The Real Challenge to Photography (as Communicative Representational Art)

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (2):329-348 (2015)
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I argue that authentic photography is not able to develop to the full as a communicative representational art. Photography is authentic when it is true to its self-image as the imprinting of images. For an image to be imprinted is for its content to be linked to the scene in which it originates by a chain of sufficient, mind-independent causes. Communicative representational art (in any medium: photography, painting, literature, music, etc.) is art that exploits the resources of representation to achieve artistically interesting communication of thought. The central resources of representation are content, vehicle properties, and the interplay between these two. Whereas painting and other representational arts are able to exploit all three to communicate thought, authentic photography can exploit interplay only to a very limited degree. However, the exploitation of interplay is the culmination of communicative representational art: the natural endpoint in its development.

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Robert Hopkins
New York University


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