Philosophy of Photography

I have published four articles on the Philosophy of Photography (see Publications page). I am currently preparing four new articles and a book on Aesthetics and Photography:

1) The Photographic Event: Philosophical Scepticism and Photographic Art

Unlike most Art Historians, many Philosophers continue to think that the automatism of the photographic process is an obstacle for accepting photographs as significant works of art. If a photograph is ‘mind-independent’, how can it manifest the intentional states of the artist in aesthetically interesting ways? I present a philosophical account of the photographic process which is able to remove this obstacle.

My account is schematic (designed to cover the fullest range of photographic technologies) but also substantive (distinctively distinguishing photography from other image-making processes). I explain the photographic process as a multi-stage process which definitively includes the occurence of a ‘photographic event’. The products of this process include photo-objects and photo-images which can be understood as mind-independent, but mind-independence does not feature in the definition of a photograph.

Photographers can create photo-pictures by using objects, people and light sources – as a painter uses paintbrushes and paint. As pictures these photographs are mind-dependent and as photographs they have distinctive aesthetic qualities.

This article will appear in a collection produced by Plattform Fotografi, the proceedings of a conference at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art (Photography Now, Tomorrow … 27-28 March 2010

2) Facing the Camera: Self-portraits of Photographers as Artists

Self-portrait photography presents a significant range of cases to investigate the relationship between automatism and artistic agency in photography; a relation that presents problems for the philosophy of art. I discuss self-portraits by photographers who examine and portray their own identities as artists working in the medium of photography. I argue that, properly understood, the automatism inherent in the production of a photograph has extended the tradition of self-portraiture, in a way that is radically different to previous visual arts.

3) Does a Photograph ‘Capture a Moment in Time’?

We are told that a photograph captures a moment of time, and removes it from the temporal continuum, so that the photograph can bring that very moment across time. Apparently, in a photograph we can see a moment from the past, but see that moment as still present. This idea and others like it imply that photographs represent time in a sense that is distinctively different to other kinds of image. Various kinds of visual image represent time (pictorially or non-pictorially), but not in the way that a photograph is said to ‘capture’ time. In this article I discuss how we can make sense of this difference.

4) Works of Photography and Works of Music

Philosophical discussion of photography has been hindered by a number of entrenched preconceptions, including: i) an inadequate characterisation of the photographic process and ii) a dominant comparison between photographs and paintings. In the present essay I adopt a strategy that is designed to clear both of these obstacles, namely: exploring a comparison between works of photography and works of music. In section 2 I explain why music is a suitable object of comparison; and in section 3, I present my preferred characterisation of the photographic process. In section 4, I argue that photographic ‘visualisation’ can be legitimately compared with musical composition and prints can be compared with performances. I suggest that, when discussing certain kinds of photographic art, the category of ‘works’ of photography is more appropriate than ’photographs’.

5) Interview

I was interviewed for an NBC News article by Technology Reporter Nidhi Subbaraman. Her article, ‘It’s all about me! Why we love “Selfies”‘ was published on 20th July 2013.