If a medium is representational by nature of the realistic image formed by a lens, I see no reason why we should stand on our heads to distort that function. On the contrary, we should take hold of that very quality, make use of it, and explore it to the fullest. - Berenice Abbott
Now consider this:
Writing as a picture maker who has been, for the most part, a committed practioner of straight picture making, I whole heartedly endorse the preceding quote. However, inasmuch as I have recently strayed from the straight (and narrow) I have had a few thoughts, re: straight picture making. FYI, rest assured that my commitment to straight picture making is as secure as ever. However ...
... the thought has occurred to me that one of the photo medium's problems in being considered as an art form is, in fact, the very idea that a photo is just a realistic image of real-world referents and nothing more. While the statement, That's a beautiful picture, is often heard, that statement is directed, more often than not, at the depicted referent as opposed to the picture as a thing in and of itself.
While a similar statement-change "picture" to "painting"-could be made, a painting, however, is almost always considered by a viewer thereof to be art (good, bad, or indifferent). Whereas a photo is most always considered to be just a picture of something. And, as we all know, anyone can take a photo but it takes a "real artist" to make a painting.
Since the beginning of time, picture making wise, many picture makers (Photo Division) have been devoted to making "art" by veering away from the straight (and narrow) and lathering up photos with a lot of art sauce, re: visual effects - especially effects which are part and parcel of the painting genre. The new world of digital picture making has only added to that proclivity. In most applications, the effects are intented to negate the relationship of the picture to realistic representation.
Other picture makers have come to the conclusion that they can make "art" by picturing only "spectacular" referents. And in doing so, they typically add as much art sauce as possible by making those pictures in the most dramtic manner possible ... warm directional light, wide angle / telephoto lenses, ND filters to make dramatic skies, and other dramatic picture making techniques.
All of that written, now consider this:
The coffee cup / reflected light picture in this entry. If it were a painting, most viewers would consider it to be art. Afterall, it is a painting, made by an artist. As a photo, most viewers would consider it to be a picture of a coffee cup and inquire, Why did you take a picture of that?
FYI, the above commentary should not be understood to be a complaint nor a rant. It is just an observation in the cause of creating some food for thought.