Lev Manovich: What is Photography?


Photography is what Artificial Intelligence can't do. Computers can detect the presence of many thousands [of] types of objects in a photograph, predict age, gender, and ethnicity of people, measure their facial expressions, and describe all colors. But this is all irrelevant when you are in the presence of a great photograph. What makes its great remains a mystery. In fact, AI’s ability to describe many different things in a photograph—contrast, composition, textures, faces, etc.—only makes this mystery greater, in my view. But this is how it’s supposed to be, anyway. If we could precisely predict all nuances of our responses to art, it would be no longer needed. And the presence of billions of photographs today shared by hundreds of millions of people daily does not diminish this mystery either, nor does it devalue the power of great photography. It only makes such photographs stand out, and affect us in the way we can't (luckily) understand rationally.

Lev Manovich, Media Theorist and Professor of Computer Science

Photograph by © Cory Rice

What Is Photography? Let's Find Out!

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