The most recent major acquition by the SFMMA was exactly that - a huge private collection of interesting amateur prints - people nobody has ever heard of - yet visually
interesting in their own right. I've done the same kind of collecting, though on a far more
modest scale - not for the signature, but just for the sheer look of some old cyanotype
or albumen, or box brownie shot, even in cases where the discoloration looked interesting
because they failed to fix it properly! So maybe someone down the line will make a habit
or raking thru the piles of discarded amateur inkjet prints etc down at the city dump, just
to come up with an intriguing prize from time to time, just like beachcombing.
Well, as the OP of this thread, let me get back to the original question:
Look folks, "fine art" is really besides the point. Lets call it "artistic photography". How's that? We do all agree that artistic photography -- photography primarily intended as an art form and not for example wedding photography or other more utilitarian photography -- exists, right? My question wasn't even about photography per se but about art in general. Does art IN GENERAL really matter in our society any more. Is there anything more to it, substantively, than decoration or indulgence of personal interest or celebrity/hype. Is there anything as "meaningful" art left. If everything is subjective, and a can of soup or random paint splashes are art, then what's "not art"? The Expressionist changed the world of art and challenged the conventionla, academic art of the time. They had something to challenge. We don't have anything to challenge anymore because everything is judged subjectively and anything can be called art. Can anyone point to a modern equivalent of say, Expressionism? I don't think so. Instead, art has become more about hype, celebrity and flash. It has become passe and is considered embarassing to ask, "But what does it mean?" Meaning has become meaningless.
Hell, thanks to technology, you can't even expect modern artists to have any sort of specially honed skill, other than typing on a computer and using softwar, so you can't even say that a certain artist is great because of technical mastery over the medium, nevermind having substance. Some of the best known artists nowdays had no technical skill at all, and certainly no training either (Basquait)
In short, substance is irrelevant because everything can be art; technique is irrelevant because computers do the work and no one cares about technique anyway. So what's left of art? Just an indulgence and affectation?
True artists must have artistic vision - a unique and creative expression of thoughts, ideas, concepts, feelings. Whether the manifestation of that vision is created by hand by the artist, or by someone or something else, is secondary as long as the manifestation accurately represents the vision of the artist.
Years ago when I first set up my website, for marketing purpose stuck that term liberally about html I wrote up in my web pages but have since excised all of it. There was a time when it had some value trying to differentiate prints produced by expensively produced color printing processes like early Cibachrome, dye transfer, Evercolor, or Lightjet from others but those days have long gone. I don't do black and white personally but would tend to categorize well framed work by many of those here as creative fine art.
I also don't tend to see the current age of color landscape photography as much of a creative art process at least in the traditional sense but rather more about being able to perceive aesthetics and locate subjects. In other words a whole lot of other pro photographers could capture reasonably quality images versus my own body of work if they were at the same locations at the same time. The huge advantage in my works as an old experienced outdoor photographer is simply knowing where and when versus a creative skill process. Additionally many others are simply skilled at creatively manipulating image aesthetics in Photoshop. And notably often from otherwise mediocre original natural scenes.
Hopefully many here are skilled at creating creative manipulated prints on the Darkroom.Additionally many others are simply skilled at creatively manipulating image aesthetics in Photoshop.
When I scan my negatives I really try to restrict the manipulation to what my skills are with an enlarger and chemicals. But that is merely a practical restriction, not some esoteric principled one.
I really have no intention of creating straight prints. Any pimply lab tech or lab machine can do that. And I have no interest in that ordeal.
A negative is only a malleable intermediary step toward the actual photographic print, that I hope to make creatively. And rarely does the straight negative represent exactly what the print will look like. A straight print has value in something such as journalism or forensics, but not art.
I would hope so.And notably often from otherwise mediocre original natural scenes scenes