What do we mean by fine art photography?
PHOTOGRAPHY’S relationship with the world of fine art has been long, complex and often divisive. Once the medium established itself as a practical application for capturing images of the world, many commentators declared that art was now ‘dead’. Where was the need, it was argued, for an artist to spend days, weeks and months painting a portrait that at best would be an approximate interpretation of the subject when a photographer could make a perfect, life-like image in a matter of moments?
The struggle for recognition
But far from killing off fine art, photography’s great gift to the art world was freedom. Now that art and artists were no longer constrained by having to represent the ‘real’, they could indulge in the many flights of fancy that led to the explosion in modern art at the end of the 19th century. But while photography was helping to shape the future of fine art, it was simultaneously failing to make any inroads into the art world itself.
Taking its place
Photography was lauded for its ability to create quick and accurate images of almost any subject, but the view of the art establishment was that it was really little more than a scientific process – no more artistic than a steam engine.
Photographers can be a belligerent bunch, as we detail below, so once they got a into a stride, some of them were able to force their way into galleries and establish a firm position among the art cognoscenti.
Defining the term
With the advent of digital photography, more people than ever are calling themselves photographers, and many of them are defining their work as fine art photography. But there’s much more to producing fine art than simply doing something crazy to an image in Photoshop.
It’s certainly true to say that there’s not one single clear definition of fine art photography, but there are some elements that separate the medium from other forms of photography.
For a start there should be some sort of vision behind the work. Taking one picture, doing an interesting edit on it and then printing it out to display doesn’t make it art (but there’s nothing wrong with that either!). There needs to be an idea, a message or an emotion involved in its creation. The artist should aim to convey something through their work – it could be a big idea or a small one – like having a hypothesis.
When considering a fine art undertaking decide what you feel passionate about, the message you want to send and what statement you would make about you work.
Creating a cohesive body of work, perhaps on a theme, which could be visual or intellectual, will raise your images beyond a portfolio and into the realm of a true artistic statement.
FAR FROM KILLING OFF FINE ART, PHOTOGRAPHY’S GREAT GIFT TO THE ART WORLD WAS FREEDOM...