Is Photography Art?

I just found these two articles published in The Guardian in 2014.

Here Jonathan Jones trashes Peter Lik’s picture “Phantom”, the one which sold for $6.5m and argues that photography is not art.

This is the reply by Sean O’Hagan in defense of photography. Naturally I agree with him that photography is art and always will be. Looking at one bad picture for which a ridiculous price was paid does not allow generalisations about a whole genre and proofs nothing at all. He raises some great points. Particularly that it is inaccurate to compare photography and painting as these are totally different art forms. Also the differentiation between financial and artistic value is important.

But I find it more interesting to discuss J. Jones’ arguments and reservations. I am as annoyed as him about this endless stream of photos of Antelope Canyon or similar spectacular scenes which add nothing new. There must billions of photos published on the internet. Everyone can go there and look at the beauty of these canyons him or herself and just another picture of a beautiful scene is not art. This is maybe the most widespread mistake of Photographers to just rely on the beauty of the subject. Art starts when the artist adds something personal, tells a story, has a unique opinion. And this is not the case in Most Antelope Canyon pictures or pictures of other famous sceneries.

I also share his reservations about the tendency to assume monochrome makes pictures artistic. It is very unfortunate that so many photographers convert mediocre pictures to black and white to pretend they mean something. I want to have a compelling reason for such an invasive manipulation of a picture as modern digital cameras by default take colour pictures. But I can see why Peter Lik took this picture as monochrome, to highlight the tonal contrast and emphasise textures in the wall and in the light.

His shock about such a price for a reproducible picture should be taken seriously and deserves some discussion. Modern photography is by default reproducible and I have reservations about limiting the number of copies artificially to inflate prices.

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