Critical Inquiry 11 (2):246-277 (1984)

Authors
Kendall Walton
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Abstract
That photography is a supremely realistic medium may be the commonsense view, but—as Edward Steichen reminds us—it is by no means universal. Dissenters note how unlike reality a photograph is and how unlikely we are to confuse the one with the other. They point to “distortions” engendered by the photographic process and to the control which the photographer exercises over the finished product, the opportunities he enjoys for interpretation and falsification. Many emphasize the expressive nature of the medium, observing that photographs are inevitably colored by the photographer’s personal interests, attitudes, and prejudices.1 Whether any of these various considerations really does collide with photography’s claim of extraordinary realism depends, of course, on how that claim is to be understood.Those who find photographs especially realistic sometimes think of photography as a further advance in a direction which many picture makers have taken during the last several centuries, as a continuation or culmination of the post-Renaissance quest for realism.2 There is some truth in this. Such earlier advances toward realism include the development of perspective and modeling techniques, the portrayal of ordinary and incidental details, attention to the effects of light, and so on. From its very beginning, photography mastered perspective. Subtleties of shading, gradations of brightness nearly impossible to achieve with the brush, became commonplace. Photographs include as a matter of course the most mundane details of the scenes they portray—stray chickens, facial warts, clutters of dirty dishes. Photographic images easily can seem to be what painters striving for realism have always been after. 2. See André Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” What is Cinema?, trans. Hugh Gray, vol. 1, p. 12; all further references to this work, abbreviated “OPI,” will be included in the text. See also Rudolf Arnheim, “Melancholy Unshaped,” Toward a Psychology of Art: Collected Essays, p. 186. Kendall L. Walton is professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan. He is currently completing a book on representation in the arts.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1086/448287
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,379
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

What’s so Transparent About Transparency?Amy Kind - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 115 (3):225-244.
Depiction, Pictorial Experience, and Vision Science.Robert Briscoe - 2016 - Philosophical Topics 44 (2):43-81.

View all 120 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Objectivity in Photography.Scott Walden - 2005 - British Journal of Aesthetics 45 (3):258-272.
Transparency and Photographic Contact.Scott Walden - 2014 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (4):365-378.
Three Kinds of Realism About Photographs.Jiri Benovsky - 2011 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 25 (4):375-395.
Photographic Phenomenology as Cognitive Phenomenology.Dan Cavedon-Taylor - 2015 - British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (1):71-89.
The Epistemic Value of Photographs.Catharine Abell - 2010 - In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
Can Digital Pictures Qualify As Photographs?Geert Gooskens - 2012 - American Society for Aesthetics Graduate E-Journal 4 (1):17-23.
Pictorial Realism.Dominic Lopes - 1995 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53 (3):277-285.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2016-02-04

Total views
142 ( #83,507 of 2,519,650 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
28 ( #31,415 of 2,519,650 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes