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Photography is a an activity which can be learned and practiced by people with ease. Even without too/much of skills of photography and use of creativity people can take good photographs for their own satisfaction and that of their near and dear ones.
These skills of photography may also be used by people to impress others and to boost their own ego. But that does not make photography just a social rite or a tool of power. The art and practice of photography can be practiced with great skill and innovation, and putting in a great deal of efforts to find and access the subjects of photography. This makes photography also a very valuable form of art.
I do not have much to say in terms of my own experiences of talking pictures, which is primarily limited to taking photographs for fun and enjoyment of myself and my near and dear ones.
I would say that photography is definitely a form of art. Even in today's digital world the photographer must compose the picture in a way that it is pleasing to view. I think if you look at the work of some of the great photographers you would have to agree that it is an art form.
Photography clearly can be an art. Casual picture-taking is not generally particularly artful, it's true. However, seeing the world through a lens is always an opportunity for art to happen--in books, movies, or photography. What to "shoot," what not to "shoot"; what to leave in, what to edit out; what light or angle to use; how fast or slow to close the aperture for the desired effect; these are all similar forms of artfulness and composition to those "real" artists use. Done intentionally and with some passion, photography is clearly an art form.
Speaking as someone who's done it for almost a decade, I have to say that I always thought it was art, even before I picked up my first camera. I teach a creative photography class that I call "painting with light" because that is essentially what photography is: using light, whether its manipulating existing light or creating light to capture a scene, convey a concept, evoke a thought or emotion.
I've properly taken an intro to photography class in my final year of high school and it is probably the best thing I have done. Depending on who you ask about what function photography has, my best bet is, you'll get a variety of answers. Personally speaking, over the time of the course, photography became a form of art, a means of remembrance, and a way of documenting.
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