It seems from the outset photography has been locked into some apparent need to seek legitimacy by being acknowledged as art. Does earning that moniker somehow change photography? It reminds me of people who wish to argue whether golf is or isn’t a sport.
Photography is. Photography is not going away anytime soon. Photography is a form of visual communication that engulfs our every waking moment. Photography has value, whether as a cherished remembrance of a moment or a loved one, or a Gursky photograph of absolutely nothing for which someone was willing to pay $6 million. It makes no difference to the reality of photography whether someone deems it art or not.
Why not stop arguing about what it is not and focus on the fact that photography is just photography. And like everything else, some will be good, some will be bad, some will be both depending on who is doing the looking, some will sell, some won’t, some will be viewed as more important to more people than others which may important to only one person, some will last, and some will fade quickly.
Why some photographers seek to have their work considered art is frankly beyond me. The definition of art has never been ironclad and the “art world” are a fickle lot anyway. What was fabulous yesterday is passé tomorrow. What is art to one person is rubbish to the next, and there are as many opinions as there are people, so why fight the battle?
Is photography art? Who cares? The best quote I have found to address this topic is:
“Do not call yourself an ’artist-photographer’ and make ‘artist-Painters’ and ‘artist-sculptors’ laugh; call yourself a photographer and wait for artists to call you brother.” (Peter Henry Emerson in Trachtenberg 1980: 100)
TRACHTENBERG, Alan (ed.). 1980. Classic Essays on Photography. Sedgewick, ME: Leete’s Island Books, Inc.