The Distinction between Photography and Painting
Photography and paintings can bring various kinds of strengths and weaknesses. Typically in photography, it is commonly considered as a realistic expression. As Andre Bazin claims, photographs are the unique way to be extraordinarily or realistic. It can realistically show the objects beyond the reach of paintings, drawings, and even other handmade pictures.
Consider how the judge in court uses the pictures. Photographs of a crime are more likely as evidence in court for judges than paintings or drawings. Without a doubt, photographs are more useful than a sketch of Person X intentionally doing something to Person Y. However, a full-color oil painting or a painting can look 90% realistic of the crime sense, but it unfortunately cannot be the same as photographs.
So, why this happens?
Andre Bazin’s Epistemological Realism explanation
According to Andre Bazin, photography has a special nature that separates itself from paintings or drawings. He believes that photography is one kind of comparison of the cinema to mirrors. It has the similar function as mirrors because it aids to vision, which allows us to see things in the way that we are otherwise unable to see. In other words, photography can be mirror-like reflection of reality. As the photographs can only depict real things, they have only few possibilities to misrepresent them. Consequently, the photographers have the epistemological function of informing us about the visual appearance of photographed things.
Such epistemological realist’s view agrees that photographs have an intimate relation with reality. It defines the relation as an adequate reflection. It can arguably say that epistemological realism depends on ontological realism. We believe that the photograph is reliable not because it has some visible feature, but it is because the casual origin of its visible features. The features, accordingly, relate to intimation.
Consider the following situation: My friend Angel, Hong Kong Portrait Photographer, takes a picture of a person, and this person’s friend also paints a portrait of him. Although the portrait painting is highly detailed picture, it still cannot be considered as a portrait photograph. In other words, it can be only an extremely realistic looking painting, as we can perceive the same person from both of the photograph and the painting.
According to epistemological realism, it is because our knowledge that features the portrait painting lacks the intimate relation with reality. That leads to the difference our experience of seeing the portrait photographs and portrait painting. Since the contents are different, the paintings are produced by intentional subject who can choose to portray reality and fictional characters. Photographs can represent reality.
Close Up: Capture vs Follow the Actual Objects
In short, epistemological realism holds the explanation to distinct the difference between photograph and painting. Clearly, a photograph is always an image of something which actually exists. The photograph can capture the actual things, such as actors, objects, or even the background setting. Paintings cannot have exact same function. It is because we get the photographs’ intimate relation with reality, whereas the paintings do not have. Without such intimate relation with reality, the painters can only closely follow the objects but they cannot exactly capture everything from the objects in the paintings, which makes the paintings less realistic than the photographs.