Photography as genre

Project 1 revolves around the questions of how we can define photography as distinct from other genres and what is its specificity as a medium, and in this regard quotes opinions from some famous practitioners (Creative Arts Today, page 14)

Berenice Abbott (1898-1991), an American photographer known for her portraits, New York City photographs of architecture and urban design of the 1930s (Wikipedia), believed that ‘photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.’ (from the article ‘It Has to Walk Alone’ in Infinity Magazine, 1951, cited by Creative Arts Today).

Fig. 1. Berenice Abbott, Seventh Avenue looking south from 35th Street in Manhattan (1935)

At:, Public Domain, (Accessed 7/04/2017)

In his book The Nature of Photographs (2010), Stephen Shore says that ‘the photographic image depicts, within certain formal constraints, an aspect of the world’ (Shore, 2010). He also says that, beyond its ‘physical and optical factors’ which give the image its formal character, a photograph’s visual grammar is determined by four attributes: flatness – the flat plan of the photograph, frame – framing a selection from a wider view, time – the fraction of time captured by the image, and focus – where the photographer focuses the camera. I have bought this book and am going to take it into account in my first exercise for Project 1 in the next post.

Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s view is also cited by Creative Arts Today: ‘To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of the event.’

Immagine correlata

Fig. 2. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alberto Giacometti, Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1961

At: (Accessed 7/04/2017)

Other quotations by Cartier-Bresson express in different ways his idea of  the ‘momentness’ of photography:

‘A photograph is a vestige of a face, a face in transit. Photography has something to do with death. It’s a trace.’

‘For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.’

‘Photography is nothing – it’s life that interests me.’

Susan Sonntag (1933-2004), a Jewish-American writer, film-maker, teacher and political activist, wrote extensively also on photography (Wikipedia) and was rather interested in the relationship between photography and reality:

‘Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality and of realism’ (quoted by Creative Arts Today).

So it could be particularly interesting to focus on her ideas later on, on the post on ‘Truth’ in photography.




Shore, S. (2010) The Nature of Photographs: A Primer (2nd edition). London: Phaidon Press

Sontag, S. (2005) On Photography. [pdf edition] From: Internet Archive At: (Accessed 10/04/2017)

Berenice Abbott: (Accessed 7/04/2017)

Stephen Shore: (Accessed 7/04/2017)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: (Accessed 7/04/2017)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: (Accessed 10/04/2017)

Henri Cartier-Bresson: (Accessed 10/04/2017)

Susan Sontag:  (Accessed 10/04/2017)



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