Noûs 46 (4):709-731 (2012)

Authors
Robert Hopkins
New York University
Abstract
What is special about photographs? Traditional photography is, I argue, a system that sustains factive pictorial experience. Photographs sustain pictorial experience: we see things in them. Further, that experience is factive: if suchandsuch is seen in a photograph, then suchandsuch obtained when the photo was taken. More precisely, photographs are designed to sustain factive pictorial experience, and that experience is what we have when, in the photographic system as a whole, everything works as it is supposed to. In this respect photographs differ from handmade pictures, and from other information-preserving tools, such as the readings on a geiger counter. This distinctive feature can be used to explain what is epistemically special about photographs, and also to give an account of the distinctive phenomenology of looking at a photograph rather than a handmade picture. All this provides the background against which to assess claims that digital photography differs from traditional in certain key ways.
Keywords Photography  Aesthetics  Epistemology  Phenomenology
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2010.00800.x
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