Photographs tend towards three "aesthetic intentions" - Realism, Formalism, or Expressionism.
These should not be confused with art movements of the same name.
- Through the photograph as if through a window
- Primarily the scene and not the means employed or effect produced
- Representing and approximating to reality
- Scene has priority and is objective
- Record not interpretation
- Particular photographer does not matter
- At the photograph as if it is the object of interest in itself
- Primarily the means employed not the effects produced or the scene
- Arranges reality within the frame and qualities of the photograph
- Photographic medium has priority and contains otherwise objective scene
- Three dimensional scene placed on two dimensional surface
- Photograph must have a form and geometric pattern
- Form presents familiar in a new way
- Photographs about photography are form based
- Photography has a character of its own
- Behind the photograph as if its psychological motivation
- Primarily the effects produced, not the means employed or the scene
- Subjective viewpoint of the photographer
- For social change
- Feelings and emotions
- Social, historical and cultural situation
- Blurring of high and low art
The question is whether Realism is ever possible. Does not the photograph always alter perception? Is it not always framed? Surely the photographer is faced with choices and a viewpoint makes decisions that interpet the scene. On the other hand Form must take into account the realities of the scene - objects cannot be replaced as the painter might. The medium also is restrictive. Expressionism in painting (meant in this photographic sense) is also limited by the form and by the fact that a photograph is taken. Therefore all photographs are tendencies towards one or two of these and all photographs should contain elements of all three to some extent or other.
Reference: Wright, T. (1999), The Photography Handbook, Media Practice handbooks series, Routledge, 36-50.