Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Makes "Fine Art" Photography

Photographers have struggled with the question of why some photos seem to be accepted within the fine art world, and so many others are not. The world of fine art has, until recently, managed to lock the door to photographers, but that is changing. Today's photographers are simply producing images that not only unlock that door, but have exploded the door off its' hinges.
Galleries and collectors alike are now welcoming the photographic genre into the club of fine art.
So, why is the door remaining closed to so many photographers? Why are so many photographers frustrated by the rejection they feel from the art community? Is the world of art still closed to the medium of photography, or could it be that it is just more demanding of excellence? I would argue the latter. Like painters and sculptors, not all photographers warrant admission to the club. Sadly, the world of photography is now overrun with folks who have the resources to purchase the very best of photographic equipment, but lack any of the skills to create meaningful photo images. Far to many, some who have been very successful in other endeavors, seem to think they can now move into photography and make their mark on the art world. While it may have taken these folks years to achieve a level of success in the business world, these same folks seem to feel they can shoot some photos, exhibit them at local art shows, and then magically be recognized as "fine art photographers." This line of thinking continues to amaze me. After over 30 years in the business, I still use everyday of shooting as a way of growing.
Photography is so much more than taking a picture. My studies have not been concentrated on photographic technique. That is something that is easily learned, and requires little thought. Instead, my focus has always been on what makes an image special. What makes a strong composition? What role should light play in this singular image? Can a different angle make for a better image, or can a lens choice change the way one sees the image? Can my eye see the image in multiple ways? Can I see the image before me in print? Would I want this image on my wall? All questions that must be answered before the shutter is clicked, but ignored by so many new to the photo world.
Fine Art Photography.........I think it is earned.......not learned. I believe it is limited to those who were born with a gift, and who have chosen to develop that gift, and I believe that those of us who have the joy of earning our living as professional photographers are the luckiest people on the planet.

1 comment:

  1. I think there's even more to what makes for fine art photography than what you've mentioned, including

    1) does the photographer know how to translate what the camera captured into the image they saw in their mind when they clicked the shutter?

    2) can the photographer make a consistently good print of the image that reflects their vision?

    Because even if someone captures a fantastic image with their camera - if it's poorly processed or printed - it's not a fine art photograph