What in your view, makes photographs unique as an art form?
I think part of what makes photography unique is it’s capturing of the moment, or a moment. You can use cameras to capture and keep moments, the moment gets extended onto a physical or digital format in a printed or shared photo. Photography has the unique quality of evoking nostalgia, looking at old family photographs, even the act of trying to capture a moment feels nostalgic. Nostalgia isn’t purely unique to photography, but I think its effect is felt most strongly through photographs.
I think another factor that makes photography unique is the ability to capture things which the natural eye cannot see. For instance, if you extend the exposure time and take a photo of someone waving a sparkler you capture the movement of light or traces of it which without the photograph are invisible to the human eye. For the purpose of explaining my thought here’s an photograph which does just that:
Perhaps the most unique thing about photographs is their ability to exist in several places, a photograph can exist on film (a negative), as an actual physical printed photo, or as a digital image on a device. It can also be altered at several points in its creation, you can develop the film in different ways for different effects, you can digitally alter elements using software and you can print off images from the internet.
Does a photograph have to exist in hard copy? I guess my feelings about this depend on the use or context. I think we struggle to see an digital image or photograph as art, but once its an object in a gallery or that we can see up close we start to view it differently. I think the impact of the photo is somehow more fully realised once it’s printed as an object in its own right. But that’s not to say there’s no purpose to digital photographs.
My final thought is about the perspective a photograph gives, if directed well a camera and the subsequent photograph captured can give a window into someone’s unique view on life. Unlike a painting, a photograph can capture what a person’s eye takes interest in quite literally, although not completely.