Ex. 4 What is a photographer?

I read ‘Photography and Photography and Artistic Photography’ by Marius De Zayas. I’ve summarised what I consider to be his key points:

  • Photography is not art – he believes ‘art’ requires imagination whereas photography does not.
  • Art is no longer its original self, and is lacking what once made it great.
  • Photography can’t be as abstract as art that comes from the human mind.
  • Art allows expression of emotion, photography does not.
  • Photography shows the reality of form, something which can only be captured mechanically.
  • Art is emotional and intellectual truth, whilst photography is material truth.


I found myself unexpectedly riled when reading this essay. The amount of generalisation is staggering and I’m not sure De Zayas thought much beyond his knee-jerk reactions.

However, it occurs to me that I shouldn’t be so affected by this piece. It is after all an opinion, and the opinion of an artist who only experienced photography in its earliest years.

Still, I feel that I must defend photography as a medium.

Really, I couldn’t disagree with his opinion more. To generalise that photography cannot be abstract or come from a place of imagination is simply wrong. Photography can be everything that art is, merely seen through ‘real’, tangible means. Art suffers from the same boundaries as photography; the fact that it’s bought to life by humans. We are only limited by ourselves.
I truly believe that photography can be just as imaginative and abstract as other art forms. Personally, I often envisage how a shot or scene might look in my mind long before I start taking any shots.
‘Ill-informed’ or, ‘too conservative’ is how I would describe his outlook on photography.

However, I have also been asked whether I consider his questions to still be relevant today. After some thought, I believe they are. In the present day, a majority of the population has at least some access to a camera; whether that be a DSLR or a smart phone. In this world where millions of photographs are taken every day, I think there is more and more a distinction to be made. I would personally say that photographs can be both ‘snaps’ and ‘art’. Whilst photographs shot with a camera-phone can be art, they are mostly snapshots. The opposite is true for photographs taken with DSLR and other cameras.

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