Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Photography?

Another post on this topic, from a slightly different angle.

If we try to define a photographer by any specific act, we get in to trouble. If the photographer must press the button, are photograms then not photography? If not, then Fox Talbot and Man Ray are abruptly no longer photographers, which seems problematic. Photograms are made by placing objects on light sensitive materials, exposing to light, and then developing. So perhaps the fact that they developed makes them photographers. In this case, we circle around to photographers who pressed the button, but did not develop, or did not print. Is Henri Cartier-Bresson not a photographer, now?

For any action or collection of actions we can set down, we can probably find or at any rate imagine a bona fide photographer who fails to comply with our list.

I suppose one might make some headway with a list of a dozen actions or so, and claim that anyone who performs three or more of these is a photographer. Possibly. Such a wide net strikes me as likely to ensnare some people who are certainly not photographers, or at any rate not the photographer of a specific image we have in mind.

The point is, as usual, that photography is not an easy thing to get our arms around. There simply isn't a pat definition. We know it when we see it, perhaps? Except that we don't, what with the occasional spates of people who make photorealistic pencil drawings and whatnot.

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