Week 4 Reading Response

Zinnia Upson


Photo 2

Reading Response Chapter 1


In Chapter 1 The thing itself of Photography, History and Theory by Jae Emerling, the author discusses the art or lack of art involved in the form of photography. She talks about different art theorists coming about the history of photography and how it was a consistent struggle to prove photography is a medium rather than a method of documentation. As history moved on photography became more and more artistic rather than archival.

In one part of the chapter the author quotes Sontag “Photography encapsulates art itself” but that photography “is not an art… an art form atll all (because) like language, it is a medium in which works of art (among other things) are made” (Emerling, 23). This is an interesting concept to me because for as long as I have existed on earth I have known photography as a medium rather than a way to record events or compositions. I think there is something to be said about documentational photography which combines the old belief with the new ways of using a camera to capture information. She simplifies what Sontag is saying by stating that “What sontag is saying here is that photography simultaneously denies art (renders it obsolete) and affirms its continued existence and relevance (its afterlife, so to speak).” (Emerling, 23) I find this really interesting. I think that there’s a lot to be said about the difference between black room photography and the transformation to digital photography now a days. It takes out the practice and turns it into a universal art that any one person could achieve. In my eyes it undoes all the work previous artists had put into it making it achievable to the common person with practice and instruction of course. It cuts out the physical work and time required to develop negatives but it does force photographers to put more thought and mental work into what colors should be what shade, what highlights need to be toned down, etc.

Later on Emerling talks about how Szarkowski sees photography versus painting was that “photography was a radically new picture making process … based not on synthesis but selection.” (Emerling, 27) This it because it takes the stage of opinion and view of the artist out in the making but photography you choose what you will shoot and it is precise, instant, and frozen. Unless of course you alter it with photoshop and other applications.

Would you consider scientific photography or photography such as national geography photos fine art?


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