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Thread: What is fine art photography?

  1. #1
    Leonard Metcalf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Sydney, Australia

    What is fine art photography?

    A fellow photographer asked me this a few weeks ago - would like to know what this group thinks / believes / wants it to be.

    It probably sparks up the question what is art? What is fine art?

    What is an artist?

    Leonard Murray Metcalf BA Dip Ed MEd

    Len's gallery
    Lens School

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

    What is fine art photography?

    If the naked lady is in focus it is porn and if she is out of focus it is fine art. Just kidding. I think fine art photography was made up by photographers who got tired of being thought of as not as good as painters. Art photography is anything that you would frame and put on a wall. Whether it is fine or not is up to the viewer.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    What is fine art photography?

    The late Todd Walker, one of the finest photographers (and gentlemen) I have ever had the honor to know, used to define "sensitive and poetic" as photography which is "out of focus with funny color".

    He further defined "calendar photography" as "having everything in focus with lots of red in the picture".

    I recommend his website to you:

  4. #4

    What is fine art photography?

    Edward (Halifax, NS) made a quite succinct point. To add mine; There is no art in photography. Some try very hard to sell their ware as art, but art it is aint.

    Browsing through the photographs of many famous practitioners one has to realize that most only managed to produce up to a dozen noteworthy photographs in their lifetime Angel Adams included. The rest of the pile is mostly just thata pile of negatives/transparencies.

    Now, some of the efforts might skirt the realms of Art, although it is extremely rare.

  5. #5

    What is fine art photography?

    "It probably sparks up the question what is art? What is fine art?

    What is an artist?"

    With the same question in mind, what makes a painting art? It certainly isn't the fact that paint and a brush were used. There are much more paint and brushes sold each year to paint the side of houses than to paint a painting. It isn't the fact alone that the paint is applied with skill and technique. A house painter must be skilled and use a certain technique or the house will not look good after they finish painting it. And it isn't that one takes pride in their work and the other doesn't. Many house painters are very proud of their work. So what seperates a artist/painter and someone who paints the sides of houses for a living? After thinking about it, all I came come up with are:

    (1) The painters perception of what they do, including why they paint (2) The intended end result of the painting process (3) The publics perception of what they do (4) The subject matter (to a small extent)

    Apply that to photography and ask what is the difference between the person who takes vacation snapshots at DisneyWorld and someone like Edward Weston, Paul Strand, John Sexton or any number of photographers, both in the past and the present.

  6. #6
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    What is fine art photography?

    Fine art is the result of successful marketing, as it exists only in the mind of the buyer of the work. ;-)

    An alternative definition is that art is what hangs on the walls of common people, fine art on the walls of the rich. ;-)

    While a gross over-simplification, I think there is an element of truth to the idea that those who can, do; those who can't, teach. Those who can neither do nor teach, become critics.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    What is fine art photography?

    CS's reply is one extreme, with no justification for his 'arguments', unless you grant that "art is in the eye of the beholder', and CS's eye is super-exclusive. I agree with the poster who holds that "fine art" is an attempt by some photographers to add cache to their work, that somehow calling it fine art elevates it. It helps if the photo is of an abandoned building, peeling wall, and devoid of people (unless they're naked ---excuse me, nude---women.) Maybe you can charge more for your pix if somehwere it is described as 'fine art'??? I like Weston's reply to someone who was trying to get him to accept "fine art photographer" as a label, that "Edward Weston, Photographer" was good enough for him. His work spoke for itself, and he belittled artist's statements as a lot of mumbo-jumbo. But I think there is agreement that what he produced was art, and that calling one's own work "fine art" is presumptious, whether a photo is "art" is a determination made by others, perhaps after some passage of time. One dictionary says

    Fine art is a term used to refer to fields traditionally considered to be artistic. It is also used to describe "high-quality" works from these fields.

    "Fine art" differs from "useful art" (craft) in that it is purely aesthetic, whereas crafts are made to serve a practical purpose. Example: a sculpture of a teapot that does not actually work is fine art, whereas one that does work is craft.

    The Fine Arts: Music Theater and Opera Drawing and Painting Sculpture Textiles Printmaking and Photography Motion pictures and Film

    Here's a URL for a photographer who labels his work "fine art" and describes just what he means by that apellation:

    The question of whether photography is art has been argued for decades. In my opinion, photos made by artists in other media, esp painters and sculptors, are different than photos made by strictly photographers, and more "artistic", more likely to be manipulated, rather than 'straight' (E. Weston's term). I refer especially to photos in the book on alternative methods by Christopher James, photos by students in art classes tend to be much more creative than the "rocks and rivers" straight photos of the Ansel devotees.

    In my opinion, "Fine Art Photography" is a marketing ploy, hurts no one, and may get you more $$ for your pictures, if you can convince the gallery-goers that your snap of the Mesa Arch is really fine art, better than the snaps of the other 15 photographers who stood there with you in the chilly dawn, jostling for position. If Fine Art Photographer is pejorative in the positive, labelling someone a "hobby photgrapher" is pejorative in the negative. Not to mention calling someone's life work "just a pile of negatives"....

  8. #8

    What is fine art photography?

    i think that the bottom line is "you decide".

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Dec 2000
    Tonopah, Nevada, USA

    What is fine art photography?

    Fine art is defined by the people with the $. There's no other definition. Any other guideline can be immediately challenged. Pictures made in the '50s for the most generic of news stories can be fine art now if the $ people decide "that" photographers things are valuable. And the guy down the street who is worlds more interesting and technically superb, he'll die and his stuff will wind up in a land fill. Even the movers and shakers in the world of people who would pay $ for this stuff would tell you that collectable pictures have a life of their own. It's like a higher someone makes a decree that so and so's pictures are now art, and people climb on board. In the meantime and probably for all time I'll continue to give my pics away to folks who will enjoy them and support my un-ending bad habit with Ebay.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  10. #10

    What is fine art photography?

    No question that it's entirely up to the individual to decide. But statements of Mr. GS' sort (an obvious master of BS that so often hit the streets of on-line forums) really piss me off. Strong convictions have no weight to them if one can't even sign his name under it. His comments are pure insult to many great photographers (past and present, famous and completely unknown). I'm not sure when this arguing over "art it ain't" will stop, but to demean every single achievement in this great (and equal) form of art in one ignorant statement?

    What's art to one it may not be to another. One time I saw "art" in a well known gallery. It was a sculpture, it was also a crankshaft from a larger engine displayed vertically, there was also nothing done to it but some cleaning. Be my guest an enjoy "art" as some perceive it. There is NO medium that could not reach the status of art.

    Here is a definition of art as I see it:

    "high quality of conception or execution, aesthetic value"

    You be the judge whether a photograph is capable of that.
    simplest solutions are usually the most difficult ...

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