Philosophy Analytic Philosophy of Photography
by
Scott Walden
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 July 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0405

Introduction

The literature on the analytic philosophy of photography is related to, but distinct from, the literatures on film theory and photography theory. All three revolve around the question of whether images can be importantly divided into the categories of photographic and manugraphic on the basis of their differing etiologies. The first, however, tends to focus on how this question intersects with core areas of philosophical research, while the second and third tend, instead, to look for intersections with larger cultural issues. As well, the first is burdened with methodological considerations, a self-awareness that reflects larger methodological contests that have roiled analytic philosophy over the past century. This article focuses on the first. Arguably the photographic formative process excludes the mentation of photographers in ways that the manugraphic formative process does not exclude the mentation of painters or sketchers. The alleged implications of such photographic objectivity include skepticism about the possibility of photographs functioning as artworks, assertions regarding various epistemic advantages associated with the medium, claims regarding a special phenomenology associated with viewing photographs, concerns that photographic images cannot function as representations, and, finally, special ethical considerations that emerge with photographic subjects that are persons. Methodological considerations divide contributors on the basis of whether they proceed in a traditional philosophical fashion by taking as their starting point ordinary linguistic usage of key terms, such as “art,” “photography,” and “representation,” and then exploring inconsistencies between these, one the one hand, or whether, on the other, they proceed in a naturalistic fashion by taking as their starting point various phenomena associated with viewing photographs and then postulating whatever natural kinds are required in order to explain them.

Some Nonphilosophical Antecedents

If philosophers have tended to focus on themes in which they have a special interest it is nonetheless true that many of their writings on the subject have been triggered by a dialectic in the nonphilosophical literature. Thus a brief summary of the relevant nonphilosophical literature is in order. When photographic technology first arrived all assumed that its objectivity made the images it produces fundamentally different from manugraphic images. During the 19th century this difference was regarded by critics as a problem that had to be overcome for photographs to be considered artworks, as Eastlake 1857 and Baudelaire 1982 demonstrate. Accordingly, various means were invoked by “pictorialist” photographers with artistic ambitions to make their images look more like manugraphs. They included kicking the tripod during a long exposure, smearing the lens with Vasoline, or cutting and pasting many photographs to create a tableau vivant. But with the early stirrings of modernism and its celebration of the qualities unique to the various media, critical opinion reversed course. Works by figures such as P. H. Emerson (see Emerson 1889) argued that the objectivity of the photographic process and the naturalistic qualities it subtends are not characteristics to be worked around using the techniques of the pictorialists; rather, they are characteristics to be embraced. In the 20th century figures such as Berenice Abbott likewise argued against pictorialist interventions and instead celebrated the realism associated with photography and its consequent potential to imaginatively document all aspects of life (see Abbott 1980). Such modernists accordingly developed new sets of critical tools for photography, ones distinct from those that historically had been applied to manugraphs. But with the 1970s came yet another turn, with critics such as Joel Snyder and Neil Walsh Allen arguing in Snyder and Allen 1975 that photographs are simply images that should be evaluated in the same way as any other images, paying little heed to their objective etiology. It was at this point, in the early 1980s, that analytic philosophers joined the discussion.

  • Abbott, Berenice. “Photography at the Crossroads.” In Classic Essays on Photography. Edited by Alan Trachtenberg, 179–184. New Haven, CT: Leete’s Island Books, 1980.

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    Like the author of Emerson 1889, Abbott rejects pictorialist interventions and instead embraces qualities unique to the photographic process. But rather than following Emerson in urging photographers to use the medium to mimic subjective vision, she finds artistic virtue in using photography to document the real, especially all aspects of life, both good and bad, in the fast-growing United States of her time. Originally published in 1951.

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    • Baudelaire, Charles. “The Salon of 1859: The Modern Public and Photography.” In Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology. Edited by Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, 19–22. London: Harper & Row, 1982.

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      A highly polemical investigation into the role of objectivity in rendering the class of photographs a substantially different kind of image from the class of manugraphs. In spirit similar to Eastlake 1857, Baudelaire concludes on the basis of this difference that photographs have a significant role to play in science but that they have no place in the toolkit of the artist. Originally published in 1859.

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      • Eastlake, Elizabeth. “Photography.” London Quarterly Review 101 (1857): 442–468.

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        A review of the history of photographic technology up to the time the essay was written, followed by a summary of the advantages and limitations of photographic images. Eastlake concludes that photography will aid in the advancement of knowledge, but that it has no place in art, although its existence will free manugraphs from the burden of information conveyance so that they can be used solely for subjective, artistic expression.

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        • Emerson, P. H. Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art. London: Gilbert and Rivington, 1889.

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          Reacting to the pictorialist practices of his time, Emerson argues that the similarities between the photographic process and the process of human vision can be viewed as artistic virtues rather than vices. Rather than working around the limitations of the photographic process imposed by its objectivity, photographers with artistic ambitions should embrace characteristics such as shallow depth of field and thus create new kinds of artworks that are naturalistic insofar as they mimic the experiences arising from perception.

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          • Snyder, Joel, and Neil Walsh Allen. “Photography, Vision, and Representation.” Critical Inquiry 2.1 (1975): 143–169.

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            A summary of the attempts that had been made up to the time of writing to explain the differences between photographs and manugraphs, including, especially, that found in Emerson 1889. Finding these inadequate, Snyder and Allen conclude that the critical resources in place for manugraphs suffice for critical analysis of photographs.

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            General Overviews of the Philosophical Literature

            This literature is in its infancy and awaits its primer, but Costello and Lopes 2012 and the introductory chapters of Costello 2018 and Lopes 2016 do much to extract the relevant philosophical content from the nonphilosophical antecedents. Wilson 2013 functions likewise and has the added virtue of orienting the analytic literature in relation to that devoted to photography theory, a distinction noted in the Introduction. Maynard 1997 intertwines historical and philosophical content and in this way functions as a generally accessible book-length introduction.

            • Costello, Diarmuid. On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York: Routledge, 2018.

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              An extended summary and clarification of central topics, including those that treat the potential tension between aesthetic and epistemic functions of photography, the history of photographic objectivity, the capacity of photographs to depict fictional entities, and the character of perceptual contact furnished by photographs. The introduction and chapter 1, “Foundational Intuitions and Folk Theory” (pp. 9–50), are especially helpful for those seeking an entrée to the literature, although later chapters are directed at audiences already familiar with central philosophical concerns.

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              • Costello, Diarmuid, and Dominic McIver Lopes. “Introduction.” In Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Edited by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic McIver Lopes. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012): 1–8.

                DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6245.2011.01493.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                The first half of the introduction to this collection of essays by contemporary philosophers serves to set the essays against the backdrop of larger philosophical themes, thus serving as an accessible introduction.

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                • Lopes, Dominic McIver. Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

                  DOI: 10.1002/9781119053194Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                  A critical examination of reasons that have been offered for thinking that photographs cannot be artworks. The first chapter furnishes a valuable philosophical overview. However, later chapters are densely argued and, as such, they are much less accessible to those seeking a general introduction.

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                  • Maynard, Patrick. The Engine of Visualization: Thinking through Photography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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                    A highly informative and generally accessible book-length entrée to the literature for those who wish to learn the history of the medium while at the same time acquiring an understanding of its central philosophical themes.

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                    • Wilson, Dawn M. “Photography.” In The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. 3d ed. Edited by Berys Gaut and Dominic McIver Lopes, 585–595. New York: Routledge, 2013.

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                      In addition to characterizing the distinction between analytic and continental approaches to fostering our understanding of photography, Wilson provides an overview of much of the literature on photographic realism, pictorial representation, and skepticism regarding the epistemic advantages of photography. She also touches on the intersection between these topics and photographic portraiture.

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                      Anthologies

                      While several anthologies of essays are available written by art historians, photographers, journalists, or cultural critics, Costello and Lopes 2012 and Walden 2008 remain the only collections of essays on photography written primarily by philosophers.

                      • Costello, Diarmuid, and Dominic McIver Lopes, eds. Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012).

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                        This collection explores central philosophical themes via discussions of the materials and tools associated with photography. Topics examined include the status of photographs as artworks; photography and knowledge; photographic depiction of fictions; photographic ontology; agency in relation to photographic creation; photographic autoportraits; photographic appropriation versus photographic documentation; and photography in relation to musical compositions, technology, and comics.

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                        • Walden, Scott, ed. Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                          In addition to a summary introduction, this anthology consists of essays written by contemporary philosophers on the topics of photographic realism, photographs in relation to religious icons, photographs in relation to truth and knowledge, photographic documentary authority, photographs as artworks, still versus motion-picture photography, how viewers appreciate photographs, the interplay between truth and fiction in photography, narratives engendered by viewing photographs, and the ethical dimensions of photographing persons.

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                          Art and Photography

                          The arrival of photographic technology brought with it the claim that the images it yields cannot be artworks, although the precise basis for this claim is hard to pin down. Analytic philosophical attempts to discern the relevant argument structures did not appear until the 1980s. The challenge presented in Scruton 1981 constitutes an attempt to do so, one that has triggered a substantial literature, including Costello 2018, Davies 2008, Hopkins 2015, Lopes 2003, Lopes 2016, and Philips 2009. Often overlooked, however, is the final chapter in Maynard 1997, which avoids the idealizations found in Scruton 1981 and, instead, presents historical arguments for and against photography as an artform in all their messy detail. Friday 2002 likewise stands apart from the literature triggered by Scruton 1981 insofar as it is replete with actual examples, both historical and contemporary.

                          • Costello, Diarmuid. On Photography: A Philosophical Inquiry. New York: Routledge, 2018.

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                            The second and concluding chapters investigate a variety of ways in which the challenge presented in Scruton 1981 might be met. The potential tension between the alleged epistemic advantages of photographs and their function as artworks is explored, along with the question of whether photographs can represent fictions.

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                            • Davies, David. “How Photographs ‘Signify’: Cartier-Bresson’s ‘Reply’ to Scruton.” In Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Edited by Scott Walden, 167–186. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                              Davies argues against the conclusion of Scruton 1981 by pointing out that, notwithstanding photographic objectivity, photographers such as Cartier-Bresson have sufficient control over details in their images to render them representations and, hence, artworks in Scruton’s sense. Such control comes in the form of photographers infusing their images with geometrical structures that reflect important relationships in the world.

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                              • Friday, Jonathan. Aesthetics and Photography. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002.

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                                Taking as axiomatic that vision is informed by cognition, Friday uses an array of photographic artworks to illustrate his thesis that they often acquire such status by representing “visual perspectives,” that is, instances of cognitively informed vision experienced by the photographers who created them.

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                                • Hopkins, Robert. “The Real Challenge to Photography (as a Communicative Representational Art).” Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1.2 (2015): 329–348.

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                                  In an elaboration of the sort of argument provided in Scruton 1981, Hopkins argues that a central kind of art requires that the artist have control over the interplay between content and form in their creations, but that traditional photography prevents such control, so that traditional photography cannot function as that kind of art.

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                                  • Lopes, Dominic McIver. “The Aesthetics of Photographic Transparency.” Mind 112.447 (2003): 433–448.

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                                    A nuanced interpretation of the arguments in Scruton 1981 along with a rebuttal of what is offered as its central argument, one that is informed by many of the observations found in Savedoff 2000 (cited under Alternative Explanations or Investigations) regarding how our experiences of the world differ depending on whether it is viewed directly or via photographs.

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                                    • Lopes, Dominic McIver. Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

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                                      Taking as its starting point the sort of argument presented in Scruton 1981, Lopes uses the fact that photographs frequently are artworks as leverage to argue against assumptions that have been used to argue that photographs cannot be artworks, assumptions that include those that deal with photographic objectivity, agency in relation to photography, various epistemic advantages associated with photography, and photographic abstraction.

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                                      • Maynard, Patrick. The Engine of Visualization: Thinking through Photography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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                                        The final chapter surveys and extracts the philosophical content from the writings of a wide array of photographers and cultural commentators stretching back to the earliest days of the medium. This is a good source for those who prefer a detailed Aristotelian investigation into the intersections of art and photography to the kind of Platonistic idealizations found in most other philosophical literature on the subject that builds on Scruton 1981.

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                                        • Philips, Dawn M. “Photography and Causation: Responding to Scruton’s Scepticism.” British Journal of Aesthetics 49.4 (2009): 327–340.

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                                          In expanding our understanding of pure photographs, Philips finds room in their creation for the sorts of techniques that furnish photographers with the kinds of control over details that Scruton 1981 regards as a necessary condition for photographs to function as representations and, hence, artworks in his senses of those terms.

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                                          • Scruton, Roger. “Photography and Representation.” Critical Inquiry 7.3 (1981): 577–603.

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                                            A highly influential essay arguing that the objectivity of the pure photographic process prevents photographers from controlling details in their images in ways that are required to render those images representations and, hence, artworks.

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                                            Photography and Knowledge

                                            Outside of philosophical circles it is generally acknowledged that photographs are typically better means of learning about the world than are manugraphs. The former, for example, might be accepted as evidence in court in ways that the latter would not. Within the philosophical literature, however, matters are not so simple, with contributors dividing into the traditionalists, who largely accept the commonsense view and who seek to understand the sources and limits of such epistemic advantages, and the skeptics, who either deny that there are such advantages or, at least, point out that photographs and manugraphs each can furnish epistemic advantages depending on context. Works by traditionalists include Cavedon-Taylor 2013, Cohen and Meskin 2008, Hopkins 2012, Maynard 1997, Perini 2012, and Walden 2012. The skeptical perspective is taken up in Lopes 2016 and Walton 1984.

                                            • Cavedon-Taylor, Dan. “Photographically Based Knowledge.” Episteme 10.3 (2013): 283–297.

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                                              A lucid exploration of the intersection between the traditionalist position and the generic framework offered by the contemporary literature on epistemology. Whereas photographs can be sources of knowledge based on perception, manugraphs are typically sources only of knowledge based on testimony, with the result that, whereas photographs can have a generative role to play in our epistemic lives, manugraphs can have a merely transmissive one.

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                                              • Cohen, Jonathan, and Aaron Meskin. “Photographs as Evidence.” In Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Edited by Scott Walden, 70–90. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                Distinguishing between information about the visual properties of photographic subjects and information about the spatial location of subjects in relation to a viewer, Cohen and Meskin argue that photographic epistemic advantages lie in their ability to furnish the former kind of information in contexts in which the latter kind of information is not available.

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                                                • Hopkins, Robert. “Factive Pictorial Experience: What’s Special about Photographs?” Nous 46.4 (2012): 709–731.

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                                                  An advanced and nuanced investigation into the source of the epistemic advantages and unique phenomenology associated with viewing photographs.

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                                                  • Lopes, Dominic McIver. Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

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                                                    Lopes devotes chapter 7, “The Knowing Eye” (pp. 105–113), to arguing that, while most people believe that photographs furnish epistemic advantages relative to manugraphs, they are generally wrong to do so.

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                                                    • Maynard, Patrick. The Engine of Visualization: Thinking through Photography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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                                                      Part 2 is devoted to exploring the numerous ways in which photographic technology aids in our detection of features of the world.

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                                                      • Perini, Laura. “Depiction, Detection, and the Epistemic Value of Photography.” In Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Edited by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic McIver Lopes. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012): 151–160.

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                                                        Taking as a starting point the distinction in Maynard 1997 between the detective and depictive functions of photography, Perini warns that with many photographs, especially those used in the context of scientific research, the contents of beliefs formed as a result of their depictive capacities are in conflict with their detective contents and, indeed, are often false.

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                                                        • Walden, Scott. “Photography and Knowledge.” In Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Edited by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic McIver Lopes. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012): 139–149.

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                                                          Concerned that competing analyses of the epistemic advantages associated with photographs attribute to ordinary viewers psychological states that they are unlikely to possess, Walden offers an analysis that, instead, attributes thoughts with simple contents pertaining to previous encounters with different kinds of images.

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                                                          • Walton, Kendall L. “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism.” Critical Inquiry 11.2 (1984): 246–277.

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                                                            One of the central themes of this highly influential paper is that we need an explanation of why we often prefer photographs to manugraphs, even when those photographs are blurred, out of focus, monochrome, or otherwise poorer sources of knowledge about their subjects than corresponding manugraphs might be.

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                                                            Photographic Phenomenology

                                                            The dialectic discussed in Some Nonphilosophical Antecedents culminated with the publication of Snyder and Allen 1975 (cited in that section), which argues that no special critical tools are required for the evaluation of photographs that are not already available for the evaluation of manugraphs. On the whole, philosophers reject this, pointing out that photographs typically engender a special sense of realism or contact when viewed, one that is typically absent when viewing manugraphs. Philosopher disagree, however, regarding how to explain this special phenomenology. Walton 1984 (cited under Photographic Transparency) argues that photographs, unlike manugraphs, are transparent, so that viewers see through them to their subjects, a perceptual relation that explains the special phenomenology photographs engender. The bulk of the philosophical literature has been devoted to arguing against this transparency thesis, but several alternative explanations of the special phenomenology are on offer that are worthy of consideration.

                                                            Photographic Transparency

                                                            Walton 1984 highlights the special phenomenology engendered by viewing photographs and explains it by postulating photographic transparency, transparency that is, in turn, explained by the objectivity of the photographic process. Works by Walton’s critics include Carroll 1995, Cohen and Meskin 2004, Currie 1995, Walden 2016, and Warburton 1988. Walton replies to some of these criticisms in Walton 1997 and Walton 2008.

                                                            Alternative Explanations or Investigations

                                                            Approaches to the explanation of the special phenomenology engendered by viewing photographs that avoid the controversy surrounding Walton’s transparency thesis include Cavedon-Taylor 2015, Freeland 2008, Maynard 1997, and Pettersson 2011. Relatedly, rather than an attempt to explain the special phenomenology associated with viewing photographs, Savedoff 2000 accepts it and then explores how it influences our interactions with a variety of different kinds of images.

                                                            • Cavedon-Taylor, Dan. “Photographic Phenomenology as Cognitive Phenomenology.” British Journal of Aesthetics 55.1 (2015): 71–89.

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                                                              Informed by contemporary work in the philosophy of mind, Cavedon-Taylor argues that the special phenomenology associated with viewing photographs arises from the non-inferential etiology it shares with ordinary vision.

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                                                              • Freeland, Cynthia. “Photographs and Icons.” In Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Edited by Scott Walden, 50–69. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                An elaboration of the manifestation-explanation offered in Maynard 1997, Freeland distinguishes between the epistemic advantages and manifestation characteristics that arise from the objectivity of the photographic process.

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                                                                • Maynard, Patrick. The Engine of Visualization: Thinking through Photography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

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                                                                  In chapter 8, “Photo Fidelities II: Manifestation and Participation” (pp. 228–255), Maynard argues that the objectivity of the photographic process permits photographs to function in much the same way as religious icons insofar as both furnish manifestations of their subjects, and not simply depictions of them, manifestations that explain the special phenomenology to which they give rise.

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                                                                  • Pettersson, Mikael. “Depictive Traces: On the Phenomenology of Photography.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69.2 (2011): 185–196.

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                                                                    In addition to touching on epistemic issues, Pettersson argues that the unique phenomenology associated with viewing photographs arises from the objectivity of the photographic process working in conjunction with their depictive capacity.

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                                                                    • Savedoff, Barbara E. Transforming Images: How Photography Complicates the Picture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

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                                                                      An insightful meditation on the phenomenology of viewing photographs of the world and photographs of photographs or paintings. The emphasis is on the ways in which such viewing transforms our experiences relative to the experiences we would have had had we viewed the subjects directly, exploring the virtues and vices of the transformed experiences themselves.

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                                                                      Photographic Representation

                                                                      A much-discussed matter is whether the objectivity of the photographic process undermines the status of photographs as representations. Those who argue that it does face the challenge of explaining exactly what photographic objectivity amounts to, what they understand representation to be, and then why these two manifest an inconsistency. Also falling under this heading are explorations into whether photographic objectivity undermines the capacity of photographs to represent fictions. Finally, the sheer ambiguity associated with the notion of representation is especially acute in the context of discussions of photography and objectivity, and thus benefits from attempts to disentangle the varieties of photographic content on offer.

                                                                      Objectivity and Representation

                                                                      Scruton 1981 argues that depictive representations require the kind of control over details in an image that arguably the objectivity of the photographic process does not permit and concludes that photographs in their pure form are not representations. Walton 1993 presents a theory of depiction and not only endorses the view that photographs are frequently depictions of this sort, but also argues, in Walton 1984, that most photographs are transparent and, thus, not representations. According to Walton, this dual character of photographs helps to explain the complex ways in which photographs function in our society.

                                                                      • Scruton, Roger. “Photography and Representation.” Critical Inquiry 7.3 (1981): 577–603.

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                                                                        As per the discussion in Art and Photography, Scruton, on the way to concluding that pure photographs cannot be artworks of a central sort, also argues that they cannot be representations of a central sort, deficiencies that are traceable to their objective etiologies.

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                                                                        • Walton, Kendall L. “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism.” Critical Inquiry 11.2 (1984): 246–277.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/448287Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                          The transparency thesis discussed in Photographic Phenomenology is in tension with the status of photographs as representations. But Walton argues that the theory of representation offered in Walton 1993 also applies to photographs, bestowing upon them a special dual character.

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                                                                          • Walton, Kendall L. Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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                                                                            A complex and highly influential analysis of depiction in terms of how images engender states of imagining in the minds of their viewers. Those interested specifically in photographic representation might wish to focus instead on Walton 1984 and the literature it has triggered as discussed in Photographic Phenomenology.

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                                                                            Objectivity and Fictional Competence

                                                                            Cavedon-Taylor 2010 and Currie 2008 assume that the objectivity of the photographic process prevents pure photographs from representing ficta and then find the source of the fictional competence often associated with such images in either the dramatic representation photographed or the uses to which the images are put after the photographic process is complete. Contra these two works, Atencia-Linares 2012 argues that pure photographs can be fictionally competent if we adopt a more liberal understanding of what techniques count as purely photographic.

                                                                            • Atencia-Linares, Paloma. “Fiction, Nonfiction, and Deceptive Photographic Representation.” In Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Edited by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic McIver Lopes. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012): 19–30.

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                                                                              Rather than accepting that pure photographs cannot represent ficta, Atencia-Linares argues that we should expand our understanding of pure photography to embrace techniques such as compounding negatives or manipulation by means of digital-imaging software, techniques that would then permit pure photographs to depict ficta such as hybrid cat-people or other fanciful creations.

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                                                                              • Cavedon-Taylor, Dan. “In Defense of Fictional Incompetence.” Ratio 23.2 (2010): 141–150.

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                                                                                Building on an idea presented in Scruton 1981 (cited under Objectivity and Representation), Cavedon-Taylor argues that, if a purely photographic image depicts ficta then it must derive that capacity from the fictional content of the theatrical occurrences photographed.

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                                                                                • Currie, Gregory. “Pictures of King Arthur: Photography and the Power of Narrative.” In Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Edited by Scott Walden, 265–283. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                                  An analysis of the means by which pure photographs or films can be used to represent ficta by engendering states of imagination in their viewers, states that are the ultimate source of the fictional competence associated with the images. Currie argues that, because the sequencing of images found in film more effectively engenders states of imagining, film is generally more fictionally competent than still photography.

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                                                                                  Varieties of Photographic Content

                                                                                  A third area of research lies in the need to distinguish among the representational content of photographs, the propositional content of photographs, the informational content of photographs, the non-conceptual content of photographs, and photographs as indicators. Cohen and Meskin 2008 argues that photographs are often bearers of informational content, and the authors use this notion of content as an ingredient in analyzing the alleged epistemic advantages of photography discussed in Photography and Knowledge, although they steer clear of examining the relationships of this kind of content with any of the other varieties. Lopes 1996 investigates the relationships among representational, informational, and non-conceptual contents. Avoiding the topic of the content of photographs, Lopes 2010 instead investigates the contents of sentences often uttered in the presence of photographs, or the contents of the visual experiences that arise in viewing them.

                                                                                  • Cohen, Jonathan, and Aaron Meskin. “Photographs as Evidence.” In Photography and Philosophy: Essays on the Pencil of Nature. Edited by Scott Walden, 70–90. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                                    It is commonly said that photographs are bearers of information about their subjects, but the sense of information being invoked is left vague. Among other things, this paper attempts to remedy this by analyzing informational content in terms of a counterfactual-supporting link between states of a photograph and states of its subject.

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                                                                                    • Lopes, Dominic McIver. Understanding Pictures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                      An advanced investigation into the character of depiction. Readers interested in photographic depiction only might wish to focus on chapter 9, “Pictorial Experience” (pp. 174–195), which investigates, among other central issues, photographs as information systems and as visual prostheses.

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                                                                                      • Lopes, Dominic McIver. “Picture This: Image-Based Demonstratives.” In Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Edited by Catharine Abell and Katerina Bantinaki, 52–80. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199585960.003.0003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                                        A rigorous and empirically informed investigation into several central topics, including the propositional content of utterances made when viewing photographs, the sources and character of the experiences discussed in Photographic Phenomenology, and the topics discussed in Methodological Issues.

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                                                                                        Photography and Ethics

                                                                                        A nascent field although one with substantial growth potential, this literature explores the intersection between the unique ways in which photographic technology enables images to be formed, on the one hand, and the use of a person’s image, on the other. Unlike manugraphic images, which are laborious to produce, the technology of photography, with its compact cameras and high-speed shutters, enables photographers to create images of persons regardless of whether those persons wish to be represented or, if they do, regardless of how they wish to be represented. During the mid-20th century it was commonplace for figures such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand to use these aspects of photography to candidly photograph strangers in public spaces (in the latter case, the unwitting subjects were frequently women). Danto 1998 assumes a broadly Kantian ethical perspective and, on the basis of this, rejects such “street photography” on the grounds that it violates the autonomy of its subjects with regard to their desired representation. Shusterman 2012, while avoiding explicit discussion of ethical issues, nonetheless emphasizes the frequent participatory character of the practice of photographic portraiture, a sort of participation that might allay the sorts of Kantian concerns raised in Danto 1998.

                                                                                        • Danto, Arthur. “The Naked Truth.” In Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection. Edited by Jerrold Levinson, 257–282. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                          A philosophical tour de force synthesizing topics ranging from the relative values of appearance and reality, the ability of photographic technology to present the world in ways that transcend our human capacities for perception, and the ethics of nakedness in relation to pride and shame.

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                                                                                          • Shusterman, Richard. “Photography as Performative Process.” In Special Issue: The Media of Photography. Edited by Diarmuid Costello and Dominic McIver Lopes. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70.1 (2012): 67–77.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6245.2011.01499.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                                            Among a variety of other topics, Shusterman explores the importance of the somatic skills of portrait photographers, not only in relation to their equipment, but also in relation to their subjects, along with the responsibility of those subjects to comport themselves in ways that are consonant with accurate and aesthetically engaging portraiture.

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                                                                                            Methodological Issues

                                                                                            Given that philosophers turned their attention to still photography only quite recently, the literature remains relatively compact. An advantage of this is that methodological issues are not obscured by a vast literature and, indeed, are actively discussed.

                                                                                            Linguistic Analysis versus Theory Construction

                                                                                            Walton 2007 and Walton 2008 distinguish between the method of linguistic analysis, which relies on intuitions and leaves our folk conceptions intact, on the one hand, and theory construction, which postulates whatever natural kinds are required in order to explain aesthetic phenomena, on the other. Walton endorses the latter approach, most forcefully in Walton 2008, where he emphasizes that, contra assumptions behind most of the critical literature, his transparency thesis (see the discussion in Photographic Phenomenology) is not motivated by an analysis of our folk conception of seeing, but rather by the need to explain experiences we typically have when viewing photographs. Lopes 2019 introduces the method of “second-order aesthetics,” one according to which philosophers offer theories that are intended to explain, not phenomena manifested by the arts themselves, but rather phenomena that take the form of art-historical writings about the arts.

                                                                                            The Method of Pure Definition

                                                                                            Lopes 2016 endorses a methodology involving the stipulation of pure definitions of central notions such as art, representation, and photography, definitions that are inspired by, but more precise than, those emerging from linguistic usage in ordinary language. The author then uses these as components of the premises in a valid argument with a patently false conclusion, a falsity that is used to justify revisions of those definitions or, at least, to motivate a more nuanced understanding of them. Costello 2017 assumes the method of pure definition and furnishes an overview of many recent papers that likewise adopt this methodology. The fruitfulness of such definitional approaches in comparison with empirical approaches, such as that in Walton 2007 and Walton 2008 (both cited under Linguistic Analysis versus Theory Construction) is cast into doubt in Walden 2019.

                                                                                            • Costello, Diarmuid. “What’s So New about the ‘New’ Theory of Photography?” Journal of Aesthetic and Art Criticism 75.4 (2017): 439–452.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/jaac.12404Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                                              Contrasting an orthodox definition of photography in terms of objectivity with a new definition in terms of all the stages—some of which are nonobjective—in the photographic process required to render a visible print, Costello surveys reasons for accepting the latter definition along with papers that explore the consequences of doing so.

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                                                                                              • Lopes, Dominic McIver. Four Arts of Photography: An Essay in Philosophy. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1002/9781119053194Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                                                Chapter 2, “How to Do Things with Theory” (pp. 17–35), introduces the methodology of pure definition that, in subsequent chapters, is used to shed light on the use of photography in creating artworks by engendering novel visual experiences of the world, expressing thoughts through deadpan documentation, drawing attention to the formative process of particular photographic images, or exploring the ways in which individual photographs can be artworks without relying on their status as representations.

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                                                                                                • Walden, Scott. “Costello on the New Theory of Photography.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77.3 (2019): 307–311.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/jaac.12649Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

                                                                                                  Arguing that adjusting pure definitions in the face of inconsistencies that emerge between them will not augment our understanding, Walden instead endorses an empirical methodology in our research on photography, one that is continuous with that used to foster our understanding of other influential technologies, such as automobiles or telephones.

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