The Epistemic Value of Photographs

Catharine Abell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


There is a variety of epistemic roles to which photographs are better suited than nonphotographic pictures. Photographs provide more compelling evidence of the existence of the scenes they depict than non-photographic pictures. They are also better sources of information about features of those scenes that are easily overlooked. This chapter examines several different attempts to explain the distinctive epistemic value of photographs, and argues that none is adequate. It then proposes an alternative explanation of their epistemic value. The chapter argues that photographs play the epistemic roles they do because they are typically rich sources of depictively encoded information about the scenes they depict, and reliable depictive representations of those scenes. It then explains why photographs differ from non-photographic pictures in both respects.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophical Perspectives on Depiction
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191723490
ISBN (Print)9780199585960
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


  • Depiction
  • Epistemic value
  • Information reliability
  • Information richness
  • Photographs


Dive into the research topics of 'The Epistemic Value of Photographs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this