Agency, Automatism and the Possibility of Photographic Art

David Davies, McGill University

I begin by offering a general model for thinking about how artworks are sorted by reference to their mediums. I then define in terms of this model what it is for something to be a work of photographic art. I argue that (contra objections raised since the advent of photography and most recently by Roger Scruton) there is no general problem with the idea of photographic artworks, and there are clear examples of actual works that are correctly so described (for example works by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus). However, so I argue, only some of the contemporary artworks that present themselves in galleries through photographs are works of photographic art so construed. I conclude by bringing this model to bear upon current debates about the photographic status of digital images.

Suggested reading:

Roger Scruton, « Photography and Representation », 1981.