It's an age-old question, one of the first any student of photography attending an art school will tackle, can photography be considered art? Some will say “photography isn't art” and others will defend this until they're blue in the face! So, where does it sit in terms of the art world? Firstly, you have to look at the history of photography, where it all began: the first documented photograph is View From the Window at Le Gras taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826/27; though this may not technically be the first, it is the oldest surviving photograph. So what does this say in terms of art, well firstly it was a real hit for realists, those attempting to put on canvas literally what they saw, as it was in front of them. Of course, with the invention of photography the need to document with paint became laborious, a task which took hours, days, maybe even weeks now only took minutes (the earlier forms of photography of course taking far longer than that of a modern DSLR.).
So Where Did This Leave Painters & Artists?
Well, if one looks at art history post-1826 one will find a shift in artistic behaviour, abstraction of the real came into fruition, starting with Romanticists such as John Constable and William Turner, who’s art work was a look at the world through their eyes, as opposed to the supposedly unbiased realists. Meaning that the usage of art as documentation after the invention of photography paved way for an abstract shift, art works were visions of the world, perspectives of the zeitgeist, instead of realist snapshots of events, people and happenings. This takes us to photography’s place within Art, where did it sit amongst the centuries of history built up by artists and sculptors, dating back to the origins of humanity. Photography, however, holds has an extremely useful tool which no other medium before it held, the ability to instantly capture the moment, the scene within your vision instantaneously acquired, or as the late humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson put is so exquisitely:
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“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event. “