Types of Photographs

Criticizing Photographs

When reading chapter 4, Criticizing Photographs in Types of Photographs by Terry Barrett, I discovered that John Szarkowki divided photography into six different categories. They are descriptive, explanatory, interpreted, ethically evaluative, aesthetically evaluative, and theoretial. Here are examples of each:

DESCRIPTIVE PHOTOGRAPH, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/maps/

Photographs that are meant to be informational — like x rays and surveillance photos. An attempt to accurately record subect matter. Valuable to medical researchers & other scientific professionals.

EXPLAINITORY PHOTOGRAPH, https://www.wallpaperflare.com/

Can help us understand the world more — whether it slows down time to understand how animals move, to see how a bullet works, or to observe eating disorders. Windows photos.

INTERPRETED PHOTOGRAPH, http://www.atgetphotography.com/

Attempts to explain things, not necissarily scientific or logical, more poetic, usually fictional. Can be staged reality. Mirror photos. Needs to be interpreted, ambiguous, photographer’s worldview.

ETHICALLY EVALUATIVE PHOTOGRAPH, https://ginadphoto.wordpress.com

Describe both scientific explanation and personal interpretations focused on ethical judgments, praising or condeming aspects of society. Political and passionate.

AESTHETICALLY EVLAUATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY, https://ginadphoto.wordpress.com

Prioritizes aesthetic excellence over anything. Photographer decideds what is aesthetically worthy. Mirror photos. Fashion photography, portraits, “a way of seeing”.

THEORETICAL PHOTOGRAPHY, http://www.j-p-w.eu/teaching/230/

Photos about photography and theory of art. Visual art critisism. Challenges current assumptions about photography, ever reflective on what photography is and what it will be. Mirror photos.


Through contemplating these categories and thinking about what this means for my own understanding of photography, I’ve come to realize photography has a wide spectrum of what it can be intended to be and used for. I’ve noticed that all of these categories have at least one thing in common; intentionallity. So my conclusion based on this reading is that to have a good photograph, you must be intentional about what you are photographing. And I intend to do just that, be intentional with all of my photographs and “photographs”.


This is my “photograph”. I chose to create this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’ll start with my first learn, intentionality. This assignment was a little confusing for me to figure out exactly how I could make a photograph without any of the materials or abilities to do so. However, I realized that I can communicate my feelings with text and type just like I am here, but make a “photograph” out of it. So I opened up the Notes app on my mac and with dark mode on, could make this question mark out of question marks. I screen shotted that to create my “photograph”, and I intentionally did that to create an interpretive photo to fit within Szarkowki’s categories.


<iframe src=”https://giphy.com/embed/2Db9CLAN3A7WV4W9mW" width=”480" height=”480" frameBorder=”0" class=”giphy-embed” allowFullScreen></iframe><p><a href=”https://giphy.com/gifs/waiting-mellon-waistingtime-2Db9CLAN3A7WV4W9mW">via GIPHY</a></p>



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