I had an interesting discussion recently with a colleague on the legitimacy of photography as an art. His opinion was that photography is merely a record of an object or person at a specific moment in time and that people buy and display photographs to remember that particular significant moment.
It does seem that way with the accessibility of the digital point-and-shoot cameras. Photography has become a way of life, practiced by the masses - almost a social rite. Every meaningful moment is now memorialised by a photograph and some day soon, every man, woman and child will own a digital camera. Taking photographs give people a perceived ownership of a past that is transient, a kind of security about who they are in relation to the enormity of time.
I believe that photography can be an art. Fine Art Photographers are animated by a passion to communicate what they see as the essence of the subject they are photographing. Dingy, graffiti-filled alleyways and industrial landscapes are as beautiful through the Fine Art Photographer's lens, as an inspiring oceanscape or pastoral scene.
To me, the lure of photography as art is that photographs offer a view of the artist's relationship with the real world and his/her uniquely original interpretation of that relationship. And as a photograph is a capture of a real moment in time, it can also be a transformation of that moment with added clarity. Art Photography, as with all other forms of artistic expression, must move one on a visceral level or it remains just a record of a moment in time.
As John Ruskin, the 19th century Art Critic, so eloquently put it, "Fine Art is that in which the hand, the head and the heart of man go together."