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Summary The (analytic) philosophy of photography came into its own relatively recently, in the early 1980's. Since then, philosophical theorising about photography has largely been preoccupied with three issues: 1. Are photographs transparent; that is, is seeing a photograph (and related photographic media, like film and television) a way of indirectly seeing photographed objects? 2. How should one respond to scepticism about photography's aesthetic value? 3. In what does the peculiar epistemic value of photography consist? More recently, attention has turned towards a number of other issues, including: 4. What is the correct ontological category in which to locate photographs? 5. In what does the peculiar affective power of photographs consist? 6. How does digital photography challenge extant answers to questions 1-5. Answering these questions has involved philosophers drawing on related research in aesthetics concerning: pictorial experience and theories of depiction; fictionality; standards of correctness and interpretive norms more broadly; aesthetic value; and artist's intention. But philosophers interested in the philosophy of photography have also drawn on issues further afield, including: issues in the philosophy of action; information-theoretic accounts of mental content; sense-data and the possibility of indirect perception; necessary conditions for perception; and the nature of causation.
Key works The locus classicus for the theory of photographic transparency is Walton 1984. Although Walton's concern is the affect of photographs, the principal influence of this paper, apart from its prompting numerous replies in response to the idea of transparency itself, was its spawning the literature on the epistemic value of photographs. Walton's paper is best understood when read in conjunction with the postscript in Walton 2008, which clarifies a number of subtle issues arguably obscured in various early responses to, and replies from, Walton. Scepticism about photography's epistemic value is vigorously defended by Roger Scruton in Scruton 1981. This paper is likewise best understood when read in conjunction with later clarificatory replies by Scruton, including Scruton 2009. Key works on the epistemic value of photography include: Cohen & Meskin 2004, Abell 2010 and Walden 2005. Key works on the affective nature of photography (in addition to Walton 1984) include: Hopkins 2012, Pettersson 2011 and Currie 1999. Edited collections include: Walden 2010 and a special issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Costello & Lopes 2012. Papers in the latter address a number of new issues in the philosophy of photography, suggesting those working in the area are beginning to move beyond the traditional issues of transparency, aesthetic scepticism and epistemic value. Notable monographs include: Maynard 1997 and Friday 2002. Three monographs in the philosophy of film that discuss photography at length are: Currie 1995, Carroll 2008 and Gaut 2010. The latter is especially notable for its theorising about the nature of digital photography.
Introductions Useful survey articles include: Costello & Phillips 2009 and Maynard 2009
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  1. C. Abell & K. Bantinaki (eds.) (2010). Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
    This volume of specially written essays by leading philosophers offers to set the agenda for the philosophy of depiction.
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  2. Catharine Abell (2010). Cinema as a Representational Art. British Journal of Aesthetics 50 (3):273-286.
    In this paper, I develop a unified account of cinematic representation as primary depiction. On this account, cinematic representation is a distinctive form of depiction, unique in its capacity to depict temporal properties. I then explore the consequences of this account for the much-contested question of whether cinema is an independent representational art form. I show that it is, and that Scruton’s argument to the contrary relies on an erroneous conception of cinematic representation. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
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  3. Catharine Abell (2010). The Epistemic Value of Photographs. In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
    There is a variety of epistemic roles to which photographs are better suited than non-photographic pictures. Photographs provide more compelling evidence of the existence of the scenes they depict than non-photographic pictures. They are also better sources of information about features of those scenes that are easily overlooked. This chapter examines several different attempts to explain the distinctive epistemic value of photographs, and argues that none is adequate. It then proposes an alternative explanation of their epistemic value. The chapter argues (...)
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  4. Catharine Abell (2005). Pictorial Implicature. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 63 (1):55–66.
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  5. Pnina Abir-Am (1992). A Historical Ethnography of a Scientific Anniversary in Molecular Biology: The First Protein X-Ray Photograph (1984, 1934). [REVIEW] Social Epistemology 6 (4):323 – 354.
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  6. Zed Adams (2010). Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature Edited by Walden, Scott. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (3):319-320.
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  7. Alev Adil (2010). Becoming Photographic. Philosophy of Photography 1 (1):112-115.
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  8. Philip Alperson (ed.) (1992). The Philosophy of the Visual Arts. Oxford University Press.
    Most instructors who teach introductory courses in aesthetics or the philosophy of arts use the visual arts as their implicit reference for "art" in general, yet until now there has been no aesthetics anthology specifically orientated to the visual arts. This text stresses conceptual and theoretical issues, first examining the very notion of "the visual arts" and then investigating philosophical questions raised by various forms, from painting, the paradigmatic form, to sculpture, photography, film, dance, kitsch, and other forms on the (...)
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  9. Peter Alward (2012). Transparent Representation: Photography and the Art of Casting. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):9-18.
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  10. Rudolf Arnheim (1993). The Two Authenticities of the Photographic Media. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 51 (4):537-540.
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  11. Paloma Atencia-Linares (2012). Fiction, Nonfiction, and Deceptive Photographic Representation. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):19-30.
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  12. Ariella Azoulay (2010). What is a Photograph? What is Photography? Philosophy of Photography 1 (1):9-13.
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  13. Ariella Azoulay (2010). Philosophizing Photography/Photographing Philosophy. Philosophy of Photography 1 (1):7-8.
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  14. Gary Banham (2002). Mapplethorpe, Duchamp and the Ends of Photography. Angelaki 7 (1):119-128.
    This paper presents an argument for seeing Marcel Duchamp and Robert Mapplethorpe as opposite ends of a tradition of negotiation of art with its conditions of production. The piece takes seriously Kant's suggestions concerning the fine arts and contests views of art that see the Kantian tradition as formally fixed.
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  15. Norton T. Batkin (1991). Paul Strand's Photographs in Camera Work. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 16 (1):314-330.
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  16. André Bazin (2010). The Ontology of the Photographic Image. In Marc Furstenau (ed.), The Film Theory Reader: Debates and Arguments. Routledge.
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  17. Richard Beaudoin & Andrew Kania (2012). A Musical Photograph? Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):115-127.
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  18. Halla Beloff (1988). The Eye and the Me: Self‐Portraits of Eminent Photographers. Philosophical Psychology 1 (3):295-311.
    Abstract The Me as a socially constructed self presenting itself, is the subject of new conceptual interest. Discourse analysis is the preferred tool for analysis of the linguistic repertoires that we use to order the experience of our selves. But we also present ourselves visually, with some care. An attempt is made to apply a kind of discourse analysis to self?portraits by eminent photographers. Within the process of portraiture and the rules of the pose, professionals should be able to present (...)
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  19. Walter Benjamin (2008). The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
    In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought.
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  20. Jiri Benovsky (2013). Experiencing Photographs Qua Photographs: What's so Special About Them? Contemporary Aesthetics.
    Merely rhetorically, and answering in the negative, Kendall Walton has asked: "Isn't photography just another method people have of making pictures, one that merely uses different tools and materials – cameras, photosensitive paper, darkroom equipment, rather than canvas, paint, and brushes? And don't the results differ only contingently and in degree, not fundamentally, from pictures of other kinds?" Contra Walton and others, I wish to defend in this article a resounding "Yes" as being the correct answer to these questions. It (...)
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  21. Jiri Benovsky (2012). Photographic Representation and Depiction of Temporal Extension. Inquiry 55 (2):194-213.
    The main task of this paper is to understand if and how static images like photographs can represent and/or depict temporal extension (duration). In order to do this, a detour will be necessary to understand some features of the nature of photographic representation and depiction in general. This important detour will enable us to see that photographs (can) have a narrative content, and that the skilled photographer can 'tell a story' in a very clear sense, as well as control and (...)
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  22. Jiri Benovsky (2011). Three Kinds of Realism About Photographs. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 25 (4):375-395.
    In this paper, I explore the nature of photographs by comparing them to hand-made paintings, as well as by comparing traditional film photography with digital photography, and I concentrate on the question of realism. Several different notions can be distinguished here. Are photographs such that they depict the world in a 'realist' or a 'factive' way ? Do they show us the world as it is with accuracy and reliability other types of pictures don't posses ? Do they allow us, (...)
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  23. Jiri Benovsky (2011). What Photographs Are (and What They Are Not). Disputatio 4 (31):239 - 254.
    For the metaphysician, photographs are very puzzling entities indeed. And even from the non-philosopher's intuitive point of view, it is not that clear what sort of thing a photograph is. Typically, if a client wants to purchase a photograph, she can mean very different things by 'buying a photograph' : she can mean to buy a print or a number of prints, or she can mean to buy a negative (when traditional film photographs are concerned) or a file (when digital (...)
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  24. Edward Berryman (2005). Taking Pictures of Jesus: Producing the Material Presence of a Divine Other. [REVIEW] Human Studies 28 (4):431 - 452.
    A new form of visual representation of divine others is emerging: photography. I examine here a set of photos of deities related to an apparition claim. The goal I pursue is to analyze the self-constitutive features of these pictures – how they produce what they claim to be. I argue that the “presence' of the deities in the photos is achieved through “incarnation practices.' But these pictures are not just a factual representation of alleged mystical events. They constitute an update (...)
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  25. H. Gene Blocker (1977). Pictures and Photographs. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 36 (2):155-162.
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  26. Olaf Breidbach (2002). Representation of the Microcosm: The Claim for Objectivity in 19th Century Scientific Microphotography. Journal of the History of Biology 35 (2):221 - 250.
    Microphotography was one of the earliest applications of photography in science: The first monograph on tissue organization illustrated with microphotographs was published in 1845. In the 1860s, a large number of introductions to scientific microphotography were published by anatomists. They argued that microphotography was a means of documenting the results of microscopic analysis, uncontaminated by the subjectivity of the observer. In the early decades of the 19th century, before the general acceptance of cell theory, such a technique was of special (...)
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  27. Donald Brook (1986). On the Alleged Transparency of Photographs. British Journal of Aesthetics 26 (3):277-282.
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  28. Donald Brook (1983). Painting, Photography and Representation. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 42 (2):171-180.
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  29. Jennifer E. Brown (1987). News Photographs and the Pornography of Grief. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 2 (2):75 – 81.
    Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, especially in journalism, a picture can be worth much, much more. This added value isn't always positive. Pictures can inflict lasting pain on victims of grief and tragedy. This paper by an undergraduate journalism student explores the ethical dilemmas photographers face when capturing such traumatic incidents on film and explores the lack of professional guidelines available to guide them.
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  30. Pavel Büchler (2010). Live View. Philosophy of Photography 1 (1):14-17.
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  31. David Campany (2010). Drink the Wine, Discard the Bottle, Then Drink Something Else. Philosophy of Photography 1 (1):18-21.
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  32. Noël Carroll (2000). Photographic Traces and Documentary Films: Comments for Gregory Currie. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58 (3):303-306.
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  33. Dan Cavedon-Taylor (2013). Photographically Based Knowledge. Episteme 10 (3):283-297.
    Pictures are a quintessential source of aesthetic pleasure. This makes it easy to forget that they are epistemically valuable no less than they are aesthetically so. Pictures are representations. As such, they may furnish us with knowledge of the objects they represent. In this article I provide an account of why photographs are of greater epistemic utility than handmade pictures. To do so, I use a novel approach: I seek to illuminate the epistemic utility of photographs by situating both photographs (...)
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  34. Dan Cavedon-Taylor (2010). In Defence of Fictional Incompetence. Ratio 23 (2):141-150.
    The claim that photographs are fictionally incompetent (i.e. that they can only depict those particulars they are appropriately causally related to) is argued by Noël Carroll, Gregory Currie, and Nigel Warburton to be falsified by cinematic works of fiction. In response I firstly argue that it does not follow from cinema's having a capacity for the representation of ficta that photography has a capacity for the representation of ficta. Secondly, and inspired by the work of Roger Scruton, I develop an (...)
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  35. Dan Cavedon-Taylor (2009). The Epistemic Status of Photographs and Paintings: A Response to Cohen and Meskin. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67 (2):230-235.
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  36. Josef Chytry (2012). Athens, Still Remains: The Photographs of Jean-François Bonhomme by Derrida, Jacques. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (3):330-332.
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  37. Jonathan Cohen & Aaron Meskin (2009). Photography and Its Epistemic Values: Reply to Cavedon-Taylor. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 67 (2):235-237.
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  38. Jonathan Cohen & Aaron Meskin (2004). On the Epistemic Value of Photographs. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):197–210.
    Many have held that photographs give us a firmer epistemic connection to the world than do other depictive representations. To take just one example, Bazin famously claimed that “The objective nature of photography confers on it a quality of credibility absent from all other picture-making” ([Bazin, 1967], 14). Unfortunately, while the intuition in question is widely shared, it has remained poorly understood. In this paper we propose to explain the special epistemic status of photographs. We take as our starting place (...)
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  39. A. D. Coleman (1987). Private Lives, Public Places: Street Photography Ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics 2 (2):60 – 66.
    In this essay, author?educator?photographer A.D. Coleman considers a number of dilemmas inherent in photographing private persons in public places. ?Street photography?; is a genre whose ethical dimensions are often overlooked, despite the photographer's efforts to humanize and universalize a moment in time. According to the author, the dilemmas of street photography are imagistic, general, and philosophical, as well as pragmatic, specific, and legislative.
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  40. Roy T. Cook (2012). Drawings of Photographs in Comics. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):129-138.
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  41. Diarmuid Costello (2012). The Question Concerning Photography. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):101-113.
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  42. Diarmuid Costello & Dominic Mciver Lopes (2012). Introduction. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (1):1-8.
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  43. Diarmuid Costello & Dawn M. Phillips (2009). Automatism, Causality and Realism: Foundational Problems in the Philosophy of Photography. Philosophy Compass 4 (1):1-21.
    This article contains a survey of recent debates in the philosophy of photography, focusing on aesthetic and epistemic issues in particular. Starting from widespread notions about automatism, causality and realism in the theory of photography, the authors ask whether the prima facie tension between the epistemic and aesthetic embodied in oppositions such as automaticism and agency, causality and intentionality, realism and fictional competence is more than apparent. In this context, the article discusses recent work by Roger Scruton, Dominic Lopes, Kendall (...)
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  44. Philip Crick (1976). The Three Paradoxes of the Photograph. British Journal of Aesthetics 16 (3):268-271.
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  45. Gregory Currie (1999). Visible Traces: Documentary and the Contents of Photographs. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57 (3):285-297.
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  46. Gregory Currie (1995). Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Cambridge University Press.
    This is a book about the nature of film: about the nature of moving images, about the viewer's relation to film, and about the kinds of narrative that film is capable of presenting. It represents a very decisive break with the semiotic and psychoanalytic theories of film which have dominated discussion over the last twenty years. The central thesis is that film is essentially a pictorial medium and that the movement of film images is real rather than illusory. A general (...)
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  47. Gregory Currie (1991). Photography, Painting and Perception. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (1):23-29.
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  48. D. Davies (2009). Scruton on the Inscrutability of Photographs. British Journal of Aesthetics 49 (4):341-355.
    A long-standing objection to the artistic pretensions of photography is that, because of the ‘causal’ nature of the process whereby a photographic image is produced, the formative intelligence of the photographer does not play a significant role in the generation of the image. Only where we can see such intelligence manifested in an image, it is claimed, can we legitimately take the representational content of the image to be a proper subject of artistic interest. I examine the most sophisticated modern (...)
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  49. David Davies (2008). Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus and the Ethical Dimensions of Photography. In Garry Hagberg (ed.), Art and Ethical Criticism. Blackwell Pub..
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  50. Megan Delehanty (2010). Why Images? Medicine Studies 2 (3):161-173.
    Given that many imaging technologies in biology and medicine are non-optical and generate data that is essentially numerical, it is a striking feature of these technologies that the data generated using them are most frequently displayed in the form of semi-naturalistic, photograph-like images. In this paper, I claim that three factors underlie this: (1) historical preferences, (2) the rhetorical power of images, and (3) the cognitive accessibility of data presented in the form of images. The third of these can be (...)
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