Experiencing photographs qua photographs: what's so special about them?

Contemporary Aesthetics (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Merely rhetorically, and answering in the negative, Kendall Walton has asked: "Isn't photography just another method people have of making pictures, one that merely uses different tools and materials – cameras, photosensitive paper, darkroom equipment, rather than canvas, paint, and brushes? And don't the results differ only contingently and in degree, not fundamentally, from pictures of other kinds?" Contra Walton and others, I wish to defend in this article a resounding "Yes" as being the correct answer to these questions. It is a widely shared view that photographs are somehow special and that they fundamentally differ from hand-made pictures like paintings, both from a phenomenological point of view (in the way we experience them), and an epistemic point of view (since they are supposed to have a different – greater – epistemic value than paintings, giving us a privileged access to the world). In what follows, I shall reject almost the totality of these claims, and as a consequence there will remain little difference left between photographs and paintings. As we shall see, 'photographs are always partly paintings' – a claim that is true not only of retouched digital photographs but of all photographs, including traditional ones made using photosensitive film and development techniques.

Author's Profile

Jiri Benovsky
University of Fribourg


Added to PP

257 (#43,571)

6 months
26 (#71,411)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?