What is Photography?
|January 7, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Photography Articles|
In its most basic and technical terms, photography is simply the recording of light. If you engage in any act or process which results in light being recorded to some medium, you have engaged in photography. But, of course, as we all know, the idea of “photography” is so much more than that. When someone asks “What is photography” that’s not what they’re asking.
Photography is both an art and a science. All photographers, in some sense, are artists, engineers, designers, archivists and documentarians. Each individual photographer’s particular style might emphasize at least one of those categories over the others, but each of us must, in some part, play the role of each of them. Some photographers are primarily artists, some primarily archivists, and so on. But photography, really, encompasses all of those areas and more — and a good photographer must be at least somewhat proficient in each. So…
What is photography?
In 1834 a Brazilian artist by the name of Hercules Florence wrote an entry in his diary to explain a process he had devised for recording light. He called this process “photographie.” Four years later, Sir John Herschel would present a lecture before the Royal Society of London. His use of the word “photography” in that lecture would popularize the word in the English language.
“Photography” — from two ancient Greek words: “photo,” meaning “light”, and “graph,” meaning “drawing.” What is photography? Photography is, quite literally, drawing with light. But of course, it is so much more. When people ask “What is photography?” they’re asking for more than that.
Photography is the recording of moments. It is the visions of life frozen in time. It can be great art. It can be a producer of beauty, or of ugliness. Photography is history. It is an endeavor. It is a skill. Photography is all of these things, and still, it is so much more. Picasso said that “A painting is a lie that tells the truth.” His words are equally applicable to photographs — if not more so. Photography, in some sense, could be seen as the art of creating lies that tell the truth.
All in all, however, photography is a truly amazing thing. It allows us to view ourselves in a way that no other medium can. It preserves our history — our past. To some degree it dulls the fangs of time. Nothing of our creation or presence on this Earth is ever truly and completely lost to time as long as someone has taken a photo of it, and that photo still exists.
What is photography? Photography is communication — it is language. It is the raging of humanity, stilled in a single frame. It is the universe expressing, exploring and documenting itself.
If a picture truly does say a thousand words; who has spoken more than the photographer? Who’s voice has been heard more than that of the photographer?
What is photography? What is art?
And, if that doesn’t inspire you to get out and take some pictures, Jack; I don’t know what will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dustin Ward has over fifteen years of professional photography experience. He has authored a number of books and has published hundreds of articles on a variety of subjects. He is currently a featured contributor at: PhotoGearHeads.Com which is a feature rich, community based photography portal, packed with a host of of valuable resources for anyone who’s interested in the art and practice of photography — PhotoGearHeads.Com
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