Dominic McIver Lopes, The Aesthetics of Photographic Transparency, Mind 112 (2003) 335-48. Reprinted in Philosophy of Film: An Anthology, ed. Noël Carroll and Jinhee Choi (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) and also in reprinted in Arguing about Art, 3rd ed. (London: Routledge, 2007)
When we look at photographs we literally see the objects that they are of. But seeing photographs as photographs engages aesthetic interests that are not engaged by seeing the objects that they are of. These claims appear incompatible. Sceptics about photography as an art form have endorsed the first claim in order to show that there is no photographic aesthetic. Proponents of photography as an art form have insisted that seeing things in photographs is quite unlike seeing things face-to-face. This paper argues that the claims are compatible. While seeing things in photographs is quite unlike seeing things face-to-face, nevertheless seeing things in photographs is one way of seeing things. The differences between seeing things by means of photographs and by means of the naked eye provide the elements of an account of the aesthetic interests photographs engage.