Is Photography an Art Form?
This is a question many have asked and for which there are many answers. My answer to this question is that art exist in the eye and mind of the person. It is a stimulus that the eye and mind either relate to or not. It is the processing of the visual stimulus by the mind that attaches meaning to the stimulus. The processes that underlie meaning begin with the inherent capacity to detect color, tone (shades of gray) and shape and upon these impose patterns that arise from our memory. And that is true for any medium used to represent visual stimuli.
The ability to form patterns is intrinsic to all animals. It is an adaptive mechanisms that animals need in order to survive. Some patterns are learned through experience, and others, at a more primitive level are wired into the nervous system. We see patterns in all kinds of things from the way clouds look to how our ancestors imposed shapes upon the clusters of stars in the night sky that we call the Constellations
Photography is a technical means for capturing images. It is analogous to the distinction we make between data and information. Data without interpretation by the analyst, has no value or meaning. Whereas, data when analyzed, is transformed into meaning. So to with modern digital photography. Digital photography is produced by abstracting digital data in the form of long strings of zeros and ones and then interpreted by the camera's computer into a visual image that we a can relate to.
If the photographer is intent on capturing images that contain color, tones and shapes that evoke patterns, then perhaps and if they evoke visual interest in the eye of the viewer, it is artistic. If not, then it is a documentary image. But that is not to say that documentary images cannot be artistic. Because even a documentary image can contain color, tone and shapes that evoke interesting visual patterns in the eye of the beholder beyond the obvious documentary content.
So, is Photography an Art form? It can be one and that judgement must come not from the photographer, but from the viewer.
Paul C. Ross