Transparency and Two-Factor Photographic Appreciation

British Journal of Aesthetics 56 (1):33-51 (2016)
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Abstract

In his classic paper ‘Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism’, Kendall Walton highlights the special sense of contact with their subjects that photographs typically engender and argues that we must postulate photographic transparency in order to explain their capacity to do so. He also downplays the epistemic advantages historically associated with the medium and instead finds the source of our medium-specific appreciation of photographs largely in their transparency. I argue that Walton errs in both these respects. I offer a simpler, deflationary means of explaining the contact phenomenon, one that does not mandate that we see through photographs, and I show how an epistemic advantage associated with the medium can be brought together with this deflationary understanding to yield a two-factor analysis of our experiences in looking at photographs. I conclude with an application of this two-factor approach to an iconic photograph from the modernist canon.

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Citations of this work

On Pictorially mediated mind-object relations.Jessica Pepp - 2023 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 66 (2):246-274.
Seeing Through Photographs: Photography as a Transparent Visual Medium.Vivian Mizrahi - 2021 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 79 (1):52-63.

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