Curious about whether photography can be considered a medium? It’s a topic of discussion in the photography and art community.
In this article, we’ll delve into the question of whether photography is a medium or not, and explore the different arguments that support each side of the debate. We’ll examine the artistic and technical qualities of photography, its role in society, and whether it can be considered a form of creative expression.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what constitutes a medium and whether photography fits the bill. You’ll also gain insight into the various ways photography impacts our world and the role it plays in our lives.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Is Photography a Medium?
In short, photography can be considered a medium because a photograph, which is the final product of photography, is a medium of communication.
Photographs tell stories and convey messages to its viewer.
Some argue that photography is purely a technical tool, while others see it purely as an art form of creative expression. I believe photography falls in both camps.
I believe that photography is a medium because photographs convey messages and emotions through the use of compositional techniques, lighting, and subject matter to create a unique perspective.
To further explore why photography is a medium, it’s important to consider the artistic and technical qualities and also take an in-depth look at what a “medium” is.
What is a Medium?
In the world of art, a medium can refer to the materials or tools used to create a work of art. Different mediums could be paint, canvas, clay, software, photographs, or video.
A “medium” can also refer to the means by which a certain message is conveyed, such as through visual imagery, writing, or speaking.
So in regards to photography, I think it would be more technically correct to say the photographs themselves are a medium.
Brief History of Photography
Before diving into the two camps of discussion, I believe it’s important to take a brief look at the history of photography.
Dating all the way back to the 1800s, the first permanent photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in the 1820s with a camera obscura. This was followed by the daguerreotype invented by Louis Daguerre which became popular in the 1840s and 1850s.
In the late 1800s, the development of roll film by George Eastman made photography more accessible to the public which led to a rise of “amateur” photography.
In the 20th century, there were many advancements in colored film and digital photography leading to new possibilities and opportunities for photographers to take pictures.
While these dates and important milestones are important to know, I want you to think about the “why” behind each of these eras. Throughout all of these important photography milestones, the “why” has always stayed the same with photography.
Photography, whether photographed on a camera obscura or the latest mirrorless camera was used to either document history, capture memories, or provide a means of creative expression.
This is why I believe photography is both an art form of creative expression and a “technical” tool.
Photography as an Art Form
Photography allows photographers to capture and convey their unique perspectives and emotions through their work.
By using techniques such as composition, lighting, and subject choice, a photographer can create, shape, and tell a story through their images.
Photography allows for creative expression through both skill and artistic talent, making it an art form that goes beyond just its technical aspects.
Now let’s take a look at photography as a technical tool.
Photography as a Technical Tool
On the other side, photography can also be seen as a technical tool to capture both objective photographs and subjective photographs.
To be a competent photographer requires specialized knowledge and skill. From understanding the basics of both artificial and natural lighting, to operating a complex camera with various dials and settings, to understanding all the various post-processing terms and editing tools.
Understanding the technical aspects of photography is essential to producing a high-quality image that accurately represents the subject or scene in front of you.
As such, photography is a technical tool that requires both technical expertise as much as an artistic vision in order to produce successful images.
The Role of Photography in Society
In conclusion, photography has played and continues to play a significant role in society.
Photography serves as a means of documentation, communication, and artistic and creative expression.
Photographs serve as a visual record of our history and help us understand and learn from the past. We can feel emotions when looking at photographs — emotions that can transport us back to the time and place of the photo when it was taken.
Photos also have the power to influence opinions and unite or divide mass groups of people.
So yes, I believe photography is a medium — and a very important medium at that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is photography a good medium?
Photography is a good medium because it allows for the capture and preservation of moments in time, as well as the expression of artistic vision and emotion. Additionally, photography is a highly versatile medium that can be used for a variety of purposes, from documenting history and recording personal memories to communicating messages and promoting social change.
Why is photography considered a medium of mass communication?
Photography is considered a medium of mass communication because it has the ability to reach large audiences quickly and effectively, whether through print publications, online media, or social networks. In addition, photographs have the power to convey complex ideas and emotions in a way that is easily accessible and relatable to people across cultures and languages, making photography a powerful tool for sharing information and promoting understanding.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer based in Southern California. Outside of photography, Nate specializes in SEO, content marketing, and entrepreneurship. He is also the founder of Imaginated.com, a platform for creator education.