Why Photography is Art

Light creates visibility, light creates energy and the very same light creates aesthetic art. Photography, in simple words, is a painting done by light. The multitude of colors that emanates from the sunlight is captured with the help of science. This science is only a medium of expression, but the conception of the image is an artistic process. It needs a creative mind to make the light fall in the right spot at the right time.  A photograph can be defined as "a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art. (Bierce 2010). Critics always debates on the topic of whether photography is really an art or just a mechanical process. They claim that photography is the mere portrayal of God's creations that attracts human attention. Art is often defined as "the product of human creativity, the result of producing an image as seen through the eyes of the creator." And so is photography as it involves framing, composing, lighting and perspective.

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"Photography is the art or process of making pictures by means of a camera that directs the image of an object into film made sensitive to light." (Adams 2011). No photograph can ever be eye-catching unless it obeys the golden rules of photography which crafts the art in it. The rule third is the most commonly used theory of composition in photography which divides a frame into 9 equal sections horizontally and vertically. "The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally" (Rowse 2010). The golden sections theory states that the main subject should follow a golden mean or ration of 1:1.618 of the picture size. Rule of thirds is rather a simplified version of golden section.

There are photographers who break these golden rules too, but then their ability to illustrate a static story does the trick. And then you can definitely call it innovation. Photography is not simply the pushing of a button; it is the creation of a scene. It is a general notion that when five people click the same scene, the image is all the same. But the art of photography actually lies with the one having good observation and idea of perspective. Five different 'photographers' can bring out five different emotions of the same sight. A photographer determines the perspective in which the onlooker views the photo. By using various frames like horizontal, vertical and diagonal, the intention of the photographer can be varied. Horizontality portrays calmness, verticality signifies power and majesty and diagonal suggests dynamism.

A camera works like the virtual eye that follows the same principles of image formation in a human eye. Human eyes are capable of adjusting to different lighting conditions but camera needs to be manually operated. Setting the parameters right is the major criterion for getting a visually appealing image. Understanding and using the various functions of camera like shutter speed, aperture and ISO mainly deals with the intensity of light that is crucial for a perfect picture. Shutter speed is the time span between the opening and closing of the shutter in front of the internal camera lens that controls the duration of light the film or the image sensor is subjected to. Aperture on the other hand is a hole in front of the lens which opens up or closes down to control the amount of light entering the camera. ISO is a measure of sensitivity to light. ISO along with aperture and shutter speed--make up the "photographic triangle," the balance required to capture the correct exposure in each photograph. (Roets 2011)

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These camera functions or priorities can be used to manipulate the amount of light captured by the camera due to which the final image would have the preferred lighting. Photography is the art of light and shade. A photo is basically a record of the light conditions at a certain period in time and space. That is why the lighting plays a very important role there. (The Art of Digital Photography Lighting, 2010). Art is often related to the medium in which it is painted. Photography being art also varies on whether the medium is film or digital. Even in this digital era, film photography has a wider appreciation because of the high color quality specially that of red, yellow and blue. The development of the film to its negative and then its positive image requires utmost care because the proportion of chemicals used determines the final quality of the print. In digital, the image is caught on an image sensor like the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) which converts light into electrical energy in the form of pixels which is the smallest unit of a digital image.

Due to the technicalities involved in professional photography, it is usually considered as a point and click process with no involvement of the creative faculties of the human mind. If it had been just a point and click process, the image produced would have been an exact reproduction of what we see and not what we feel. A photograph reveals the aesthetics of the panorama, which is the result of keen observation and imagination. Art is purely based on skills of observation, imagination and innovation that directly link photography to the creation of art.  "I believe that the more technicalities you let creep into photography, the more you drive out the creativity" (Manning 2010).

The camera is only a medium between a photographer and the spectator just like a paint brush between an artist and his canvas. An artist creates distinct approaches to a theme using variants of colors as each color can be derived from another, while a photographer alters the white balance function to achieve the color tone that he desires. Just like the artist mixes color on palettes for contrast, the photographers can set the hue and saturation levels in his camera.  Photography and painting occupy the same position on the spectrum because there are no salient differences between them in how we experience time and space. (Space as we Experience it in most Paintings, n.d).

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Though photographs have been alleged as mere replication of reality, it is to be remembered that art initially began as an imitation of reality. The cave paintings, the etchings inside Egyptian pyramids were credible records of information left by the ancestors to the later generation. With the passage of time and evolution of better and different artistic techniques and media, art became a piece of adornment or beauty. The imitation of reality like landscapes, portraits, etc was then considered aesthetic art. Later with the advent of revolutionary art movements like impressionism, expressionism, pop art, etc artists became more oriented towards the imaginative and original side. The history of photography also had a similar evolution. From documentation of unforgettable events and memories, it has progressed to be a medium of expression.  

Photography has now taken the form of narrative and interpretive images that can be closely related to the human sentiments. Pictures of the war victims, the hunger stricken Somalia, all have had a profound effect on the common man. This reflects the poignant power of photographs. "Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs." (Adams 2011). Our life is overflowing with situations that need to be captured and retained. The possible way is to photograph it. So the accountability of photography being an art or not is insignificant. The end of everything in this modern age is a photograph. Whether a picture is weaved by an artist using a paint brush or chisel, or captured by a photographer with a camera, it is the artistic talent that speaks a thousand words. As technology improves, we are moving towards a world where photography has adorned the role of a viable art form.

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