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What Makes an ‘Artistic’ Photograph?

We are not just mere photographers, we are also artists. But the thing is:

Some photos we create are *more* artistic than others.

For example, if I make a photograph of my grocery list receipt, I wouldn’t call it ‘art’ — I did it simply to record information. However, if I perhaps positioned the receipt in an intentional way, shot it in high contrast black and white, was mindful of the composition, framing, and light … I would consider it my artwork.

So the question:

What makes a photo ‘artistic’?

Some thoughts:


  • hand light

First thought:

If I am intentionally trying to make a mysterious or ‘artsy’ photograph, it is ‘artistic’.

To me, whether your photos are artistic or not comes down to your personal preference and intentionality. If you are intending to create artwork, it is art.

However on the other hand, I still think there is *some* hierarchy to art. For example, I would rate a Picasso painting far higher as more ‘artistic’ than someone who just shot a quick iPhone snapshot (#nofilter) of a roll of tissue paper (with horrible exposure). So then comes the question:

Who is to judge the *hierarchy* of art?

In other words:

Who is to say what art works have more merit or value than others?

And in photography:

Who is to say one person’s photographic oeuvre (portfolio) is higher than another?

What I try to focus on

Anyways without getting too philosophical, let us focus on the practical:

  1. Affirm to yourself that you’re both a photographer *and* artist. Visual artist; perhaps a more specific synthesis of both concepts.
  2. Once you’ve affirmed yourself as an artist, then you focus on making as artistic photographs as you can … focusing on this, and increasing your intentionality when it comes to composing scenes, how you exposure-compensate your photographs, and what you decide to photograph or what you decide not to photograph.

The Art of Art

NONFUTURE film by Cindy Nguyen


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