A pot­ted his­tory of art pho­tog­ra­phy

Practical Photography (UK) - - Introduction -

There are so many pho­tog­ra­phers as­so­ci­ated with the fine art move­ment that it would be im­pos­si­ble to pro­file all of them here. A quick run through some of the most im­por­tant names in the medium’s his­tory should pro­vide a frame­work and step­ping-off point for more in-depth re­search.

One of the ear­li­est pi­o­neers of fine art pho­tog­ra­phy was Ju­lia Mar­garet Cameron (1815-1879), who worked in the lat­ter half of the 19th cen­tury, pro­duc­ing por­traits of the celebri­ties of the time as well as fan­tasy im­ages that took inspiration from Arthurian le­gends and other epic themes.

Al­fred Stieglitz (1864-1946), who was mar­ried to the painter Ge­or­gia O’Keefe prob­a­bly did more than any­one else to get pho­tog­ra­phy recog­nised as an art­form, while Man Ray (1890-1976) was one of the first to blur the bound­aries be­tween art and pho­tog­ra­phy, us­ing the medium’s unique traits in his Sur­re­al­ist and Dadaist im­ages.

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) es­tab­lished land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy as art with his epic black & white im­ages of the Amer­i­can out­doors, while Henri Cartier-Bres­son (1908-2004) made fine art of the mun­dane

with his in­sight­ful street pho­tog­ra­phy. Mov­ing to more con­tem­po­rary times, Diane Ar­bus’ (1923-1971) art fo­cused on im­ages of peo­ple on the fringes of so­ci­ety, while Cindy Sher­man (b.1954) used self-im­age and imag­ined film stills and in the process be­came recog­nised as one of the most im­por­tant artists of the 20th cen­tury. Mean­while, pho­to­graphs by An­dreas Gursky (b.1955) com­mand prices to ri­val any other fine art medium.

Left Ju­lia Mar­garet Cameron’s ‘The Part­ing of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guin­e­vere’ is an early ex­am­ple of art pho­tog­ra­phy.

Above from left Man Ray’s so­larised prints were a part of the Sur­re­al­ist move­ment, Cindy Sher­man cre­ates filmic art and An­dreas Gursky prints sell for mil­lions of dol­lars.

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