Photographic portraits – are they art?

One again my blogging friend, Rebecca Budd, has tantalized me with an interesting question about whether photographic portraits are art in the same way as a painting is art. You can read her post here:

I have always thought that photographs count as art, but that could be because I grew up with photographs. My dad had a camera and we always had our pictures taken. Some were spontaneous and some were posed. He didn’t take as many pictures as people take now with digital cameras, but we still have a fair number .

Are all these photographs art? Well no, I don’t think just any picture is necessarily art, it could be a family memory, but certain photographs capture a moment in time or a setting in a unique way that makes them art in my mind’s eye.

Here are a few pictures of mine that I think of as being more along the lines of photographic art:

Oben, Scotland through the trees
The Danube, Pest and Buda
My mom peeping out from behind a tree
Terence in the Cosmos with Joburg CBD behind him
Michael licking out the chocolate cake bowl
My solemn Greg collecting hailstones

Do you think photographs can be art?

52 thoughts on “Photographic portraits – are they art?

    1. Thank you, Annette. Some people take wonderful pictures. I am very haphazard but I occasionally take one that makes me happy for some or other reason. Michael in the batter is a personal favourite of mine. Photos are a bit like haikus or tanka poems.

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  1. This is an easy one for me. Our daughter attended art school and graduated with a BFA – she tried everything, but majored in photography. Not every photograph is art, nor is every painting. Your photographs are beautiful, and they are art.

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    1. You are very kind, Dan. I am trying to improve my photography and get the odd better shot. Photography can definitely be art and some people are really amazing at it. I look at their pictures and try to learn from them. Congratulations to your daughter, I think a good photographer has excellent opportunities in life.

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  2. Some pictures are absolutely art. Then again, some really aren’t. Not everyone with a camera is an artist just as not everyone who tries to paint is an artist. And finally, art is in the eyes of the beholder. What I think is art you may not like. Art is complicated and so are peoples’ tastes.

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  3. I love our conversations, Robbie. I consider that the photos you included in this post are art. I have been going through my father’s photo that date back to my great grandparents. I am certain that these photos were not considered art at the time they were taken, but they are definitely art now. We cannot limit the definition of art. Thank you for this post – life affirming!!!

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    1. Hi Rebecca, thank you, I’m glad you like my pictures. I am not a great photographer, but I have a few that I think capture something a little more than just everyday life. Some people’s photographs are amazing and have a depth that pulls you right into them.

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  4. I definitely think photographs can be art. There are exhibits in museum of nothing but photographs. I love your photos, they tell a story, elicit conversation and make me smile.

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      1. as much I like seeing a nice photo, I often think that anybody could have done that. I just don’t enough about photography and perhaps don’t appreciate the skill that some photographers have. It often seems that the most important skill for such a person is being at the right place at the right time…

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        1. I think there is more to a photographic composition than being in the right place at the right time. I think there is definitely an understanding of colours, light and placement the same as for a painting. It is just a different form of art and more accessible to many people.

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          1. I am sure there is, but I just don’t appreciate it as much as I should. It’s like other forms of art as well. Sometimes I look at some modern art, and I think a preschooler could have done that 🙂

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  5. are photographs art? Short answer is………… sometimes, but very rarely. 99.9% will stay as a photograph but a few can be elevated to the status of art!
    I have seen untold numbers of pictures held up as artwork but like beauty,It’s in the eye isn’t it. Adams did some great works! A true master of the black and white. Now thats not to say all of his work was great! I saw a picture in his gallery in Yosemite I would of thrown away and they were asking $80,000 for it! Go figure……?

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