Sharpness Is A Bourgeois Concept: A Critical Look At The Role Of Sharpness In Photography

The Origin of the Concept of Sharpness

Sharpness is a term that has been used in photography for a long time. It is often used to describe the clarity and detail of an image. The concept of sharpness can be traced back to the early days of photography when photographers were trying to capture images that were as clear and precise as possible. They believed that the sharper the image, the better it was.

The Role of Sharpness in Photography

Today, the concept of sharpness continues to play a significant role in photography. Many photographers still believe that a sharp image is a good image. They use various techniques and tools to achieve sharpness in their images. Some of these techniques include using a tripod, selecting the right aperture, and focusing carefully.

Critique of the Concept of Sharpness

However, some photographers and critics believe that the concept of sharpness is overrated. They argue that it is a bourgeois concept that is based on the idea of perfection. They believe that photography should be more about capturing the essence of a moment or a subject rather than trying to achieve the perfect image.

The Limitations of Sharpness

Despite the emphasis on sharpness in photography, there are limitations to what sharpness can achieve. For example, even the sharpest image may not capture the full depth and complexity of a subject. Sharpness may also fail to capture the emotions and feelings that are associated with a particular moment.

The Importance of Softness and Blur

Some photographers argue that softness and blur are just as important as sharpness in photography. They believe that these elements can help to convey a sense of movement, mood, and atmosphere. Softness and blur can also add a dreamlike quality to an image, which can be particularly effective in certain genres of photography.

The Role of Subjectivity in Photography

Another critique of the concept of sharpness is that it overlooks the subjective nature of photography. Photography is an art form, and like all art forms, it is subjective. What one person considers to be a sharp image, another person may consider to be too soft or too blurry. The concept of sharpness can limit the creative potential of a photographer by imposing a strict standard of what is considered to be a good image.

Alternative Approaches to Photography

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in alternative approaches to photography that challenge the traditional emphasis on sharpness. These approaches include techniques such as intentional camera movement, multiple exposures, and abstract photography. These techniques prioritize creativity and experimentation over the pursuit of the perfect image.


In conclusion, the concept of sharpness is a contentious issue in the world of photography. While some photographers and critics believe that sharpness is essential, others argue that it is a bourgeois concept that limits the creative potential of the medium. Ultimately, the choice of whether to prioritize sharpness or not is a personal one that depends on the photographer’s artistic vision and the message they want to convey through their images.