About this topic
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, Diarmuid & Mciver 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 2007 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 2001
Related categories

1092 found
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  1. added 2018-10-14
    What is Abstraction in Photography?Diarmuid Costello - 2018 - British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (4):385-400.
    There is confusion about what counts as abstraction in photography: art theorists class very different kinds of photographs as abstract, and common philosophical views of photography, if true, should cause us to doubt their very possibility. I address two questions here: ‘What is Abstraction?’ and ‘What is Abstraction in Photography?’ To the answer the second, I briefly consider a third: ‘What is Photography?’ so that the resulting account is not undermined by a poor theory of photography. In answer to my (...)
  2. added 2018-06-01
    The Hidden Corners of the Real: Where Photography Meets Ontology.Ryan Wittingslow - forthcoming - In Rasmus R. Simonsen & Geoffrey Bender (eds.), Promiscuous Entanglements: Photography, Referentiality, and the Objective Turn. Bloomsbury Academic.
    There is, it is claimed, a long-standing link between photography and the realist novel. Nancy Armstrong in particular argues that the pictorial veridicality of literary realism is at least partly premised upon the rapid propagation of photographic images through late 19th century culture. In doing so, Armstrong argues that photography and realist fiction were mutual participants in an epistemological project wherein the horizons of the ‘real world’—at least within the context of literary fiction—were continuously and unconsciously drawn and redrawn. Meanwhile, (...)
  3. added 2018-03-31
    Aberrant Flight Paths: The Uncertain Bearings of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.Matthew Simmons - 2018 - Philosophy of Photography 9 (1):5-21.
  4. added 2018-03-31
    Lyric Images, Everlasting Instants: The Photographic Works of Tacita Dean and Roni Horn.Becca Thornton - 2018 - Philosophy of Photography 9 (1):22-40.
  5. added 2018-03-31
    Vision, Revelation, Violence: Technology and Expanded Perception Within Photographic History.Tom Slevin - 2018 - Philosophy of Photography 9 (1):53-70.
  6. added 2018-03-31
    Reinventing the Body on the Photographic Stage: Theatricality, Identity, and Figural Writing in the Work of Helena Almeida.Miguel Mesquita Duarte & Bruno Marques - 2018 - Philosophy of Photography 9 (1):71-94.
    The fictional regime of the photographic image allows Helena Almeida to stage a theatrical metamorphosis of her own body through displacements, expansions and dissimulations, placing photography at the heart of a pictorial transgression that undermines the disciplinary boundaries of visual media: the artist becomes ink, inhabits the empty canvas space, multiplies herself in mirror games that produce the unfolding of a body in deep crisis, thrown beyond its physical limits and identity. Moreover, in multimedia works such as Feel me, Hear (...)
  7. added 2018-03-31
    Imaging by Touching: Atomic Force Microscopy.Gustavo Ariel Schwartz & Jaume Navarro - 2018 - Philosophy of Photography 9 (1):41-52.
  8. added 2018-02-02
    Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. [REVIEW]Paloma Atencia-Linares - 2018 - British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (3):327-329.
    Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in PhilosophyLopesDominic Mciverwiley & sons ltd. 2016. pp. 200. £80.50.
  9. added 2018-01-20
    Intersemiotic Translation of a Mobile Art Project to a Photographic Essay.Leticia Vitral, Daniella Aguiar & Joao Queiroz - 2016 - photographies 9 (1):91-107.
    VIA is a mobile art project (video-dance and computational music) semiotically translated to photographic media by means of formal constraints derived from selected properties of Rio de Janeiro’s predefined downtown routes. Under the constraints of street buildings and the morphology of the routes, questions regarding the influence of the bodily movements of the urban space led to the creation of a dance typology. This typology is related to pedestrians in the area and to the structure of the buildings spans where (...)
  10. added 2018-01-10
    Yosman Botero y Postcolombino.Carlos Vanegas - 2016 - Co-herencia:301-303.
    La obra de Yosman Botero siempre ha orbitado entre paradojas. Desde los mismos lugares suplementarios de su obra, como los títulos de sus series Full of Emptiness (2013), Immaterial matter (2014) y Postcolombino (2016) se plantea una encrucijada tanto de la “supervivencia de las imágenes” del arte como de su capacidad comunicativa de la realidad: ya sea esta la experiencia del arte o la realidad social colombiana, o lo que sea que entendemos por “lo real”, tan cara a las propuestas (...)
  11. added 2018-01-10
    La fotografía y los desplazamientos en el arte contemporáneo colombiano. [REVIEW]Carlos Vanegas - 2013 - Cuadernos de Música, Artes Visuales y Artes Escénicas:137-140.
  12. added 2017-11-24
    L'Art du Photographique : Ier essai d'Esthétique et de Sémiologie.Ciro Giordano Bruni - 1987 - Sammeron: GERMS.
  13. added 2017-11-24
    Pour la Photographie : Les Discours de la Photographie, la Photographie comme discours.Ciro Giordano Bruni - 1983 - Sammeron: GERMS.
  14. added 2017-10-26
    Arabidopsis Thaliana Flammeus , 2014.Sutherland Oliver - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):161-170.
  15. added 2017-10-26
    Disappearance of the Body: An Interview with Cécile Bourne Farrell.Jananne Al-Ani - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):63-81.
  16. added 2017-10-26
    Akeley Inside the Elephant: Trajectory of a Taxidermic Image.Bernd Behr - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):43-61.
  17. added 2017-10-26
    The World Unseen: Photography as a Probe of Particulate Materiality.Michael Doser - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):139-154.
  18. added 2017-10-26
    How to Accommodate Grief in Your Life.Minkin Louisa & Summers Francis - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):83-113.
  19. added 2017-10-26
    Photographic Indexicality: Once More, with Feeling.Bernd Behr - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):3-10.
  20. added 2017-10-26
    Visibilility and Realism: Photography and the Problems of Transparency.Duncan Wooldridge - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):11-20.
  21. added 2017-10-26
    Non-Standard Uncertainties: Experiments in the Visual Conditions of the Kilogram Prototype.Giacomo Raffaelli - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):21-41.
  22. added 2017-10-26
    What is Twenty-First-Century Photography?Daniel Rubinstein - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):155-160.
  23. added 2017-10-26
    Searching for Traces of the Indexical Within Synthetically Rendered Imagery.Sam Burford - 2016 - Philosophy of Photography 7 (1):115-137.
  24. added 2017-10-26
    Dog Portraits.Shari Hatt - 2014 - Philosophy of Photography 5 (2):168-169.
  25. added 2017-10-26
    Dog Portraits.Shari Hatt - 2014 - Philosophy of Photography 5 (2):144-145.
  26. added 2017-10-01
    Speculative Science: Aby Warburg and Probability Theory.Hans Christian Hönes - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):131-139.
  27. added 2017-10-01
    Mobility on Slips. Or: How to Invest in Paper. The Aby Warburg Style.Markus Krajewski - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):97-108.
  28. added 2017-10-01
    The Warburg Haus: Apparatus, Inscription, Data, Speculation.Mick Finch & Martin Westwood - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):3-7.
  29. added 2017-10-01
    Speculating on the Biography of an Apparatus.Anke Hennig - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):76-95.
  30. added 2017-10-01
    Images – Uses – Imagination: Lignes de Temps in a Warburgian Context.Delphine Etchepare - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):221-234.
  31. added 2017-10-01
    Warburg’s Cultural Psychology as a Tool for Understanding Internet Memes.Maria L. Felixmüller - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):211-220.
  32. added 2017-10-01
    Warburg’s Desk.Thomas Hensel - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):53-74.
  33. added 2017-10-01
    Anna Piaggi, Aby Warburg and the Judgement of Paris, 2011.Judith Clark - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):141-149.
  34. added 2017-10-01
    The Tape Readers: Financial Trading as a Visual Practice.Richard Cochrane - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):109-117.
  35. added 2017-10-01
    Juno Moneta Atlas: Warburgian Production or Performing Context-Change.Martin Westwood - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):119-130.
  36. added 2017-10-01
    Metadata: New Perspectives on Aby Warburg’s ‘Critical Iconology’.Johannes von Müller - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):171-182.
  37. added 2017-10-01
    The Technical Apparatus of the Warburg Haus: Possible Returns From Oblivion.Mick Finch - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):35-51.
  38. added 2017-10-01
    Hades as an Accumulation of Tertiary Retentions.Bernard Stiegler - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):9-16.
  39. added 2017-10-01
    Dancer in a Laboratory of Images: Aby Warburg’s Performative Didactics.Uwe Fleckner - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):17-33.
  40. added 2017-10-01
    Fashion: From Attitudes to Poses.Caroline Evans - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):151-170.
  41. added 2017-10-01
    Toward an Iconology for Temporal Object.Igor Galligo - 2017 - Philosophy of Photography 8 (1-2):183-209.
  42. added 2017-08-07
    Lopes, Dominic Mciver, Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. Malden, Ma: Wiley, 2016, XVI + 177 Pp., 9 B & W + 1 Color Illus., $99.95 Cloth. [REVIEW]Scott Walden - 2017 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75 (3):303-306.
  43. added 2017-07-01
    Process and Figure.Thomas Khurana - 2011 - In Stefanie Braun (ed.), Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2011 Catalogue (Thomas Demand / Roe Ethridge / Jim Goldberg / Elad Lassry). London: pp. 28-31.
  44. added 2017-06-08
    Photography Clichés: On Baudelaire’s Media Aesthetics and the Mechanical Arts.Marit Grøtta - 2017 - Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 25 (53).
    The aim of this article is two-folded. First, I wish to situate Baudelaire in the midst of 19th-century media, bring attention to the way he explored the new media of his day, and suggest that he developed his own media aesthetics. Second, I wish to examine Baudelaire’s relation to photography more specifically, emphasizing his love of commonplaces and clichés. I begin by contextualizing Baudelaire’s notorious attack on photography in the Salon de 1859 and then examine three poems in light of (...)
  45. added 2017-02-18
    Ana-Materialism and the Pineal Eye: Becoming Mouth-Breast '.Johnny Golding - 2012 - Philosophy of Photography 3 (1):99-120.
    Ana-materialism & the Pineal Eye provides a landmark interpretation of materialism, representation and the image using the Cartesian conceit of a pineal gland and its voracious sexually embedded appetites. Developing the argument via Bataille's re-invention of the pineal gland as an all-seeing, all- devouring, eye, Golding borrows this move to envision a different analytic approach to digital forms of `matter' and artificial forms of `life'. From her critical engagement with Bataille, Deleuze and Butler, Golding shows why the tools provided by (...)
  46. added 2017-02-16
    Photographer of the Issue: A. Sroka.A. Sroka - 2012 - Avant: Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies 3 (1):201.
  47. added 2017-02-15
    Motivated Doubts: A Comment on Walton's Theory of Criticism.Jan Albert van Laar - 2014 - Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric 36 (1):221-230.
  48. added 2017-02-15
    Sustaining an Out-of-Placeness: Some Remarks on Landscape, Literature and Photography.Guy Moreton - unknown
    Edward Thomas’s long and solitary walks allowed him to fill notebooks with acute observations of the changing landscape near to, and far beyond his home in Hampshire in the early part of the twentieth century. Arguably, these landscapes both consoled and sustained him, emotionally and intellectually. My own walks have attempted to uncover, obliquely, the complex relationship between landscape and thought. That places remind us of other times, of other experiences – of a ‘sustained out-of-placeness’ as creative condition – is (...)
  49. added 2017-02-15
    Digital Image.Daniel Rubinstein - unknown
    This paper considers the ontological significance of invisibility in relation to the question ‘what is a digital image?’ Its argument in a nutshell is that the emphasis on visibility comes at the expense of latency and is symptomatic of the style of thinking that dominated Western philosophy since Plato. This privileging of visible content necessarily binds images to linguistic paradigms of interpretation which promote representation, subjectivity, identity and negation over multiplicity, indeterminacy and affect. Photography is the case in point because (...)
  50. added 2017-02-15
    Dynamic Posing Guide: Modern Techniques for Digital Photographers.Craig Stidham & Jeanne Harris - 2013 - Wiley.
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