Is Photography Art or Science?

This is a question I came across while reading an old photography book the other day.  It really stopped me in my tracks and made me wonder for awhile.  A couple days later I think I have rationalized an answer.  Here goes….

First – Is photography a science? ANSWER – YES

Why? – For starters photography is nothing more than capturing how light interacts with the objects that we live with.  Be it a human, object, or landscape.  To be good a photographer a photographer has to understand the very basics of the fact that light is nothing more than an electromagnetic wavelength that has a frequency and wavelength that our eyes can perceive.  Color is more specific to within the bounds of visible light exact frequencies and wavelengths produce a different color.  Now onto how we see that color.  An apple is red because the organic compound that is an apples skin absorbs blue and green light and reflects red.  It’s funny because the apple is rejecting red.  It doesn’t want it and therefore the very color it discards defines it.  Ironic huh 🙂  One more thing to make your head spin is white light does not exist.  White is nothing more than a conglomeration of all the visible light.  I’m gonna stop right there for my answer as to why photography is a science because I fear you are already spacing out.  Only a scientist had the brain to prove these theories.

Second – Is photography an art?  ANSWER – YES

Why?  Simply because the smartest nerd “scientist” in the world may not be able to take a picture that humans will enjoy to view.  The process of taking science and applying it to the sensor to produce a beautiful image takes an artist.  An artist can see a hidden geometric shape in nature or a face and not have to over analyze it as to why it is beautiful.  They can see how light “the electromagnetic radiant energy of a specific wavelength” wraps itself around an object or bounces off a wall and honestly probably do not care why it does this.  They just see it is beautiful and can replicate what they see in an image.  So yes photography is an art.

I truly feel that the best of the best can see both sides and revel in the why things happen and also accept that they will never understand everything.  You don’t have to.  Reading a scientific text can be punishment but so can not reaching your vision on an image because things just aren’t working and you can’t figure out why.  Lets face it wether or not we like science or not any photographer is going to have to stare down a textbook sooner or later and learn about nerdy things like chromatic aberrations or hyperfocal distances.   It’s a technical artform 🙂

I guess this could have been answered a lot easier by mentioning one man.

Leonardo da Vinci – Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, and botanist.  He had enough passion for a hundred men.  Wildly fascinated by the world around him and talented enough to show people through artwork his fascination.  The ultimate Scientist/Artist! We don’t have to choose what we are.  We just have to apply our passion to whatever be the goal.


Lets hear everyone else’s opinion!

Matt White


One response

  1. To produce or express beauty or emotion is truly art. Photography is a medium through which both beauty and emotion can be expressed through the eyes, mind and technical skill of the photographer. To be faithfully reproduced, visualization must be skillfully transferred from the mind to the final format. The total range of grey from white to black or the many hues of the color spectrum evoke different emotions and beauty, depending on our life experiences. Through a manipulation of light, film, shutter speed, depth of field and choice of lens, the photographer creates a personal reflection of emotion and beauty.

    December 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm

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