How Do You Define “Photography?”

Throughout history, photographers (famous and not so) have described photography in their own words. This article isn’t about that—because that horse has been ridden so many times that the saddle sores have saddle sores. This is a request—an invocation if you will—for you to express how YOU define photography.

You do photography; how do you define it? A QGS (quick Google search) led me to Merriam-Webster where I read that photography is “the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (such as film or an optical sensor).”

We’re in trouble right off the bat. I have no particular feelings about Merriam-Webster one way of the other, but I wonder how legitimate it is to give “art” and “process” the same status. Photography is an art or process? Really? Painting is an art. Canning tomatoes is a process. Acting is an art. Grooming a collie puppy is a process.

(Now I’m sure to get hate mail from tomato-canning puppy groomers.)

How do you define something anyway? I was taught to first place the item in a category and then explain how it differs from everything else in that category. For example, a rabbit is a rodent with long ears and a genetic predisposition for carrots.

But I abandon that methodology as I offer you my definition in less than ten words. You can disagree with it—you should, in fact—because what we’re trying to get to is your definition.

Photography is “the art of discovery plus the science of capture.”

How do YOU define photography?

—Jon Sienkiewicz