Is it art? Documentary photography at the New York Photo Festival

the literate lens

The question of whether photography can be art was settled a long time ago. Most major museums now have thriving photography departments, and photographs fetch pretty hefty prices at auction. But the question of whether social documentary photography can be art has proven to be a bit more vexing. When a photograph is initially made as a piece of advocacy or reportage, what does it mean when it’s transferred to the rarified air of the art gallery?

This was one of the nuts that the New York Photo Festival set out to crack last week in Brooklyn, and it felt very timely. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the recession has made people a bit more socially conscious and willing to grapple with tough issues. This has opened up an atmosphere where audiences are more receptive to hard-hitting documentary photographs in art contexts, and therefore galleries are more…

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