and would not be called c-list and even Pete Townsend is a fairly big character all over the place. When added together he has probably had more front covers then JayZ and Beyonce together. That on the other hand does not necessarily make them qualified for the argument.

Ken Kotch's picture

Thats fair tough I'm not sure Pete Townsend is still relevant.

Alice Avenne's picture

Easiest of the arts? Try some high end retouching then come again...

Cyrille Lauzon's picture

Is photography art by itself? It all depends on the context. For example I would'nt say that the pictures in my Ikea catalog is Art by the virtue of being a photograph. In that case it's more of a utility use. But a photograph is a material that can be made into art just like anything else. It's all about the narrative around the given photograph.

Jeroen de Jong's picture

You can put peanutbutter on the floor and call it art.
Yes, they did. in 1962:

Who's the guy that says "It's like the ukelele, anyone can do it" at 0.42?
Yes, it's true. Everybody can push the button. But on the otherhand, everybody can put paint on a piece of paper or pull a string on a guitar. Does that make me a painter or a musician?

Allmost everybody can talk, does that make them a politician? :D

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I more or less consider photography a form of communication. Is it art? Sometimes. Is it a way to tell a story? Sometimes. The great thing about photography is it can mean different things to different people. I may snap a picture of my lunch and send it to a friend to make her jealous. I may snap a picture of a beautiful landscape and hang it in my living room. I may snap a picture of a crime in progress and send it to the police. I may snap a picture of something really bizarre and hang it in a gallery to invoke conversation. I think photography serving so many purposes is why people discount it as an art form.

It was funny how people in the video said photography is not an art and they would never go see a photo exhibit, then directly contradicted themselves LOL.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Photography is a tool that can be used to create art, just like a pen or instrument. I could use a pen to create a beautiful drawing or I could use it to fill out an IRS form. The difference lies in WHAT I am creating with the tool, not in the tool itself.

Hell, its no different than video. Was the interview above art? Not really... But that doesn't mean all video is not art.

Its all about intention and whether you are leveraging creative vision to communicate via your chosen medium.

Drew Pluta's picture

Just asking the question with a straight face as if it could possibly not be art is deserving of contempt. By whatever means of disqualification one could use against photography you'd find the same applicable to most other art forms. I'm so sick of stupid people having such a public a forum to spout their dumb shit upon us so that we can waste more time discussing dead arguments.

Of course photography is art! Along with sandwich making, architecture, landscaping, surfing,having sex,dog walking, and on, and on, and on. Somebody could, at some point, do virtually anything in an artful way. Why don't we leave that up to each other to sort out as individuals as we all hurl through space together.

Marko Mihaljevic's picture

Photography is just a medium ;)