Luminous Landscape Forum

The Art of Photography => But is it Art? => Topic started by: ChrisS on May 21, 2008, 06:07:17 PM

Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on May 21, 2008, 06:07:17 PM
The question I want to ask is: what is 'fine art photography', as the term is used on this site?

Fine art as it's used in relation to photography in these pages often (by no means always) seems to be used to describe materials (Fine Art Paper, for example); to describe what photographs aren't (documentation and journalism, for example); to describe an intent to 'express' or visualize feelings, emotions and so on; and to explore and reproduce the 'beautiful'.

To my understanding, fine art is a term that applies to an incredible variety of things, and defining it is certainly beyond me. But it's clear that the term 'fine art' DOES (more usually) include photographs done on 'non-Fine Art Paper,' it can include documentary photography, it need not express or visualize feelings and so on, and it certainly need not explore or reproduce the beautiful. In fact, such notions are often quite the antithesis of contemporary fine art.

So: if I'm right in suggesting that none of the criteria for 'fine art photography' often forwarded in these pages necessarily (or even remotely) justifies use of the term 'fine art', how might we extend the criteria and thus agree on an answer to the question: what is fine art photography?

Or: is it just better not to make the claim at all, and accept that the category 'fine art' is entirely context-specific, so the same photo can have a different status depending on where it appears - a fridge, a newspaper or a gallery?

Think I'll stop there...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on May 21, 2008, 07:51:27 PM
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The question I want to ask is: what is 'fine art photography', as the term is used on this site? [{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a] (http://index.php?act=findpost&pid=197127\")

Hi Chris

I investigated this term myself for an article I wrote for a magazine:

[a href=\"http://www.nickrains.com/article11.html]http://www.nickrains.com/article11.html[/url]

"The term 'fine' does not in any way reflect the quality of the work, which is of course highly subjective. It comes from Aristotle's concept of Final Cause i.e. the purpose or end point of the work. In Latin, Fine means 'end' (In fine – at the end), and so in Fine Art the work is an end in itself, its very existence is its purpose."

It's an interesting concept, and one like the 'limited edition' concept that has been hijacked from its original meaning in the interests of sales and marketing.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on May 22, 2008, 05:19:07 AM
Right, Nick - I guess we can learn a lot from the history of the term. 'Fine' as an end in itself certainly works in relation to some forms of contemporary fine art, too.

But it's also clear that much of fine art is by no means an end in itself - a lot of important art today seeks to change the way we see things, and to change things. No doubt such forms of photography as journalism, documentation, and advertising can work to do this. But do you think fine art photography should not have ends beyond itself? It seems to me it can, and sometimes should.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on May 22, 2008, 08:53:56 PM
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But do you think fine art photography should not have ends beyond itself? It seems to me it can, and sometimes should.
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Why not?

"Fine Art" is really now used as a sales tool - it means "I want to be considered  a serious artist". Of course merely claiming this is not enough - just look at the vast array of flaky websites selling (or not) 'Fine Art' photos. I personally make no claims to produce "Fine Art", like "Giclee", I'm not comfortable with such a contrived phrase.

In my jaded opinion many people using the term so stridently are aspirational photographers - those that have achieved full art status don't really need to. Having said that, there are those who do use the phrase ligitimately. Alain Briot has lots to say on this subject and he uses the term on his website.

Should Fine Art Photography have ends beyond itself? Yes, if it chooses to, no if it doesn't - it's up to the 'artist' to decide this.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on May 22, 2008, 10:18:47 PM
Hi Nick,

Thank you for the kind words :-)  

I agree that the term fine art is overused, but then limited editions are also over used.  Currently I only offer my portfolios in limited editions.  On request, and for certain images, I will date the print.  That seems more genuine to me than placing a number out of a huge edition, such as 25/2000, which is eventually meaningless since there are so many prints, even though each of them has a unique number.  Ansel Adams did not number his prints either, unless I am mistaken.

For me a fine art photograph is one that is done with the goal of creating a work of art. It is an image that is done with a high level of craftmanship and care.  It has to be mounted and matted to museum standards, in an archival manner.  

Above all the cost should take a second seat to the concern for quality.  Fine art is about quality, not about quantity.  It is not about trying to save money by buying lower-priced inks, paper, matboard and other supplies.  It is about creating the finest piece you can create, regardless of cost.  

The goal is an artistic rendering of a subject in the finest manner possible.  

Regardless of price and cost, a fine art print should sing. It should have a lyrical quality.  It should transport you to a different place.  It should open a window on another world, the world the artist is inviting the audience into.

it should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.

A full definition of fine art photography is challenging.  it's a little like defining what is a luxury home, or a luxury car.  Some brands and features come to mind, but how do you rate a new brand, a new product?  

In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on May 22, 2008, 10:35:54 PM
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Hi Nick,

Thank you for the kind words :-) 

I agree that the term fine art is overused, but then limited editions are also over used.  Currently I only offer my portfolios in limited editions.  On request, and for certain images, I will date the print.  That seems more genuine to me than placing a number out of a huge edition, such as 25/2000, which is eventually meaningless since there are so many prints, even though each of them has a unique number.  Ansel Adams did not number his prints either, unless I am mistaken.

For me a fine art photograph is one that is done with the goal of creating a work of art. It is an image that is done with a high level of craftmanship and care.  It has to be mounted and matted to museum standards, in an archival manner. 

Above all the cost should take a second seat to the concern for quality.  Fine art is about quality, not about quantity.  It is not about trying to save money by buying lower-priced inks, paper, matboard and other supplies.  It is about creating the finest piece you can create, regardless of cost. 

The goal is an artistic rendering of a subject in the finest manner possible. 

Regardless of price and cost, a fine art print should sing. It should have a lyrical quality.  It should transport you to a different place.  It should open a window on another world, the world the artist is inviting the audience into.

it should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.

A full definition of fine art photography is challenging.  it's a little like defining what is a luxury home, or a luxury car.  Some brands and features come to mind, but how do you rate a new brand, a new product? 

In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=197356\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Yep, that pretty much sums up my own thoughts too.

Regarding the "stamping by one's peers"; that's an interesting point - I have a forming suspicion that being hailed as an artist is more progressive than calling oneself an artist. Anyone can proclaim themselves an artist, but to be acclaimed by others is not something that can be acheived easily.It usually involves being young and very very hip in NY, sticking around long enough, or, better still, dead!

Of course it can be argued that this is missing the point of art but it's an interesting concept nevertheless...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on May 22, 2008, 11:15:11 PM
I think being "stamped" by someone else, who has authority to do so, is a good thing.

However, personally  I have no problem with anyone calling themselves artists.  Being an artist is not indicative of a specific level of quality.  It is only indicative of a specific intent.

Whether that intent is realized or not is for the audience to decide.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on May 22, 2008, 11:28:30 PM
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I think being "stamped" by someone else, who has authority to do so, is a good thing.

However, personally  I have no problem with anyone calling themselves artists.  Being an artist is not indicative of a specific level of quality.  It is only indicative of a specific intent.

Whether that intent is realized or not is for the audience to decide.
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Yes, I like that - very succinct.

Very broadly speaking, being an artist seems to be simply about intent to create art. Being considered an artist by others (authorised or not), and whether the claim of art is made or not, is just another path. The two are not mutually exclusive, you can be one, or the other, or both. Both is obviously desirable but not essential

Personally I do not claim to be an artist or to create art - I am a photographer who makes attractive images for people to enjoy. However, I have been called an artist by others, a title which does not sit entirely comfortably with me since my intent was never 'art' in the first place. But I politely thank them anyway for their appreciation of my images!
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on May 23, 2008, 08:51:57 AM
I think I agree with the idea that anyone can call themselves an artist - it's then up to others to decide if their art is at all important, and thus if they are an important artist. I also think that fine art photos would normally be made with the intention of making a fine art work. But I'm still less than clear what constitutes such an art work. Alain raises other criteria that I'm not sure about/ don't agree with:

You write of 'a high level of craftmanship and care' as an important characteristic of a fine art photograph. In the broader world of fine art, craftsmanship and care in the making of the work may be important, or it may not. Since the early 1900s, much important art - much of it the stuff that fills our art history books - jettisoned the need for craftsmanship, and much contemporary fine art does the same. Indeed, the leading fine art journals often include works that are very much 'throwaway', snapshot images that, because of the concepts that underlie them, are important fine art. This contradicts the assertion that fine art photography 'should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.' I'm not saying it shouldn't, just that it needn't.

You're right that cost is not an issue in the production of a fine art work, but there seems to be an implication that it's going to cost a lot to achieve the 'fine' outcomes you describe. Again, the history of fine art challenges the notion that only the 'finest' (and presumably expensive) materials should be used - use of cheap materials and waste has been common since the first decades of the 20th century in fine art. It could be important to a fine art photograph precisely that it is printed on cheap photocopy paper in a cheap printer.

I think the danger is that 'fine art photography' defined on such terms is akin to fine art painting as it was defined in the academies of the 19th century, from which many important artists seceded precisely because of their opposition to such academicism. Just to be clear - I'm not saying that what you describe cannot constitute an important part of fine art photography - just that it's a very particular position that ought not to exclude the breadth of the concept 'fine art' as it exists in the broader art world.

OR - is there something particular about photography that allows it to insist, when it becomes 'fine art', on precisely the 'skill' and 'quality' that Alain describes, and thus allows it to resist the traditions that I've mentioned?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: jecxz on May 23, 2008, 09:20:10 AM
I will contribute that this book may help this discussion:

http://www.lenswork.com/lgc.htm (http://www.lenswork.com/lgc.htm)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on May 23, 2008, 11:04:38 AM
Just had a quick read of the first two chapters - great stuff! Does it carry on in that vein?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: jecxz on May 23, 2008, 01:35:46 PM
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Just had a quick read of the first two chapters - great stuff! Does it carry on in that vein?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=197487\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
If you are referring to my post, yes, it does, and it gets better and at this point in my artistic career I feel this book is like a bible to me. His other to books are not the same, unfortunately. I read this one continually. Be well.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 11, 2008, 12:40:10 PM
If there is  a special case for photography to resist the traditions I mentioned when we define the term 'fine art photography', it hasn't been established in this thread.

So:

I would say that photography as it exists in the world of fine art is free to be as diverse in its form and content as any other form of fine art;

and it seems that 'fine art photography' as it's often applied on this site (see my earlier posts in this thread for what I think this consists of) may describe a combination of 'fine art' / expensive papers, a high standard of technical skill, a quite romantic understanding of how art can operate, and a claim to 'quality' that separates it from advertising/ documentary photography, but which none the less underpins the monetary value of the works described as 'fine art photography'.

The second form of photography has its importance, but I'm not convinced it's fine art at all, except in that it might form a very small (and probably critically unimportant) sub-category of the first form of photography.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 11, 2008, 01:54:59 PM
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If you are referring to my post, yes, it does, and it gets better and at this point in my artistic career I feel this book is like a bible to me. His other to books are not the same, unfortunately. I read this one continually. Be well.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=197546\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Youīre allowing yourself to slip onto very dangerous ground, jecxz, because taking anotherīs say-so as any form of personal bible is not safe practice; it isnīt even particularly productive to you, the reader/follower either, because it can cloud the view from your own mindīs eye.

Look, let me try to explain this a bit: I have always liked H-CB, Jean Loup Sieff, Frank Horvat, Sarah Moon, Hans Feurer (very much), Sam Haskins, David Hamilton to finger but a few. Yet, none has, to my knowledge, ever dictated a path, promised a golden future or peddled a dream I might buy. What all of these people have done for me, however, has been to serve as examples that there is indeed something great out there that somebody with camera, models and talent can achieve. I did not adopt their styles for myself though every one of them has touched my own thinking at one level or another and that, I think, is as far as one should allow influence to go. Quite apart from the obvious fact that to mimic well requires almost the same talent!

Added to that, I have a sneaky suspicion that the moment one of those people was to try to mimic his/her own style, it would all go ass over elbow. It comes naturally or not at all; being self-conscious would probably be the kiss of death!

I found Feurerīs new agent just by chance the other day, and for once, it was possible to read something about the man to which he had contributed himself. Turns out he was originally an art director in London in the early 60s then, later, after spending a couple of years using up all his money fishing in Africa, he returned to London and decided to be a fashion photographer. Just like that, as Tommy Cooper used to say. (So, I wonder what the atmosphere was like in the Seychelles when he as photographer and Derek Forsyth as art director were making the ī74 Pirelli Calendar in Mahé!)

However that might have been, it sure does add muscle to my theory about the Golden Age of photography (commercial) having been and gone.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 11, 2008, 02:40:43 PM
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If there is  a special case for photography to resist the traditions I mentioned when we define the term 'fine art photography', it hasn't been established in this thread.

So:

I would say that photography as it exists in the world of fine art is free to be as diverse in its form and content as any other form of fine art;

and it seems that 'fine art photography' as it's often applied on this site (see my earlier posts in this thread for what I think this consists of) may describe a combination of 'fine art' / expensive papers, a high standard of technical skill, a quite romantic understanding of how art can operate, and a claim to 'quality' that separates it from advertising/ documentary photography, but which none the less underpins the monetary value of the works described as 'fine art photography'.

The second form of photography has its importance, but I'm not convinced it's fine art at all, except in that it might form a very small (and probably critically unimportant) sub-category of the first form of photography.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=200932\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Chris

Yes, you are right, no new definition has arisen from the swamp. I think that the reason this might be so is that the particular title of art photography/photographer is basically meaningless, so how do you ascribe meaning?

I donīt subscribe to the notion some have that art photography implies some distance from commerce: in my mind, much of what might be included in that genre is nothing if not commercially produced or, at least, produced with the hope of it being commercial enough to move off the wall! I feel that the term is indeed just a little bit of decoration meant to add gravitas to whatever form of image to which it is applied. Having said that, the term has achieved a certain validity because mostly one understands what is meant by it. And what is meant by it is something with added value, something which takes it one remove from the mundane. It might not really do so, of course, but once applied, the name creates a conception in the readerīs/viewerīs mind that might not have been there without the title. Naturally, it must have originated from a dealerīs lips...

You see the same trick when something is classified as nude or figure and why itīs not just termed naked. I was about to make the comparison using the word glamour, but it has been stolen from the vocabulary just as has the word gay: neither new meaning has any relevance to the original, at least in my lifetime, so letīs leave out Shakespeare and Chaucer from the equation, okay, guys?

In the case of glamour I think of Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth; today it means Pamela Anderson, about as far apart as one could get. (The two groups of women, I mean.) I doubt that glamour in the old sense exists at all in current experience; PSīd celebrities of the moment donīt fit the bill either. Glamour was never just pretty, neither did it really mean beauty though they were not mutually exclusive. I doubt that it even had anything much to do with sex appeal; more, it was a matter of the glamorous one being somehow beyond reach of mere mortals, even if the reality just meant some went to the highest bidder, much as today, one might say.

Possibly a far cry from qualifying art photography, but as everything else around us is slipping under the surface anyway, I suppose one term is probably just as good as another.

Ciao - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Steven Draper on June 12, 2008, 12:03:19 PM
Hi.

This is a real can of worms and I too have certainly seen reasonably OK "record" shot photographs being sold as fine art, or web sites where the work is sent off to a Lab and then onto the buyer without ever being seen by the "artist." I have even seen mass produced poorly produced pictures branded as "fine art style." .......

However I think that the world is full of dubious marketing complications like this, take "green, organic, environmentally friendly as other overused and diluted words. Green Cars - "You really mean less brown!!!!"  "Organic - we only use chemicals when necessary!!" And what really is a "sports car?"

As creators of work, work that we may wish to share, market and sell, we will have to provide descriptions and these applications and I guess that these at times be a bit on the "hopeful side" from some people. I think it very unlikely that there will ever be a universal standard detailing the requirements for fine art photography, although it would be possible for an arts organization to provide a standard and provide certification to certain artist based on there adherence to a set standard. Again this is unlikely, although a local arts council to myself does certainly have a set of requirements that work must adhere too in order to provide some kind of attraction to potential purchaser, especially new collectors who may not fully understand all the con's.

In most fields where people collect things, then there is some responsibility for the consumer to make decisions about there purchase beyond the "marketing description." There are so many wonderful photographs available for sale in this world that if someone buys a pile of rubbish after visual inspection or over the web without being satisfied with credentials of the seller then I have limited sympathy.

I'm actually more concerned over the miss use of words such as "archival" which actually do have significant implications to the future enjoyment of work and the miss use of the term is actually seriously fraudulent.

Steven
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Phinius on June 13, 2008, 01:17:45 PM
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The question I want to ask is: what is 'fine art photography', as the term is used on this site?

Fine art as it's used in relation to photography in these pages often (by no means always) seems to be used to describe materials (Fine Art Paper, for example); to describe what photographs aren't (documentation and journalism, for example); to describe an intent to 'express' or visualize feelings, emotions and so on; and to explore and reproduce the 'beautiful'.

To my understanding, fine art is a term that applies to an incredible variety of things, and defining it is certainly beyond me. But it's clear that the term 'fine art' DOES (more usually) include photographs done on 'non-Fine Art Paper,' it can include documentary photography, it need not express or visualize feelings and so on, and it certainly need not explore or reproduce the beautiful. In fact, such notions are often quite the antithesis of contemporary fine art.

So: if I'm right in suggesting that none of the criteria for 'fine art photography' often forwarded in these pages necessarily (or even remotely) justifies use of the term 'fine art', how might we extend the criteria and thus agree on an answer to the question: what is fine art photography?

Or: is it just better not to make the claim at all, and accept that the category 'fine art' is entirely context-specific, so the same photo can have a different status depending on where it appears - a fridge, a newspaper or a gallery?

Think I'll stop there...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=197127\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I use it, for lack of something better, to indicate that I intend my photographs to be taken seriously as Art, as opposed to being just a pretty picture or documentation of something or someone. I don't know that the materials matter so much. Of course the lines are not sharply drawn, as I would consider much of Henri Cartier Bresson's work to be both documentation and "fine art."

[email protected].com
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on June 14, 2008, 10:12:13 AM
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"Fine Art" is really now used as a sales tool - it means "I want to be considered  a serious artist". Of course merely claiming this is not enough - just look at the vast array of flaky websites selling (or not) 'Fine Art' photos. I personally make no claims to produce "Fine Art", like "Giclee", I'm not comfortable with such a contrived phrase.

In my jaded opinion many people using the term so stridently are aspirational photographers - those that have achieved full art status don't really need to. Having said that, there are those who do use the phrase ligitimately.
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Nick, I find your article insightful and genuine. And I concur with your view that "Fine Art" is now a (mis/over) used sales tool. When I look at some self proclaimed "Fine Art" photos, I often have the same reaction as when I eat an "all beef" hot dog.

Most current buyers of photos in the range of $$ to $$$ are probably treating them as decorative pieces, but not as collections that may have future values of $$$$ to $$$$$. But many sellers seem to hope/hallucinate that by simply calling their $$ to $$$ work as "Fine Art" would elevate their status.

Instead of debating whether AA's or HCB's work qualifies as "Fine Art", let us at least agree that neither of them ever proclaimed their work as such. At least not to my knowledge. Nor did/do numerous other photographers in the same class. While they may consider themselves to be artists creating art, they also seem to understand that art is ultimately in the eyes of the beholders, and wisely leave the decision up to them.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on June 14, 2008, 10:48:31 AM
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I agree that the term fine art is overused, but then limited editions are also over used.  Currently I only offer my portfolios in limited editions.  On request, and for certain images, I will date the print.  That seems more genuine to me than placing a number out of a huge edition, such as 25/2000, which is eventually meaningless since there are so many prints, even though each of them has a unique number.  Ansel Adams did not number his prints either, unless I am mistaken.
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To this I would like to add my subjective and often controversial view on limited editons of digital prints. The term "limited editions" is more meaningful when applied to traditional prints than to digital prints.

It takes time, effort and skill to create the first print, whether it is traditional or digital. After creating a traditional first print, it takes someone who knows how it is created (chemicals, filtering, toning, dodging and burning, etc.) to be able to repeat the process in order to duplicate *similar* copies. The process takes a non-trivial amount of knowledge, skill and effort, and hence is difficult to mass produce. Limited editions of such traditional prints are therefore indeed limited, and have an inherent value because they are difficult to duplicate.

Not so with digital prints. After the first digital print is created, it only takes a non-skilled person a few mouse clicks to duplicate an *identical* print in seconds. Limited editions of digital prints therefore do not carry the same value as limited editions of traditional prints. In fact, I find it rather silly.

The assumptions to the above comments is that each duplicator has access to the negative or digital file, and the knowledge of the media used for the first prints.

Which leads to how I value my digital prints vs my digital files. While I price my digital prints on the low side and often give them away, I take every measure to protect my digital files.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 15, 2008, 07:08:59 AM
Quote
To this I would like to add my subjective and often controversial view on limited editons of digital prints. The term "limited editions" is more meaningful when applied to traditional prints than to digital prints.

It takes time, effort and skill to create the first print, whether it is traditional or digital. After creating a traditional first print, it takes someone who knows how it is created (chemicals, filtering, toning, dodging and burning, etc.) to be able to repeat the process in order to duplicate *similar* copies. The process takes a non-trivial amount of knowledge, skill and effort, and hence is difficult to mass produce. Limited editions of such traditional prints are therefore indeed limited, and have an inherent value because they are difficult to duplicate.

Not so with digital prints. After the first digital print is created, it only takes a non-skilled person a few mouse clicks to duplicate an *identical* print in seconds. Limited editions of digital prints therefore do not carry the same value as limited editions of traditional prints. In fact, I find it rather silly.

The assumptions to the above comments is that each duplicator has access to the negative or digital file, and the knowledge of the media used for the first prints.

Which leads to how I value my digital prints vs my digital files. While I price my digital prints on the low side and often give them away, I take every measure to protect my digital files.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=201551\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Chris, the problem with thinking your wet prints more valuable than your digital ones is that it still manages to reduce the concept of image to a question of time and materials.

I spent a hell of a lot of time in an industrial darkroom before I went solo and one of the chores was producing multiple prints off one negative, hand-developed, in deep dishes and getting them through fixer and wash onto the next bottle-neck: the rotary glazer. (Remember those beautiful Kodak machines?) We had the skills to push 10x8 prints through the process thirty or sometimes more at a time, and I bet you would NOT have know the difference between the first in and the last! I appreciate that 10x8 is not a normal art-print size, but even so, larger prints can be made to match pretty damn well, and it is largely academic anyway, as you seldom have two such things being on sale side-by-side.

So, I canīt accept that digital convenience equates with any lowering of artistic integrity or merit.

Ciao - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 16, 2008, 05:30:35 AM
Having had further thoughts on the thorny issue of photography being or not being an art, perhaps the truth lies in the fact that it is many things (photography) which are different if not actually in conflict with one another.

I imagine that when used to make decorative pieces of whatever type - the operative sense being decoration - then it can be classified as another of the decorative arts such as painting or drawing, for example; when use in industry or research, possibly the same thing in many cases, then it might be thought of as a branch of science and in the case of news photography, either as propaganda or information, always difficult to tell apart.

So I guess it can be all things to all men.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 16, 2008, 07:26:41 AM
Quote
Having had further thoughts on the thorny issue of photography being or not being an art, perhaps the truth lies in the fact that it is many things (photography) which are different if not actually in conflict with one another.

I imagine that when used to make decorative pieces of whatever type - the operative sense being decoration - then it can be classified as another of the decorative arts such as painting or drawing, for example; when use in industry or research, possibly the same thing in many cases, then it might be thought of as a branch of science and in the case of news photography, either as propaganda or information, always difficult to tell apart.

So I guess it can be all things to all men.

Rob C
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Photography is art if the photograph is taken by an artist. Let's worry about what makes some person an artist since no medium is intrinsically 'art'.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 17, 2008, 05:57:12 AM
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Photography is art if the photograph is taken by an artist. Let's worry about what makes some person an artist since no medium is intrinsically 'art'.
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Nick

That would be a good, if simplistic definition except for one thing: I have a friend who is a successful artist (prizes from various bodies at art school; further awards from the commercial world) who both paints and photographs, the latter not just as aide memoires for his paintings but as final works in themselves. I asked him his definition on the subject some time ago, and he replied that he considered some of his output - in both genres - art and some not; it depended on how he felt it had worked out.

So there you are, even a professional artist has no clear-cut way of defining the word other than by personal opinion of what seemed to have ticked the box or not!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Farkled on June 18, 2008, 02:01:18 AM
At the moment, fine art photography seems to exist only in the form of a print.  It seems to me that among the many conditions and considerations thus far discussed as to what constitutes "fine art" we have missed the exchange of money.  Can it be said to be art (fine or otherwise) until it is purchased?

A second question:  Is a print the ultimate and only expression of "fine art" photography?  In the immediate or near term future?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: kikashi on June 18, 2008, 04:09:04 AM
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"The term 'fine' does not in any way reflect the quality of the work, which is of course highly subjective. It comes from Aristotle's concept of Final Cause i.e. the purpose or end point of the work. In Latin, Fine means 'end' (In fine – at the end), and so in Fine Art the work is an end in itself, its very existence is its purpose."[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=197139\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Sounds like sophistry to me. In your article, you assert, without more, that the derivation is true.

Do you have any authority for the proposition that this ordinary English word bears a different meaning in this context to that which it bears in any (every?) other context in which it is used?

Fine wine? Fine dining?

Jeremy
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 18, 2008, 07:48:15 AM
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Sounds like sophistry to me. In your article, you assert, without more, that the derivation is true.

Do you have any authority for the proposition that this ordinary English word bears a different meaning in this context to that which it bears in any (every?) other context in which it is used?

Fine wine? Fine dining?

Jeremy
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a] (http://index.php?act=findpost&pid=202205\")

I don't know how good it is, but the 'Online Etymology Dictionary' has

[a href=\"http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fine]http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fine[/url]

How relevant that definition is to application of the term in the English language in the context we're discussing, I don't know. Beaux / fine? But I don't think there are many 'ordinary' English words - by which I mean, they tend to have histories - many crossing languages - which involve adaptations in their meanings.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: kikashi on June 19, 2008, 03:37:39 AM
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I don't know how good it is, but the 'Online Etymology Dictionary' has

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fine (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fine)

How relevant that definition is to application of the term in the English language in the context we're discussing, I don't know. Beaux / fine? But I don't think there are many 'ordinary' English words - by which I mean, they tend to have histories - many crossing languages - which involve adaptations in their meanings.
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I wouldn't waste time quibbling about etymology. "fine" may well be (probably is) derived from the same Latin root as finale, finally and similar words in other languages (such as fin in French).

The giant and unjustified leap was from that derivation to a meaning for the word both unique to this particular context and substantially different from that which it bears in other contexts. The first definition at the site you mention, "perfected, of highest quality" seems to me perfectly adequate.

Jeremy
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 19, 2008, 02:17:24 PM
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I wouldn't waste time quibbling about etymology. "fine" may well be (probably is) derived from the same Latin root as finale, finally and similar words in other languages (such as fin in French).

The giant and unjustified leap was from that derivation to a meaning for the word both unique to this particular context and substantially different from that which it bears in other contexts. The first definition at the site you mention, "perfected, of highest quality" seems to me perfectly adequate.

Jeremy
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202371\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Yes, quibbling about etymology sounds like a terrible waste of time. I hope never to do it. Awful. But taking an etymology into account might not be a waste of time.

I don't know that the derivation Nick suggests is justified, but I also don't know that simply saying '"perfected, of highest quality" seems to me perfectly adequate' cuts much mustard, either!
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: kikashi on June 20, 2008, 03:48:11 AM
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Yes, quibbling about etymology sounds like a terrible waste of time. I hope never to do it. Awful. But taking an etymology into account might not be a waste of time.

I don't know that the derivation Nick suggests is justified, but I also don't know that simply saying '"perfected, of highest quality" seems to me perfectly adequate' cuts much mustard, either!
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The reason the definition I quote is valid is that it is in concordance with the way in which the word is used everywhere else. The reason Nick's definition isn't valid is that it is unique.

Simple.

Jeremy
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 20, 2008, 04:42:00 AM
OK, let's take the definition of 'fine' that Jeremy thinks to be perfectly adequate - "perfected, of highest quality" - and use that to define 'fine art'. We then might offer the term 'perfected, of the highest quality art' instead of 'fine art'.

According to the broader account of fine art that I've suggested earlier in this thread - including a wide range of ambitions and outcomes - such insistence on perfection and quality doesn't match up to an awful lot of what's generally recognised as important fine art done since the early 20th century. The definition brings us back pretty close to the terms Alain was using to describe fine art photography, but is in many ways quite removed from fine art as it's spoken of in the broader art world.

Can 'fine art photography' as the term's generally used on this site be extended to include more than that? To use an example I used earlier, could a snapshot printed on photocopy paper in a low quality printer (uncalibrated - imagine!) ever be considered fine art photography as the term's used on this site?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 20, 2008, 05:34:33 AM
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OK, let's take the definition of 'fine' that Jeremy thinks to be perfectly adequate - "perfected, of highest quality" - and use that to define 'fine art'. We then might offer the term 'perfected, of the highest quality art' instead of 'fine art'.

According to the broader account of fine art that I've suggested earlier in this thread - including a wide range of ambitions and outcomes - such insistence on perfection and quality doesn't match up to an awful lot of what's generally recognised as important fine art done since the early 20th century. The definition brings us back pretty close to the terms Alain was using to describe fine art photography, but is in many ways quite removed from fine art as it's spoken of in the broader art world.

Can 'fine art photography' as the term's generally used on this site be extended to include more than that? To use an example I used earlier, could a snapshot printed on photocopy paper in a low quality printer (uncalibrated - imagine!) ever be considered fine art photography as the term's used on this site?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202548\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


But thatīs the trouble, Chris: we canīt get a single definition of the term on this site! Each writer on this site has a different interpretation of it which, basically, is where we all came in.

Come to think of it, I have a gut feeling that so-called artists are the wrong people to consult. I think that we might well get a more true definition by consulting the great unwashed out there: remember the pile of bricks at the Tate - ten thousand quidīs worth of them - I donīt think a single member of the public would have considered them a work of art but the established order of the art world leaped upon them as the latest thing, yet another new medium to raise the number of pieces of rubbish with which to fill expensive corporate foyers.

I see exactly the same thing when I note the huge photographic prints of bleak apartment buildings that are suddenly transformed from mere industrial record shots into art. Just because somebody said so. Perhaps itīs just a German thing...

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 20, 2008, 11:39:28 AM
I think that you're right, Rob C - asking artists what art is isn't necessarily the best way to go. But I also don't know that the general public (by which I suppose we mean something like, the majority of people who don't have specialist training in fine art) have got a good answer, either. (Would we consult a non-specialist public if we wanted a definition of the term 'neurology'? It probably wouldn't be our first choice.)

As far as I can tell, there's no clear, generally agreed definition of 'fine art'. What there is, is a lot of  discussion about what it is. In fact, you could say that that's one of the defining characteristics of fine art - that it repeatedly raises the question of what art is. Art can raise lots of other questions, too, but that question keeps cropping up. And it crops up not just among artists, but among writers, critics, curators, dealers, theorists and historians too. As a result of the arguments that take place, areas of consensus develop - but they continue to be contested. Thus, we could say that art's a pretty unstable thing, and not just one thing.

I think a way to proceed is suggested in one of your earlier comments about the way photography can have different roles in different contexts, and by the example of the same photograph appearing in different contexts (fridge door, gallery wall etc.). The question stops being 'what is fine art photography' and becomes 'under what circumstances might a photograph become fine art'? The answer then will be primarily concerned with context - possibly a combination of intention, location, and reception. Is the photograph intended to be engaged as a work of fine art? Is it presented in a form that fine art is or could be presented? Is it received, treated and possibly exchanged as a work of fine art?

This last position leaves things very open still, but I think it's the way the art world works. The greater the authority of all three constituents - by which I mean, the more readily they are legitimised in the current art world - the clearer the status of the photograph as a work of art.

In short, the art world (artists, curators, galleries, critics, collectors and so on) decides what is important art. And its decisions can be underwritten by all kinds of motives, some of which are explicit, some not; some justified, some not. What we can do, is to continue to ask on what grounds such decisions are justified.

Well, that's the way it looks to me.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 20, 2008, 08:22:51 PM
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The reason Nick's definition isn't valid is that it is unique.

Simple.

Jeremy
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Whether you think it valid or not, the definition is certainly not unique. 60 secs research revealed the meaning of the term 'fine' in an art context.

The point you are missing is that it's not do do with quality of craft - which is the more common usage of the word fine - but more the purity of the concept and the fact that there is no utility to the work. It is what it is; what it is for is not relevant, the work is an end in itself and thus fine means 'finished' (L. finis) as opposed to 'good'.

Someone raised the etymology of the word fine - it is important here. Finederived from French means 'good or finely crafted', but from Latin it means 'finished'. Hence the commonly misunderstood term 'fine art'.

Here's another quote:

"Ultimately, the term fine in 'fine art' comes from the concept of final cause, or purpose, or end, in the philosophy of Aristotle. The final cause of fine art is the art object itself; it is not a means to another end except perhaps to please those who behold it."
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 20, 2008, 08:25:46 PM
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So there you are, even a professional artist has no clear-cut way of defining the word other than by personal opinion of what seemed to have ticked the box or not!

Rob C
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I see no paradox here - your friend is an artist and is thus qualified to decide which of his works should called art.

Like I suggested, art is what is created by an artist, in whatever medium he or she chooses.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 21, 2008, 03:42:40 AM
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Photography is art if the photograph is taken by an artist. Let's worry about what makes some person an artist since no medium is intrinsically 'art'.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=201873\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

But the above statement is not what you are saying in the later one, where you introduce the flexibility that allows the artist to say WHEN his work might be art; the first statement, by being a straighforward proposition of meaning, would indicate that ALL work done by an artist is art, regardless of whether good or bad, or even whether the artist considers it to be art.

So you see, far from simple.

I am also a little worried about the second concept, that no medium is intrinsically art: if not art, what is painting, ballet, opera or any other such endeavour where art is its sole reason for being? It might not be good art, possibly will be poor art, but isnīt it art nonetheless?

I exclude photography here because there are many instances where it has no artistic intent at all, but is purely functional, a route to something else such as information. Not, of course, that it cannot also be art.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Petrjay on June 21, 2008, 09:40:06 AM
You can exclude opera as well Rob. There's nothing like a healthy dose of Wagner coupled with a motion sensor to keep deer out of the vegetable garden.

Peter J
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on June 21, 2008, 09:47:24 AM
You can also exclude painting. I suspect most (but surely not all) house painters think that the purpose of their work is to protect the house, not as "art".  
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 21, 2008, 12:52:19 PM
Maybe doing art is more important than defining art, at least for artists ;-)

To address an attempt at definition, art is more about intent and circumstances than about fact.  Think about Marcel Duchamp's Urinoir.  It was considered art because of the circumstances in which it was shown.  In it's intended location it was considered to be, well, a urinoir!

Marcel Duchamp's page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp)

Note: the urinoir is called a "fountain" on Wikipedia.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 21, 2008, 01:53:36 PM
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Maybe doing art is more important than defining art, at least for artists ;-)

To address an attempt at definition, art is more about intent and circumstances than about fact.  Think about Marcel Duchamp's Urinoir.  It was considered art because of the circumstances in which it was shown.  In it's intended location it was considered to be, well, a urinoir!

Marcel Duchamp's page on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp)

Note: the urinoir is called a "fountain" on Wikipedia.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a] (http://index.php?act=findpost&pid=202707\")

Alain - Duchamp's Fountain (as it's known - see
[a href=\"http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=26850&tabview=text&texttype=10]http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cg...ext&texttype=10[/url]
for example) is a great case. In one context, it's a urinal; in another, it's one of the most important works of art of the 20th century. It achieves this shift because, as you say, of an intention, or a claim, and a shift of context. And that, I think, is the idea or concept that Duchamp refers to, and which has altered the face of much art since.

And it's that idea that lies behind the shift of a photograph from a fridge door to an art gallery - the status of the photograph changes with intention and location. Then it all depends on reception - could it be considered important and if so, on what grounds?  

And I'm sure that for an artist, doing art is more important than defining it!

Cheers, Chris
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 21, 2008, 03:05:06 PM
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Then it all depends on reception - could it be considered important and if so, on what grounds? 

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202719\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The initial response to Duchamp's urinoir fountain was ridicule, rejection and negative reviews.  It's a frequent initial response to cutting edge work.  Whether this reaction defines art or not is another question.  Maybe it does.

Let's do Art!
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 21, 2008, 04:01:30 PM
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The initial response to Duchamp's urinoir fountain was ridicule, rejection and negative reviews.  It's a frequent initial response to cutting edge work.  Whether this reaction defines art or not is another question.  Maybe it does.

Let's do Art!
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Trouble is, Alain, I think it is still a pot to piss in, no more and no less. I donīt for a moment accept that because the current establishment changed its position from that of the establishment of Duchampīs time and bowed down to the urinal that that is any confirmation of status.

In fact, is is just another example of the Tateīs bricks. (Cutting-edge is often no more than a sobriquet applied to anything that doesnīt really have a lot to recommend it; how many stock libraries use that word to sell common or garden images that are the same as everybody elseīs; words, words, and more words spoken so quickly as to deceive the ear!)

To accept otherwise is to say that anything that the so-called artist says is art is, by definition, art. Iīm not here calling Duchamp the so-called artist, by the way.

Look, we all have access to Jamesīs recent photographs in the M8 thread. Letīs take two of his shots as examples: the one of the girl up against the building is, to me, photographic art; also, the little picture of the two kids sitting might be in the same category of expression. I donīt for a moment say that James makes any claims for the pics - itīs just my easy example. His other shot of the "Heiress" girl does not, for me, get anywhere near being art. It just looks competent photography, commercial, and says nothing else to me at all. I stress again, James has made no claims to anything - his shots are just easy to find on this site.

[a href=\"http://www.pirellical.com/thecal/home.html]http://www.pirellical.com/thecal/home.html[/url]

Have a look at this link and turn to the Sarah Moon production for 1972. I think she is the only one that has shot the calendar that has turned it into a work of art. Some of the others are red hot photographers, some not so much; but the essence of Moon comes through in everything, as it does in all of the published commercial work of hers that I have seen. Another blessed one for whom work and personal are one and the same.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 21, 2008, 04:45:01 PM
Rob,

To most people "art" is what they like.

A significant leap forward in understanding art is extending our perception of what art is to things that we do not like, things that we find objectionable or things we have not so far considered art.

That's Duchamps' breakhrough: to challenge our conception of what is and what isn't art, of what art might be.  

One the reason why his pissotiere has remained a challenge for people pondering what is art is because no one so far has provided a satisfying statement about why it is or it is not art.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 21, 2008, 05:05:13 PM
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Rob,

To most people "art" is what they like.

An significant leap forward in understanding art is extending our perception of what art is to things that we do not like.
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Yes, of course, Alain but that does not mean that the thing in question doesnīt have to have artistic credentials, at least something to save it from being nothing more than object.

Look, take Gaudi: he broke a hell of a lot of tiles and stuck them on walls. You might say, if you had a mind to, that they remain nothing but broken tiles. But they do not: Gaudi made them into something so much more than the sum of their parts. So well, in fact, that architect after architect has copied him. You could possibly suggest that all Gaudi did was extend the idea of the mosaic, but I think that would be a miserable thing to think: he added value.

As with the Moon Pirelli, which I think is art. Giacobetti comes close, fairly groundbreaking work in what I believe the French call charme photography, at least for its day - but I donīt think it is art. But I do like it very much, so to go back to your post, how does that square with the understanding of art if I canīt define something that I like very much as art?

I understand that I am not "most people" as in your post, but I do accept many things as art without liking them in the least. I donīt like Gauguin much but I do accept him as an important artist; I do love Van Gogh without really thinking him to be in any way as great or accomplished an artist as he is a personality; without his pain he would not have been so highy rated in retrospect. The examples could go on all night -itīs 23 hrs. in Mallorca right now and Iīm up at 7.30 in the morning to get to the market do buy provisions for the week.

Buenas noches - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 21, 2008, 05:12:02 PM
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Yes, of course, Alain but that does not mean that the thing in question doesnīt have to have artistic credentials, at least something to save it from being nothing more than object.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a] (http://index.php?act=findpost&pid=202741\")

Another leap of art asked by the surrealist and modern art movements is extending the concept of art to things that we previously considered objects.

In that sense the definition of art, if there can ever be one, has to be understood in the context of a specific art movement.  Prior to Duchamps a urinoir was a urinoir.  After Duchamps, we argue whether it is art or oject or both !

Now Magritte made the problem worse by using this quandary as title for one of his paintings: Ceci n'est pas une pipe (this is not a pipe). . .


[a href=\"http://blog.notanendive.org/public/pas_une_pipe.jpg]Ceci n'est pas une Pipe - Henri Magritte[/url]
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 21, 2008, 08:12:13 PM
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I am also a little worried about the second concept, that no medium is intrinsically art: if not art, what is painting, ballet, opera or any other such endeavour where art is its sole reason for being? It might not be good art, possibly will be poor art, but isnīt it art nonetheless?

Rob C
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I stand by my statement that no medium is intrinsically art; how can it be otherwise since the intent of the work's creator is part of the whole art 'thing'?

Painting - anyone can paint, including  monkeys.
Ballet, Opera etc can be just entertainment.

All of these can be art, as can photography, but the medium does not make them so.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 22, 2008, 12:44:41 PM
Quote
I stand by my statement that no medium is intrinsically art; how can it be otherwise since the intent of the work's creator is part of the whole art 'thing'?

Painting - anyone can paint, including  monkeys.
Ballet, Opera etc can be just entertainment.

All of these can be art, as can photography, but the medium does not make them so.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202754\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

So, how would you guess the monkeyīs intent in order to justify its efforts as being or not being art; since when does art not have the right to entertain?

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: John Camp on June 22, 2008, 01:48:43 PM
This may be an article of interest:

http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=b24...95-a5b031d003c5 (http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=b24ee3a8-6d78-478f-9b95-a5b031d003c5)

My view of Duchamps is that he's just another one of those peculiarly French philosophers who comes along every once in a while and manages to promote a sophomoric concept into a revenue-producing job. And when I say sophomoric, I mean that literally: what young liberal arts major hasn't dipped into the question of what is, and what is not art, what is, and what is not reality, etc.?

As for not being able to say whether a urinal is or is not art, well, a lot of people have said that it isn't (or is); it's just that the critical/professional establishment prefers to keep the answer ambiguous, as a way of Sticking It to the Man (even though, as in the commercial, they are the Man.)

The question Duchamps never answered is that if his urinal is art, is a second identical urinal also art? How about the 30th?  Try to sell the 3000th identical urinal as art in a gallery and you'll soon find out how much this art is worth -- as much as a urinal is. Maybe even less, since people who are actually shopping for urinals don't usually go to art galleries.

DuChamps and his intellectual descendants are just more 20th century silliness. They'll soon be cleaned up by history.

JC
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 22, 2008, 02:54:28 PM
There's little argument in the art world that would suggest that Duchamp's readymades aren't important to the history of art, whether we like it or not. I think the danger with this line of argument is that we replace the 'what is art?' question with the 'but is it art?' question. In the end, I don't think either will produce an adequate answer.

Remember, the question was how the term 'fine art photography' is used on this site.

Maybe an interesting/ fun way forward is this: given all that has been said previously in this thread, can people suggest ONE criterion according to which they think a photograph might be judged to be a work of fine art? Maybe post/ link to an example? I need to think what mine would be...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 22, 2008, 03:35:13 PM
OK, I've thought about it. I think it's better to put the work first - mine's one by Richard Billingham - see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/ga...illingham.shtml (http://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/billingham.shtml)

and I'd say it's 'fine art photography' because it challenges the conventions of 'high art' by depicting a truth of working-class experience (as opposed to romanticising or aestheticising that experience, which has happened so much in the history of art) and exhibiting it in a 'high art' context - the art gallery.

So, I think it's a photograph that constitutes important art.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 22, 2008, 04:16:46 PM
Chris,

Excellent example :-)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 22, 2008, 04:45:47 PM
Chris, you are just playing devilīs advocate!

You know perfectly well that there is no intrinsic artiness to, well, the sort of lifestyle depicted in the Billingham oevre. It is neither representative of working class nor of anything other than the B family; the fact that the BBC has chosen to have anything to do with it sounds alarm bells by itself! Just more nonsense from Notting Hill.

I also watched the entire set of programmes. I thought that they were both interesting and also very misleading, but thatīs another thing a little bit off-topic, just as is all the Thatcher bashing which seems de rigueur in such programmes. Why does it fall to the left-wing lot to run so much in the art world? It seems a supreme irony: the right-wing people take the debris left by the just-voted-out-of office socialists, re-create some wealth which takes the country off the sick-list just in time to be voted out again, to be replaced once more by the socialists who instantly squander that wealth and run the place back into the ground once more! As now.

On a personal and professional photography level, I can remember how it was in the time of Wilson and Callaghan: when you wrote a quotation for a job, you had to end it with "final price dependent on rate of inflation at time of invoice." Fun, that, pricing calendars in February for a shoot in June for a calendar delivered and invoiced in December! But then, thatīs the trouble with left-wing idealists: they mostly know how to spend other peopleīs money! However, some are also very good at making it out of politics, though I suspect they hang on to it; re-distribution of wealth?

But is the work art? Not to me. Not even good photography. But then, I never took to Martin Parrīs work either: brash technique, cruel and devoid of charm, in my opinion. But still sells well.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 22, 2008, 05:08:59 PM
Quote
This may be an article of interest:

http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=b24...95-a5b031d003c5 (http://www.tnr.com/story_print.html?id=b24ee3a8-6d78-478f-9b95-a5b031d003c5)

My view of Duchamps is that he's just another one of those peculiarly French philosophers who comes along every once in a while and manages to promote a sophomoric concept into a revenue-producing job. And when I say sophomoric, I mean that literally: what young liberal arts major hasn't dipped into the question of what is, and what is not art, what is, and what is not reality, etc.?

As for not being able to say whether a urinal is or is not art, well, a lot of people have said that it isn't (or is); it's just that the critical/professional establishment prefers to keep the answer ambiguous, as a way of Sticking It to the Man (even though, as in the commercial, they are the Man.)

The question Duchamps never answered is that if his urinal is art, is a second identical urinal also art? How about the 30th?  Try to sell the 3000th identical urinal as art in a gallery and you'll soon find out how much this art is worth -- as much as a urinal is. Maybe even less, since people who are actually shopping for urinals don't usually go to art galleries.

DuChamps and his intellectual descendants are just more 20th century silliness. They'll soon be cleaned up by history.

JC
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John

Thanks for the link to the Jed Perl article. I think he has said more than I could say given a thousand years and unlimited keyboards! Thanks very much - it should be required reading for many on this forum.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 22, 2008, 07:13:23 PM
Quote
So, how would you guess the monkeyīs intent in order to justify its efforts as being or not being art; since when does art not have the right to entertain?

Rob C
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C'mon Rob C, you know what I'm getting at.

Monkeys aside, art can entertain, entertainment can be art. The two are not really connected - a created work can be one, the other or both.

Nevertheless, no medium has some a priori mystical quality that we call art. The person who works with the medium makes it art - or not. Can you name a medium which would be considered art simply by the fact of its existence?

Regarding 'Genius of Photography'  which was fascinating viewing, I agree with you about Robert Billingham. Whilst I can see how this could be seen as art, personally I detest that grungy 'snapshot' style. Call me blinkered but I like my art to have at least some element of craft too...check out Crewdson, his stuff is much more like my idea of fine art photography.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 23, 2008, 02:35:54 AM
Perhaps a better way to work toward an understanding of what we mean by fine art photography is to work toward it negatively.

I can see that the technical manner of the Billingham photograph is at odds with the kind of photography that most people who contribute to this site are interested in.

Could we then agree that the term 'fine art photography' as used on this site won't include photography that is deliberately technically very limited? It doesn't mean that if it is unaccomplished technically, it isn't important art - just that it's not the kind of art to which LL attends. (One thing that brought me to this site, and continues to amaze me, is the high degree of technical and craft-based expertise available on this site - incredible.)

So, IF we can agree on that (!), how about another form of photograph that we can exclude? What else is NOT fine art photography as the term's used on this site? (Perhaps link to an example?)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 23, 2008, 06:53:38 AM
Quote
Perhaps a better way to work toward an understanding of what we mean by fine art photography is to work toward it negatively.

I can see that the technical manner of the Billingham photograph is at odds with the kind of photography that most people who contribute to this site are interested in.

Could we then agree that the term 'fine art photography' as used on this site won't include photography that is deliberately technically very limited? It doesn't mean that if it is unaccomplished technically, it isn't important art - just that it's not the kind of art to which LL attends. (One thing that brought me to this site, and continues to amaze me, is the high degree of technical and craft-based expertise available on this site - incredible.)

So, IF we can agree on that (!), how about another form of photograph that we can exclude? What else is NOT fine art photography as the term's used on this site? (Perhaps link to an example?)
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I'm not sure that is meaningful really - the thread category is 'But is it Art? after all...

There is a quote from a judge from years ago, discussing pornography, something like " I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it". This relates to this discussion - everyone has their own ideas of what sits comfortably in their personal concept of art. There can be no right answer but discussing it  in forums like this does assist in refining one's own opinions.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 23, 2008, 10:45:40 AM
Quote from: Nick Rains,Jun 22 2008, 11:13 PM
Can you name a medium which would be considered art simply by the fact of its existence?
 

Seduction?

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 23, 2008, 06:21:54 PM
Quote from: Rob C,Jun 23 2008, 02:45 PM
Quote from: Nick Rains,Jun 22 2008, 11:13 PM
Can you name a medium which would be considered art simply by the fact of its existence?
 

Seduction?

Rob C
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LOL, good one - but seriously, can you?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: lbalbinot on June 24, 2008, 12:34:09 AM
Such a nice thread :-)

I believe that the definition of fine art should be followed out of conventions since this is such a subjective matter that there's just not enough alcohol in the world to discuss it all to the appropriate extent ;-) But if you wanna try, please give me a call!

Even though a work of art should be named as "fine" by the artist itself, there are some cases where art is simply created on the eye of the beholder. For instance, the famous Eugčne Atget created random pictures of Paris to put food on the table and later was considered to be one of the fathers of Surrealism. What happened?

So much for analogies, but is good wine the wine that everybody tells you is good because it's famous and expensive or is it the wine that you simply drink and enjoy?

Regards,
Luis
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 24, 2008, 10:57:46 AM
Quote
LOL, good one - but seriously, can you?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=203205\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

But Nick, I am serious Ą!

The only problem with it is that it may fade with age... probably much like a print exposed to the wrong light. Curling at the edges may also become a problem, but the less thinking about that the better. Live for the moment; enjoy your art.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 24, 2008, 06:06:10 PM
Quote
Live for the moment; enjoy your art.

Rob C
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That's as good a bit of advice as any...

but I'm still convinced I need 16 bit capture to get 0.3deltaV better shadows before my art will be taken seriously...

   
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 25, 2008, 01:30:38 PM
Quote
I'm not sure that is meaningful really - the thread category is 'But is it Art? after all...

There is a quote from a judge from years ago, discussing pornography, something like " I can't tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it". This relates to this discussion - everyone has their own ideas of what sits comfortably in their personal concept of art. There can be no right answer but discussing it  in forums like this does assist in refining one's own opinions.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=203014\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Yes, you're right Nick. But I think that the 'what is art' and 'but is it art' questions, while potentially philosophically interesting, don't tend to reach an end - at least, not one that is of much use to practitioners. By asking for criteria / examples of works that we might include, and criteria/ examples of what we might exclude from the category 'fine art photography', I thought we might move toward a more concrete understanding of what we mean by fine art photography. And then we'd be in a better position to decide whether or not we think something is art.

How about this, to stir up a hornets' nest...

Other conditions according to which we might exclude a photograph from the category 'fine art photography' as it's used on this site:

photographs that merely reiterate a formula that others have established;

photographs that are produced without the intention of being engaged as fine art;

photographs that are produced for purely commercial ends;

photographs that do not seek primarily to challenge or enrich some aspect of our experience as human beings;

photographs that do not engage (positively or negatively) some aspect of the traditions related to fine art;

photographs that do not call attention to themselves as photographs (ie, the medium of photography is of no importance to the status of the work).

Each of the above has a corollary that becomes a positive condition, according to which a photograph might become a work of art. Any individual photograph need not actively seek to meet all the positive conditions implied in order to be considered a work of art, but it cannot contain any of the negative conditions!

Any issues with the above? Any more negatives?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 25, 2008, 04:07:26 PM
Quote
Yes, you're right Nick. But I think that the 'what is art' and 'but is it art' questions, while potentially philosophically interesting, don't tend to reach an end - at least, not one that is of much use to practitioners. By asking for criteria / examples of works that we might include, and criteria/ examples of what we might exclude from the category 'fine art photography', I thought we might move toward a more concrete understanding of what we mean by fine art photography. And then we'd be in a better position to decide whether or not we think something is art.

How about this, to stir up a hornets' nest...

Other conditions according to which we might exclude a photograph from the category 'fine art photography' as it's used on this site:

photographs that merely reiterate a formula that others have established;

photographs that are produced without the intention of being engaged as fine art;

photographs that are produced for purely commercial ends;

photographs that do not seek primarily to challenge or enrich some aspect of our experience as human beings;

photographs that do not engage (positively or negatively) some aspect of the traditions related to fine art;

photographs that do not call attention to themselves as photographs (ie, the medium of photography is of no importance to the status of the work).

Each of the above has a corollary that becomes a positive condition, according to which a photograph might become a work of art. Any individual photograph need not actively seek to meet all the positive conditions implied in order to be considered a work of art, but it cannot contain any of the negative conditions!

Any issues with the above? Any more negatives?
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Chris

You have been working overtime!

I wish youīd numbered the examples of negative conditions, but letīs try to contribute to your line of thought.

Photographs that merely reiterate an already established formula. To use this would instantly exclude most of the AA clones that sell the American Dream of a fabulous west. This would apply to the b/w practitioners as well as the huge number of others doing the same job here in colour. You could extend that to all the Mexican pueblo shots too; the crowd has thinned to the last and the second-last man standing; to continue to name and shame would be too painful all round so I wonīt.

Photographs that are produced without the intention of being engaged as fine art. A little more difficult, because sometimes a lucky accident happens, yes, accident, and something creates itself. Spontaneous art, anyone?

Photographs that are produced for purely commercial ends. At a stroke, this would exclude my favourite photographer, Sarah Moon, whose commercial work was nothing if not art. I use the past tense, because she appears to have disappeared, if you see what I mean, and turned herself into some kind of hermit in that not a lot seems to be available to research. So no, by definition I canīt accept that as an exclusion.

Photographs that do not seek primarily to challenge or enrich some aspect of our experience as human beings. That would rule nearly all of my commercial work out, something I already found true when I started to scan and look at the chances of producing an art website to market the old material. Though it was produced mainly with myself having free rein, it still had a client in mind and was shot to suit his imagined taste. Alas, it isnīt where Iīd like to be now.  

Even with commerce removed - if it ever can be when your hope is to sell it - I do not feel that photographs have to give a toss about anybodyīs experience as human beings, something I find a little pretentious, to say the least! Too close to curator-speak for comfort.

Photographs that do not engage (positively or negatively) some aspect of the traditions related to fine art. Thatīs difficult too: we have yet to establish what fine art might be! But yes, I think I understand your point, and I do feel that there should be some semblance to accepted or established format or motif. Thatīs why I can never accept Billingham or Parr; I even wonder how it came to pass that they have become household names, at least in households with interested photographers in them. Fame or notoriety?

Photographs that do not call attention to themselves as photographs (i.e. the medium of photography is of no importance to the status of the work). I canīt quite imagine how this could ever be the case: the better the photograph the more photographic it seems to be. Perhaps this is reference to work that falls into the winding-on-the-film exposures where all sense of accepted values is thrown out with gay abandon. In this case, I would dispute the image having any value at all, even under the previously mentioned chance picture. A crooked shot of a café table, a chairleg and a foot is just that: a crooked photograph. They are spurious art so perhaps, in that sense, become a form of art? But not for me.

Maybe the essence of art is the touch of the artist, something that is either there or is  missing; by that token, not all that an artist produces is art, only that when the muse has laid her hand on his shoulder at the moment of conception. Works for me.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 25, 2008, 05:11:58 PM
Yes - 'as human beings' over-egged the pudding, I think. Let's cut that, and leave it at 'photographs that do not seek primarily to challenge or enrich some aspect of our experience'.

'photographs that are produced for purely commercial ends' doesn't include photographs that are produced, among other things, to allow us to make a living. Most of us have to do that. It's just photographs that are committed solely to that end, regardless of any other questions of purpose or quality, that I think we might exclude.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: papa v2.0 on June 25, 2008, 09:44:12 PM
i was told to try and photograph what you see.
unfortunately
we dont have the means yet.

the output systems are a far cry away from our perception at the moment.

but we are starting to get nearer with appearance modeling.

i find the struggle  to get accurate colour reproduction a bit of a misnomer

its not what we see. most photographers that have moved into digital think that this can now
give them control over colour
its not.
we need more study into colour appearance or appearance in general
so to say fine art photography is, is not
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 26, 2008, 11:17:47 AM
Quote from: papa v2.0,Jun 26 2008, 01:44 AM
i was told to try and photograph what you see.
unfortunately
we dont have the means yet.




Iīm not sure I get the point here - did you mean what you see, literally, in front of your nose or did you mean what your "artistic" eye might see?

The two are not the same. I donīt think that there is really a need for the means to get all that much better, to be honest with you; I think that the problem most of us face is twofold: having the eye in the first place; being good enough with the tools already extant.

Painters (fine art!) have been working with fairly basic materials since the beginning of graphic awareness yet they donīt seem to be particularly limited in expression by virtue of the pigments... you can stretch from my old favourite Van Goghīs fairly rough chairs or flowers right up to and beyond Daliīs Christ of St John and a little beyond, if you know where to look, and no shortcomings are blamed on materials - itīs about style, talent and what you can do with what youīve got. Photography is no different: over-emphasis on materials misses the point of the art of the thing: if you need technical perfection then you are probably working in industrial/commercial areas and not necessarily fine art. Which is what this thread, I believe, is about.

Come to think of it, I am a believer in that less can certainly sometimes be more, not an original line by any means, but there is a lot of truth there. Photography, unlike painting, is basically stuck with what is in front of the camera. Yes, you can PS stuff out and so on, but the same can perhaps be better achieved by purely photographic means such as shallow DOField; shooting through foreground elements and creating intentional blurr or diffusion where you want it.

I know there is this holy grail of total sharpnes, but why should that be? Itīs such a limiting concept and is surely behind most of the rationale to buying cameras with movements or TS lenses. Particularly in colour, OOF blobs of it in the right places can make a shot a hell of a lot more interesting than fore-to-aft razor blade. I think thereīs a great deal that landscape photographers could learn from advertising photographers in that respect. Of course, you might have to start looking pretty damn soon, because any day now it will all be penny stock and farewell considered commercial art.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 27, 2008, 12:47:15 AM
Quote
I know there is this holy grail of total sharpnes, but why should that be? Itīs such a limiting concept and is surely behind most of the rationale to buying cameras with movements or TS lenses. Particularly in colour, OOF blobs of it in the right places can make a shot a hell of a lot more interesting than fore-to-aft razor blade. I think thereīs a great deal that landscape photographers could learn from advertising photographers in that respect. Of course, you might have to start looking pretty damn soon, because any day now it will all be penny stock and farewell considered commercial art.

Rob C
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I hear what you are saying, but have you ever seen a traditional landscape shot (ie a scene or vista, not a close-up or abstract) that is not sharp front to back and that is any good?

It's all about the light and the composition - and everything must be sharp. The eye auto focuses on anything it looks at, therefore in a large scene something that is OOF is jarring, the eye wants to see it in close detail and can't.

That's why big, supersharp prints are so appropriate for landscape imagery. Hard to take it further really - in fact to apply other creative techniques as you suggest means it's not really landscape photography anymore. It's quite a tightly defined genre when you think about it.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 27, 2008, 02:14:21 AM
Quote
I hear what you are saying, but have you ever seen a traditional landscape shot (ie a scene or vista, not a close-up or abstract) that is not sharp front to back and that is any good?

It's all about the light and the composition - and everything must be sharp. The eye auto focuses on anything it looks at, therefore in a large scene something that is OOF is jarring, the eye wants to see it in close detail and can't.

This certainly hasn't applied to the history of landscape painting. Sharpness and focus on certain passages of a painting and not on others calls particular attention to those passages and therefore allows the importance of others to fall away; and, of course, 'sketchiness' of distant motifs together with aerial perspective can be important to the creation of illusory depth.

It's also important to note that while we tend to focus on things when we look at them, the eye doesn't see all things equally, with more-or-less just the central area of a field of perception 'sharp' and all else normally quite blurred/ unresolved. As I understand it, it's the brain that patches the various sharp bits created as the eye moves around a scene together to allow us to perceive a coherent, focused image.

SO - a photograph in which all is sharp is remote from much of the tradition of landscape, and it is quite remote form the way we actually perceive things. Which isn't to say a landscape photograph shouldn't be sharp throughout, just to suggest that might be one particular ambition among others. Not to allow that a photograph might be less than sharp narrows our options considerably, doesn't it?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 27, 2008, 05:20:26 AM
Quote
It's also important to note that while we tend to focus on things when we look at them, the eye doesn't see all things equally, with more-or-less just the central area of a field of perception 'sharp' and all else normally quite blurred/ unresolved. As I understand it, it's the brain that patches the various sharp bits created as the eye moves around a scene together to allow us to perceive a coherent, focused image.
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We don't actually see the scene sharp all at the same time, no,  but the net effect of scanning your eyes around means that we are aware of fine details in everything in front of us. Our eyes very rarely exhibit the limited depth of field effect beloved of wildlife photography!

"SO - a photograph in which all is sharp is remote from much of the tradition of landscape, and it is quite remote form the way we actually perceive things. "

This simply is not true - it is exactly how we see things in real life - no matter what you look at, it is sharp. Areas of a printed image cannot be focused by looking at it and are thus mildly disturbing (I again claim the caveat of wide scenes here, not abstracts or details ).

A large panoramic image of an expansive vista with OOF important regions will be less satisfying to look at than one where all is crisp.

I don't know if you saw it but the was an exhibition at the Mumm Gallery in Napa CA last year - Ansel Adams, Charlie Cramer, Michael Frye etc. All big prints and all as sharp as can be, even on close examination. This 'window to the world' effect is what is so compelling about high quality landscape photography.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 27, 2008, 05:50:49 AM
Nick, all you are doing is perpetuating the status quo; you are not making other techniques invalid because you say they are invalid, itīs just your opinion and how you have developed.

I disagree completely with you when you say there are no landscape images that are outwith that style and that work. There is a simple test you can do for yourself, without shooting a shot: put a 135mm or 200mm lens on a 35mm body, leave it wide open and just sit down in the grass and focus on a barn or old house or something like that which is a fair distance away from you- even a single rock will do to illustrate the point - and simply pull the focus in and out. The almost tangible effect of moving grass, foliage, o.o.f. flowers etc. will blow your soul away. If it doesnīt youīve lived too long with large cameras!

Incidentally, it is also a good way of learning that movement can bring the deadest of landscapes back to life.

Ciao - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 27, 2008, 07:00:13 AM
Quote
"SO - a photograph in which all is sharp is remote from much of the tradition of landscape, and it is quite remote form the way we actually perceive things. "

This simply is not true - it is exactly how we see things in real life - no matter what you look at, it is sharp.

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Nick - are you saying that when you stand before and look carefully at a vast, complex landscape, all that you see is sharp and in focus at the same time?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: kikashi on June 27, 2008, 12:57:52 PM
Quote
Nick - are you saying that when you stand before and look carefully at a vast, complex landscape, all that you see is sharp and in focus at the same time?
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Everything on which you concentrate is sharp at the time you are concentrating on it. That's what matters. Other things may be blurred but it's not important because you're not looking at them.

Jeremy
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on June 27, 2008, 01:09:43 PM
I am totally with Nick on this, and Jeremy has explained it well.

-Eric
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 27, 2008, 01:14:57 PM
Quote
Everything on which you concentrate is sharp at the time you are concentrating on it. That's what matters. Other things may be blurred but it's not important because you're not looking at them.

Jeremy
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When you say what matters and what's not important, what do you mean? Only a small part of our field of vision is in focus and resolved at any moment, the rest relatively unresolved. (This isn't generally contested.)  How can that not matter or be important in a discussion of how we perceive the visual world? Or are you saying that this doesn't matter to photography - in which case, why? Surely photography is well positioned to exploit and explore how we perceive the visual world - this is one of its real strengths.

Or are we now going to assert, following previous posts, that in important landscape photography, everything must be sharp and in focus? Seems rather arbitrary and limiting to me, and certainly very remote from the kinds of parameters that sustain - and have sustained for well over a century - in the world of fine art.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 27, 2008, 02:11:08 PM
Quote
Not to allow that a photograph might be less than sharp narrows our options considerably, doesn't it?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=203925\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Some photographs are sharp, some photographs are fascinating, and some photographs are both sharp and fascinating ;-)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 27, 2008, 02:14:32 PM
Quote
... to apply other creative techniques as you suggest means it's not really landscape photography anymore. It's quite a tightly defined genre when you think about it.
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Tightly defined, probably.  But isn't challenging what is tightly defined one of the responsibilities of an artist ?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on June 27, 2008, 02:38:16 PM
Quote
Tightly defined, probably.  But isn't challenging what is tightly defined one of the responsibilities of an artist ?
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I think you're absolutely right. Where something's tightly defined, there's often reason to question it. Not because the definition's necessarily at fault, but because so often when there's such constraint, other possibilities are being denied.

'Responsibility' is a concept we've not heard before in this thread, but I think anyone that makes claim to the title 'artist' must accept it as part of his or her burden.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on June 27, 2008, 05:24:11 PM
Quote
I think you're absolutely right. Where something's tightly defined, there's often reason to question it. Not because the definition's necessarily at fault, but because so often when there's such constraint, other possibilities are being denied.

'Responsibility' is a concept we've not heard before in this thread, but I think anyone that makes claim to the title 'artist' must accept it as part of his or her burden.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=204043\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think that one of the main reasons why I find the work of certain artists fascinating is because it is new, fresh, uncommon and unique.  Most often, the artist achieves this by breaking the rules, or challenging the status quo, or re-writing the definitions to which previous artists have abided.

For the artist working in this context, the responsibility is to break the rules, or redefine things, because that is what their audience is looking for.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 27, 2008, 10:39:04 PM
Quote
When you say what matters and what's not important, what do you mean? Only a small part of our field of vision is in focus and resolved at any moment, the rest relatively unresolved. (This isn't generally contested.)  How can that not matter or be important in a discussion of how we perceive the visual world? Or are you saying that this doesn't matter to photography - in which case, why? Surely photography is well positioned to exploit and explore how we perceive the visual world - this is one of its real strengths.

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Nothing you look at is unsharp. A photo is locked into whatever focus applied at the time of the shot. You eyes cannot resolve an unsharp part of a photo like they do in real life.

This much is pretty obvious and hopefully inarguable.

My assertion is that successful photographs of (again, only) vistas and scenics depend for some of their impact on the fact that your eyes can explore the image and find detail everywhere - just like in real life. if your image is attempting to capture the sense of being in front of that scene then everything must be sharp.

That is not to say at all that other techniques are not artistically valid - far from it. I am simply making the point that in a certain genre of landscape photography it is necessary to give the viewer the full information from the scene.

My style is mostly 'window to the world' stuff. This is, rightly or wrongly, fairly rigidly constrained by the above. I have experimented with limited DOF effects etc and guess what? No one buys it, they prefer the F64 Club approach.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 27, 2008, 10:41:49 PM
Quote
I disagree completely with you when you say there are no landscape images that are outwith that style and that work.

Rob C
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=203944\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'm only talking about scenics here. Wide views, vistas, panoramas etc. Show me one of these that works with large OOF areas.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Ray on June 28, 2008, 12:57:56 AM
I tend to agree with Nick on this point. There is a certain type of landscape which is magnificent in its own right, in every detail, and which doesn't need a re-interpretation by the photographer.

Out-of-focus areas are an imposed interpretation by the photographer along the lines, 'Don't look at these areas. They are not interesting'.

Whatever one's personal taste, whether one likes an image or not, there are certain basic characteristics about human perception which most of us share.

For example, it appears to be a fact that excessively bright areas in an image will attract our gaze more strongly and more frequently than less bright areas. It might therefore be good practice to make sure that such bright areas in one's photographs are either of interest in themselves (contain detail and are not totally blown), or are surounded by other interesting areas.

Landscapes with a blown, grey (white), featureless sky tend to be boring. The eye has a tendency to be drawn to the bright area but finds nothing there of interest.

The problem with OoF areas in the magnificent vista is that they tend to draw attention to themselves and just don't look right. However, if the photographer doesn't want to portray the magnificence of the vista, but wants to concentrate on a particular rock or house and get everything else OoF, then the genre has changed. It's no longer a vista.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on June 28, 2008, 01:51:07 AM
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However, if the photographer doesn't want to portray the magnificence of the vista, but wants to concentrate on a particular rock or house and get everything else OoF, then the genre has changed. It's no longer a vista.
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That's what I am saying, thanks Ray.

Whilst this is heading a little OT, I feel that this is why high res images work so well, a print with detail finer than you can resolve by eye looks more satisfying than one that looks over-enlarged on close inspection. A big print more so. The craft of landscape photography, in this genre, is also part of the art.

Look, I know I am being a bit purist here. I apply my opinions to my own work and I try to be honest about it. I also love Galen Rowell's work, and he rejected sharpness for it's own sake. His work was often based on spontaneity and access to places where medium and large format cameras would have been a liability and got in the way of image making. I accept that approach and his work is highly regarded - and yet I wonder how he would have gone with a 1DsM3 or similar.  Medium format quality with all the portability of the old 35mm film cameras. I'd love to see the centre shot on this page

[a href=\"http://www.mountainlight.com/gallery.tibet/images.html]Potala Palace[/url]

printed up big from a higher res format.

But then again, it's still a wonderful image.

Galen also tried to squeeze as much quality out of his chosen gear as he could, and wide vista shots were all as sharp as they could be from Velvia, with max DOF etc. So my point still stands.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on June 28, 2008, 10:50:18 AM
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I'm only talking about scenics here. Wide views, vistas, panoramas etc. Show me one of these that works with large OOF areas.
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The newly defined statement is perfectly okay with me and, in general, sounds fair enough; it was the somewhat more rigid stance that shook my timbers! But then, we can no more define landscape than we can art...

Ciao - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Moynihan on July 01, 2008, 04:08:29 PM
I am about 1/2 way through this thread, as I post. It has reminded me of the words of Justice Potter Stewart, in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964):

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."


 
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 02, 2008, 12:23:25 PM
Quote
I am about 1/2 way through this thread, as I post. It has reminded me of the words of Justice Potter Stewart, in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio 378 U.S. 184 (1964):

"I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."
 
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Nice one!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 12, 2008, 05:20:56 PM
OK - one last question. It's been suggested earlier in this thread that a fine art photograph is 'an end in itself'. What does this mean? I really don't get it.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 12, 2008, 08:34:18 PM
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OK - one last question. It's been suggested earlier in this thread that a fine art photograph is 'an end in itself'. What does this mean? I really don't get it.
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Just imagine that you are walking the length of a dark alley at 3 am. Suddenly you come to a brick wall and realize that the alley is a dead end; that is, an "end in itself", sort of like trying to define 'fine art photography.'  
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 13, 2008, 05:19:14 AM
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Just imagine that you are walking the length of a dark alley at 3 am. Suddenly you come to a brick wall and realize that the alley is a dead end; that is, an "end in itself", sort of like trying to define 'fine art photography.'   
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No, no, Eric, canīt let you away with that one! Far too inward looking for a convincing definition - but then, the "blink" might just excuse you...Ą!

Itīs raining here for a change, probably because Iīve started to do some outdoor varnishing again, one of those chores that comes around every year just to remind me that Iīm still alive and probaby capable of doing it yet another time; just like those dead ends, it becomes an end in itself.

Ciao - Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 13, 2008, 06:48:42 AM
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OK - one last question. It's been suggested earlier in this thread that a fine art photograph is 'an end in itself'. What does this mean? I really don't get it.
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The photograph itself is the reason for it's creation, not some client, ad agency, money etc. Just the joy and satisfaction of its creation - it has no intrinsic 'use' apart from the fact of its existence.

Sounds heavy I know, but that's the way I see it.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 13, 2008, 08:39:01 AM
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The photograph itself is the reason for it's creation, not some client, ad agency, money etc. Just the joy and satisfaction of its creation - it has no intrinsic 'use' apart from the fact of its existence.

Sounds heavy I know, but that's the way I see it.
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That's exactly the way I see it, too. I was just waiting for somebody else to express it well.

Thanks, Nick!
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on July 13, 2008, 11:06:45 AM
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The photograph itself is the reason for it's creation, not some client, ad agency, money etc. Just the joy and satisfaction of its creation - it has no intrinsic 'use' apart from the fact of its existence.

Sounds heavy I know, but that's the way I see it.
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I do not subscribe to the idea that "a fine art photograph is 'an end in itself'". Or any object of "art", for that matter.

For those who do, and according to Nick's definition of 'an end in itself', you would be excluding many work by Avedon, Lange, Evans, Weston, etc. from "fine art". Not to mention all work of the Magnum, Life, Time, National Geographic photogs. After eliminating all these, it would be easy for the believers to provide a list of such "fine art" photographers to support their statement.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on July 13, 2008, 11:08:13 AM
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That's exactly the way I see it, too. I was just waiting for somebody else to express it well.

Thanks, Nick!
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I actually like your dead end analogy much better :-)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 13, 2008, 02:24:08 PM
Eric, Chris and Nick

I thought that Eric was just joking with his brick wall; in no way does a brick wall at the end of an alley have any meaning similar to īan end in itselfī which means something entirely different, intrinsic self-justification, just as Nick has stated. Unless, of course, the play is on words which it might well be, and in that sense there would indeed be an end within the alley itself - one of brick.

Chris is perhaps confusing two things here: commissioned work as by the people he cited may or may not be art but its end is to fulfil the commission, not necessarily to be art; on the other side of the equation, the artist who takes the photograph, paints the picture or chips the stone to please himself may or may not be working to commision, but as an artist first his task is to create art.

There is an alternative way or, perhaps, there are exceptions to the rule, where photographers who undertake commercial work are also artists and even in spite of themselves, whatever they do is kissed by their magic and turns out to be a work of art, commissioned or not, which might be where some on Chrisī list fit best.

It quickly becomes obvious that we are no nearer to finding a happy consensus on what might be art!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 13, 2008, 03:00:28 PM
I get the idea that the photograph might not be 'for' some purpose - advertising etc. - and in that sense is a photograph just in order to play with or explore what a photograph might be, or might represent. And that could be a great thing to do.

But two issues arise:

1. as soon as we say it's a thing that leads to 'joy and satisfaction', it has an end again. And once we say that 'pleasure' (or some such word) is the purpose of the work, we can re-introduce all kinds of ends and reasons for that pleasure, some good, some bad;

2. since a photograph can't exist 'in-itself' (apart from the creator/ viewer of the photograph), can it ever be an end in itself? Isn't it always at least for someone/ something?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 13, 2008, 03:50:13 PM
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2. since a photograph can't exist 'in-itself' (apart from the creator/ viewer of the photograph), can it ever be an end in itself? Isn't it always at least for someone/ something?
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Iīve got to be missing something here, but I canīt see how a photograph cannot, literally, exist alone: the print is the stand-alone artefact, no more no less.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary has this definition, amongst others:

"art: Skill, esp. human skill as opposed to nature; skilful execution as an object in itself,"

where it pretty much sums up where we have been travelling with objects and their existence alone!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 13, 2008, 04:14:43 PM
Quote
Iīve got to be missing something here, but I canīt see how a photograph cannot, literally, exist alone: the print is the stand-alone artefact, no more no less.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary has this definition, amongst others:

"art: Skill, esp. human skill as opposed to nature; skilful execution as an object in itself,"

where it pretty much sums up where we have been travelling with objects and their existence alone!

Rob C
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It's the old one about the tree falling in the woods, I suppose - if nobody's there to hear it, does it make a noise? I guess there's no real point in losing ourselves in that one.

But - if it's true that the photograph can exist in itself, then so can a rock buried 10 meters deep in a field. In which case, existing 'as an end/ in itself' doesn't suggest a convincing criterion for judging something to be a work of art.    (Thought I'd try the funny blink, too.)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 13, 2008, 06:44:20 PM
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I do not subscribe to the idea that "a fine art photograph is 'an end in itself'". Or any object of "art", for that matter.

For those who do, and according to Nick's definition of 'an end in itself', you would be excluding many work by Avedon, Lange, Evan, Weston, etc. from "fine art". Not to mention all work of the Magnum, Life, Time, National Geographic photogs. After eliminating all these, it would be easy for the believers to provide a list of such "fine art" photographers to support their statement.
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I am simply applying the definition of fine art. That's not to say that other photographs cannot be art regardless of their initial intent.

This thread is about 'fine art' photography and what that term means. It has a more specific meaning that a lot of people realise. I'm not attempting to define art (heaven forbid!), just the term 'fine art'.

'Fine art' and 'art' are not interchangeable terms - something can be 'art' but not 'fine art'.

Regarding the above photographers and groups - except for Weston, their work, irrespective of it's 'quality', is not 'fine art'. Now if you want to talk about Bill Henson, Tracey Moffat, Crewdson, Ansel Adams, Mapplethorpe, Sherman, Gursky etc...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 13, 2008, 07:00:47 PM
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It quickly becomes obvious that we are no nearer to finding a happy consensus on what might be art!

Rob C
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No, that's probably the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, you have summed up well what is meant by 'fine art' - 'intrinsic self-justification'.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on July 14, 2008, 11:50:14 AM
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I thought that Eric was just joking with his brick wall; [snip]

My interpretation of what Eric said was that "trying to define 'fine art photography'" is analogous to hitting a brick wall in "a dark alley at 3 am". A futile attempt.

Quote
It quickly becomes obvious that we are no nearer to finding a happy consensus on what might be art!

Precisely my point. As stated in my previous post, art is in the eye of the beholder, "fine" or otherwise. The creator's intent and/or motivation may or may not matter at all.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 14, 2008, 02:12:56 PM
Quote
My interpretation of what Eric said was that "trying to define 'fine art photography'" is analogous to hitting a brick wall in "a dark alley at 3 am". A futile attempt.
Precisely my point. As stated in my previous post, art is in the eye of the beholder, "fine" or otherwise. The creator's intent and/or motivation may or may not matter at all.
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Chris - I'd agree that defining fine art is difficult, but I don't think it's futile, any more than defining what is 'good' or 'right' - each of which is just about the most important of concepts, and both of which are just about impossible to pin-down in an absolute fashion. We'll never get an absolute definition, but we can reach areas of consensus. And that's important, if art is important.

Equally, and for the same reasons, I'm not convinced that art in is the eye of the beholder. Anything that's so open could never claim to be important, I think. Is morality in the mind of the beholder? Is truth in the mind of the beholder? The only way to say that art's in the mind of the beholder is to say that it's anything to anyone - in which case, it's pretty close to being nothing in particular, and therefore quite unimportant, isn't it?

I certainly agree that the creator's intent/ motivation may not matter at all.

Nick - I understand what you've said about photography not having a particular purpose, but am still not clear about it being an end in itself. Am I right in thinking it must at least be for someone (viewer or creator)? In which case, the end exists in the relation between the photograph and the viewer/ creator, and not just the photograph itself? It seems to me it has to be. And if it is a photograph of something, it has to involve that something as well, doesn't it? And it's here - in the involvement of the viewer and the subject - that my problem with the idea that the photograph is an end in itself lies.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 14, 2008, 02:22:46 PM
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The creator's intent and/or motivation may or may not matter at all.
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This is a very important point, IMHO.

Some will argue vociferously that the creator's intent is of no importance whatever; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera doesn't matter at all").

Others will argue that the creator's intent is of the utmost importance in every case; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera is the only thing that matters").

This slipperiness of definition is one of the things that keeps 'fine art photography'  interesting.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 14, 2008, 04:33:41 PM
Quote
This is a very important point, IMHO.

Some will argue vociferously that the creator's intent is of no importance whatever; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera doesn't matter at all").

Others will argue that the creator's intent is of the utmost importance in every case; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera is the only thing that matters").

This slipperiness of definition is one of the things that keeps 'fine art photography'  interesting.
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Eric

Just found your website - donīt know why I missed it before. Very pleasing pics you have there; the doorways are something very dear to me - I have had this thing about putting models in them, one way or the other, on just about every time I have had the opportunity! You should have a look at the site of a friend:

[a href=\"http://www.keithlaban.co.uk]http://www.keithlaban.co.uk[/url]

he has a thing about Greek islands, and doorways too. Enjoy.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 14, 2008, 06:37:56 PM
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Eric

Just found your website - donīt know why I missed it before. Very pleasing pics you have there; the doorways are something very dear to me - I have had this thing about putting models in them, one way or the other, on just about every time I have had the opportunity! You should have a look at the site of a friend:

http://www.keithlaban.co.uk (http://www.keithlaban.co.uk)

he has a thing about Greek islands, and doorways too. Enjoy.

Rob C
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Rob,

Thanks for the kind words, and for the tip about Keith Laban. He indeed does lovely work.

-Eric
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 15, 2008, 03:52:50 AM
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Nick - I understand what you've said about photography not having a particular purpose, but am still not clear about it being an end in itself. Am I right in thinking it must at least be for someone (viewer or creator)? In which case, the end exists in the relation between the photograph and the viewer/ creator, and not just the photograph itself? It seems to me it has to be. And if it is a photograph of something, it has to involve that something as well, doesn't it? And it's here - in the involvement of the viewer and the subject - that my problem with the idea that the photograph is an end in itself lies.
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You are over-analysing  

I simply mean that the reason for making the print is just that, making the print. Once it's made then it exists for anyone to make of what they will.

The print stands alone as an object of art to be displayed, enjoyed, laughed at, whatever. But the print itself is the conclusion, the final end point, and in fact the reason for starting the process in the first place - hence 'final cause'.

So, a fine art print is made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it. If you accept this definition of 'fine art print' then images made for other purposes, no matter how good, cannot be fine art prints.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 15, 2008, 04:48:45 AM
Quote
You are over-analysing   

I simply mean that the reason for making the print is just that, making the print. Once it's made then it exists for anyone to make of what they will.

The print stands alone as an object of art to be displayed, enjoyed, laughed at, whatever. But the print itself is the conclusion, the final end point, and in fact the reason for starting the process in the first place - hence 'final cause'.

So, a fine art print is made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it. If you accept this definition of 'fine art print' then images made for other purposes, no matter how good, cannot be fine art prints.
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I'm with you, but bear with me a bit longer!

When you take the photograph and make the print, you're making decisions about what looks/ works best, aren't you? And that 'best' depends on your ambition for the work - to represent or create visual pleasure, horror, or whatever - and it depends on how well the work will engage the viewer.

So, is a photograph ever 'made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it'? The image is always 'of' or 'for' something - if only for looking at and contemplating.

In which case, is a photograph to be used for commercial purposes any less an end in itself than a photograph that's taken to evoke some aesthetic response in the viewer?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 15, 2008, 08:00:13 AM
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I'm with you, but bear with me a bit longer!

When you take the photograph and make the print, you're making decisions about what looks/ works best, aren't you? And that 'best' depends on your ambition for the work - to represent or create visual pleasure, horror, or whatever - and it depends on how well the work will engage the viewer.

So, is a photograph ever 'made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it'? The image is always 'of' or 'for' something - if only for looking at and contemplating.

In which case, is a photograph to be used for commercial purposes any less an end in itself than a photograph that's taken to evoke some aesthetic response in the viewer?
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I think you are reading too much into the situation here. Nothing is 'lesser' or 'greater' than anything else. A commercial image is made to meet a client's needs, an editorial image is made to please a magazine editor and a fine art print is made with no need for anything further, just the satisfaction of the creator (there does not even have to be a viewer really, although that opens up another question about art which I don't want to go into).

"I made this print, here it is on display. I don't need you to like it, buy it, use it to sell shampoo, worship it, or anything else ".

In many ways fine art is the ultimate self-indulgence - the work is made for the creator's own personal reasons, not to necessarily please anyone else, and not really needing to know what anyone else thinks about it. It's art for art's sake.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 15, 2008, 09:40:32 AM
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"I made this print, here it is on display. I don't need you to like it, buy it, use it to sell shampoo, worship it, or anything else ".

It's art for art's sake.
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Isn't it true that once the work is put on display in a public place (gallery, book etc.) - and most of us are responsible for this decision ourselves - we purposefully seek to evoke responses? These responses, then, constitute 'ends'. We may not 'need' the responses that you list, but we're looking for some outcome or end - otherwise, why put them in that public place? Unless you're saying that it makes no difference at all to art whether or not it provokes any response or has any outcome - a situation I find hard to imagine.

An alternative might be to keep the work hidden from public view, but then I can't imagine how the work would enter the category 'fine art', as it wouldn't ever enter that arena (unless, somehow, being hidden was part of its meaning - a possibility which Duchamp did explore).

In short, the work only exists in a meaningful way in relation to things other than itself. Whether intended by the artist or not, this relationship will lead to a diversity of 'ends'. Unless you bury it 10 meters beneath a field, and then forget where you buried it!

The concept 'art for art's sake' is terribly problematic, principally because - as we've seen lots of times in this thread - art is so many things. So the term does nothing to close the concept 'art' down - except that historically, it was used to suggest that - as you say - art was an end in itself. As a term, it was already in trouble by the late 19th century. (Though I'd certainly accept that this doesn't mean that you could not revive it - just that it's fraught with difficulty.)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 15, 2008, 05:06:46 PM
Quote from: ChrisS,Jul 15 2008, 01:40 PM
Isn't it true that once the work is put on display in a public place (gallery, book etc.) - and most of us are responsible for this decision ourselves - we purposefully seek to evoke responses? These responses, then, constitute 'ends'. We may not 'need' the responses that you list, but we're looking for some outcome or end - otherwise, why put them in that public place? Unless you're saying that it makes no difference at all to art whether or not it provokes any response or has any outcome - a situation I find hard to imagine.

There is a huge difference in concept between the picture, which is the piece of art, and the later display of that picture, which might or might not be done in an artistic manner or even for any artistic purpose other than the other fine art of parting someone from his money.

The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 15, 2008, 05:33:14 PM
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The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

Rob C
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Correct, it's a simple as that. I'm not defining what art is Chris, just trying to nail down what the term 'fine art' means.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: EricWHiss on July 15, 2008, 10:43:13 PM
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I hear what you are saying, but have you ever seen a traditional landscape shot (ie a scene or vista, not a close-up or abstract) that is not sharp front to back and that is any good?

It's all about the light and the composition - and everything must be sharp. The eye auto focuses on anything it looks at, therefore in a large scene something that is OOF is jarring, the eye wants to see it in close detail and can't.

That's why big, supersharp prints are so appropriate for landscape imagery. Hard to take it further really - in fact to apply other creative techniques as you suggest means it's not really landscape photography anymore. It's quite a tightly defined genre when you think about it.
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Came into this great thread and have been reading every post - but Nick you've got me to add my first reply here. You can't be serious about that sharpness thing can you?   Take a look at the nature/art  photographer of the year last in last years IPA awards for a good example of some stunning soft landscape images.   And the eye does not have infinite DOF anyhow so if the whole scene is rendered with no OOF areas then your brain won't allow you to believe you were actually there - to put themselves in the scene as it were.  Even with a large print it will always be read as 2d with sharpness from edge to edge at least IMHO.  Mimic the way the eye sees to make it have depth and look real.

What do I think about photography as art?  Well most of it isn't. Most of it is documentary.  Is there a sunset or a landscape photo that isn't already hackneyed or cliche?  The words fine art have become the new "deluxe".   When you see something labeled as fine art you know its neither.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 15, 2008, 10:59:41 PM
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And the eye does not have infinite DOF anyhow so if the whole scene is rendered with no OOF areas then your brain won't allow you to believe you were actually there - to put themselves in the scene as it were.  It will always be 2d with sharpness from edge to edge at least IMHO.

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What you see appears to have infinite depth of field simply because your eye focuses on whatever you look at without you being aware of it. Just look around you.

This to conjure any sense of 'being there' or looking out of a window, there must be sharpness everywhere.

If you want to do other creative things fine, soft focus is fine, limited DoF is fine, but the closest a photo can get to depicting a view is when it is critically sharp all over. It's the traditional core of landscape photography (and even painting - ever see an OoF Constable?) but that's not to say it's a rule that cannot be creatively broken.

Sure this is reportage or recording, with very little relevance to art, but the goal of full sharpness is not 'silly' at all. No more than soft focus, DoF effects or any other visually unnatural effect.

Don't knock it just 'cos you don't like it.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 16, 2008, 03:16:42 AM
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The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

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I'd say that no life exists in itself - it's always in relation to other things, and this relationship to other things results inevitably in different ends. In this sense, the artwork isn't 'finite', I think.

And while I agree that the work, once in a public space, is open to all kinds of interpretation or responses, as the producers of the works we shape those responses by our decisions about the image's production. (Though I don't think we can determine those responses - who knows what might be made of the works?) Production, the object produced and consumption are never completely remote.

So - I don't think that the two moments of the work you refer to (the object and its consumption) can be 'totally different things.'

To be honest, I can't think of anything that's an 'end in itself', least of all things that people produce. Are there other examples?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on July 16, 2008, 06:28:04 AM
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So - I don't think that the two moments of the work you refer to (the object and its consumption) can be 'totally different things.'

To be honest, I can't think of anything that's an 'end in itself', least of all things that people produce. Are there other examples?
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Well, Chris, I guess we just have to accept that our minds work in different ways.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 16, 2008, 07:41:44 AM
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Well, Chris, I guess we just have to accept that our minds work in different ways.

Rob C
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Yes. I think there are two extremes:

1. that what constitutes fine art (photography) is really just a matter of subjective opinion;

2. that what constitutes fine art (photography) is quite objective and definite.

It's pretty clear that most of us occupy positions between these two extremes. And - as I said somewhere earlier in this thread (I think - I'm finding it hard to remember), this process of debate must be one of the defining characteristics of fine art. I'm happy to agree to differ on this (in the knowledge, of course, that I'm right.  )

Time to take some photos...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Chris_T on July 16, 2008, 08:10:49 AM
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This is a very important point, IMHO.

Some will argue vociferously that the creator's intent is of no importance whatever; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera doesn't matter at all").

Others will argue that the creator's intent is of the utmost importance in every case; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera is the only thing that matters").

This slipperiness of definition is one of the things that keeps 'fine art photography'  interesting.
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As if that's not slippery enough, I will add the following.

Let's first separate the "arguers" into two groups: the creators and the viewers (critics). Some creators have strong desire/expectation that the viewers would come to understand/agree/appreciate their intents. They would take measures such as statements/receptions/interviews/rebuttles to disclose/explain/defend their intents. But some creators would keep mum about their intents and let the viewers to determine on their own. Why creators have such different views would make an interesting discussion topic.

On the flip side, all critical viewers would want to know the creators' intents. Some would like to start with knowing the creators' intents, but some would prefer to find out on their own. With all these permutations, it is natural for the creators and viewers to reactive differently.

BTW, the above is about work of "art" in general, and not limited to photography. We probably all love/hate songs that we can't decipher their lyrics, or movies that we can't nail down their endings. The intrigue of these work is often the reason for their popularity. Only the creators know for sure about their work's intents, and may or may not care about the viewers' reactions.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 16, 2008, 09:07:21 AM
Well put, Chris. That's one of the most meaningful statements I've seen in this whole thread.

-Eric
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: EricWHiss on July 16, 2008, 02:22:19 PM
Lots of good thought's Chris and EricM,

The 900# gorilla is the monetization of art. So much of what we see and know about art as a culture has more to do with what could be sold than anything else.

For example let me suggest a Thomas Kinkaid story that I heard from a friend who interviewed one of the guys behind this artist for a VP job. He had told her that some of his business friends decided that there was a market for medium priced art and they went looking for a non confrontational artist, something that would appeal to everyday people.   One of the guy's wifes suggested a painter that came to their church.  So they created a franchise around this guy that was built up to the point of 400 employee's and mass production of "paintings"  using canvas in injet printers. These were sold at franchised "galleries" in shopping malls around the country. Buyers could pay a premium to have a "master" paint in the highlights onto the canvas that Kinkaid never touched.  

How does this relate to art and to photography?  Well I think that a large group out there cares very little for the content, final cause, or quality but rather only cares if money can be made.  This pollutes the concept of what is art and confuses the players - critics, artists, and public.

I'm not saying it voids the roles of the 'creators' or 'critics' but I do feel that both groups are steered by money and marketing to a large extent.

The solution to all the marketing madness is better public arts education - and I'm happy for this discussion.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 16, 2008, 03:06:06 PM
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The 900# gorilla is the monetization of art.
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At least since the Renaissance, there's been a clear connection between art and wealth. In fact, the view that art has no use - or no end apart from itself - has fed into the conventional, elite status of fine art. (Only wealthy people could spend large amounts of money to buy something so without use! The rest of us are trying to pay the bills. Thus, art becomes a status symbol.)

Such attitudes persist, for sure, but art really has opened up to all kinds of critical possibilities. What we tend to see in the major private galleries and read about in much of the main-stream press, though, is definitely underpinned by precisely what you describe, EricWHiss.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 16, 2008, 06:21:13 PM
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At least since the Renaissance, there's been a clear connection between art and wealth. In fact, the view that art has no use - or no end apart from itself - has fed into the conventional, elite status of fine art. (Only wealthy people could spend large amounts of money to buy something so without use! The rest of us are trying to pay the bills. Thus, art becomes a status symbol.)

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Hooray for wealthy people! Without them artists would have a tough time existing. Art is certainly a discretionary purchase, with the looming recessions around the world it will be interesting to see how that affects the art market.

I'm perfectly happy with the alleged commercialization of art. What's not to like about someone paying you do what you enjoy most? Artists, too, have bills to pay.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 16, 2008, 07:00:37 PM
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Hooray for wealthy people! Without them artists would have a tough time existing. Art is certainly a discretionary purchase, with the looming recessions around the world it will be interesting to see how that affects the art market.

I'm perfectly happy with the alleged commercialization of art. What's not to like about someone paying you do what you enjoy most? Artists, too, have bills to pay.
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The problem is that too many of the wealthy prefer to wait for the artist to die before they invest in his/her work.  
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Nick Rains on July 16, 2008, 07:07:03 PM
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The problem is that too many of the wealthy prefer to wait for the artist to die before they invest in his/her work.   
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LOL

Actually no, the trick is to invest in artists' early careers before the prices go up after their demise.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on July 16, 2008, 11:49:56 PM
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LOL

Actually no, the trick is to invest in artists' early careers before the prices go up after their demise.
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Yup. Done that too. Back in the 1960s I invested in a couple of prints by an emerging photographer named Ansel Adams. They cost all of $6 US each (mounted, signed).
Of course now I wish I'd bought a lot more. I stopped buying when the price soared to an astronomical $15 each.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 17, 2008, 02:16:14 AM
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I'm perfectly happy with the alleged commercialization of art. What's not to like about someone paying you do what you enjoy most? Artists, too, have bills to pay.
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And is the art that achieves this what you've been calling an 'end in itself'?  
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on July 17, 2008, 01:17:26 PM
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. . . the view that art has no use - or no end apart from itself - has fed into the conventional, elite status of fine art. (Only wealthy people could spend large amounts of money to buy something so without use! The rest of us are trying to pay the bills. Thus, art becomes a status symbol.)
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Yes and no.  The way I like to put it is that art is a want, not a need.  We don't need art to live.  Agreed, our lives will be that much poorer without the enlightenment and beauty that art brings us, but we won't physically die for lack of art (we might spiritually die though).  Therefore art is a want.  It is something we want to have but don't need to have.  

It's like a Porsche, or a Lotus, or any luxury car.  You can move around just as well with a more mundane vehicle.  So you don't need one of those.  You want one of those.

Personally, I'm all for owning things we want and do not need.  But then I sell art so obviously I'm heavily biased.  I'm also conflicted:  I believe that art is a necessity when you want to enrich your life.  

As you can see, I'm heavily flawed ;-)
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 17, 2008, 01:57:38 PM
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As you can see, I'm heavily flawed ;-)
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I don't think there's a flaw in what you write. The distinction between needs and wants is important - though I would argue that some of the most important art does meet real needs.

What I'm getting at in my last reply is the apparent contradiction between, on one hand, the claim that a photograph is an end in itself, and on the other that the photograph is important as a source of income. Not that the two roles are entirely incompatible, and I have no issue at all with the latter role for art, but there certainly is a long history of using the 'end in itself' argument to reinforce the exchange value of the work. Which, of course, is a contradiction.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on July 17, 2008, 02:21:12 PM
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I don't think there's a flaw in what you write. The distinction between needs and wants is important - though I would argue that some of the most important art does meet real needs.

What I'm getting at in my last reply is the apparent contradiction between, on one hand, the claim that a photograph is an end in itself, and on the other that the photograph is important as a source of income. Not that the two roles are entirely incompatible, and I have no issue at all with the latter role for art, but there certainly is a long history of using the 'end in itself' argument to reinforce the exchange value of the work. Which, of course, is a contradiction.
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To me the justification for creating art is that it is what I love to do.  I am blessed in that I can derive a very good income from it, but income is not why I decided to do this as a career.

What made me take this decision was the realization that anything one wants to do at the highest level is difficult, competitive and requires total dedication.  This being the case, I decided I might as well do what I love.

If I failed, I'd still be doing what I love.  If I succeeded, I'd be doing what I love and be financially secure.  

In either situation I would be able to put all my energy and resources in this endeavor since there is nothing else that I'd rather be doing.

My thinking in that regard followed the thinking of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Blaise Pascal, although I realized this after I made my decision, not before.  This process would have been easier for me if I had been familiar with their writings beforehand.

I was fortunate that when I took this decision my income was virtually nil (I was a PhD program graduate student making $500 a month as a teaching assistant).  If I had been earning a six figure income this decision would have been much more challenging.

I discuss this in greater details in my book "Mastering Landscape Photography".
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on July 19, 2008, 03:56:56 PM
That's well over 100 posts now. Do you think we are any clearer how the term 'fine art photography' is used on this site?  

Whatever, I've learned a lot.

Cheers

Chris
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: dkeyes on July 21, 2008, 02:12:22 PM
OK, I don't have the time or energy to write a 20 page essay but here are a few quick notes.

First you have to ask the question: Why define fine art photography? Is it a qualitative judgement? I use the term only in casual conversation to help others that are less informed about art or photography. Most will intuitively know the difference between commercial (for example) and fine art. The following definition is for that purpose only. Otherwise, I don't see a need for the definition.

A fine art photographer communicates with his/her own voice with little or no input from other voices (unless they have multiple personalities). A commercial photographer communicates with many voices having a say in the final communication. The best commercial and fine art photographers' create a new voice that hasn't been heard before. One is not better than the other, it's just harder as a commercial photographer to have your own voice when everyone else is telling you what to say. Of course, there are many fine art photographers that have little new to say even when they can say anything they want.

The definition of art is like the universe, ever expanding. The role of the artist is to define it for themselves. It's ever changing and that's what makes it interesting and compelling. There are explorers like Duchamp and there are those that want to retreat to the comforts of home, never expanding the definition of art. Or worse, stuck in time just listening to the same rock station on the radio as they did in high school. (I like AC/DC now and then.)

Art is a necessity, even the most primitive cultures have art (going back to before humans could speak most likely). It's a form of communication which is a basic need for every human being. Everyone has art in their life wether they know it or not. Art isn't just a picture on the wall, it's a creative act, making something from other things. It's what you wear, it can be what you eat or drink or live in.

Obviously, my definition of art is an expanded one. As an artist I take photos but I don't define myself by the tools I use. Really, we are all artists, some just decide they can or want to say something and define it as art. If your lucky, you'll be paid for that and be able to make a living doing what you love.

- Doug
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: daws on August 01, 2008, 05:11:58 AM
I think fine art is what happens when one of our fellow humans
speaks to us in a medium we know, about a subject we know, but in a manner beyond our knowing -- and with the result that something inside us breaks open and cries at the discovery.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: rennie12 on August 16, 2008, 03:23:48 AM
To a certain degree you are talking about the meaning of words...not about art or photography.

Many of our present concepts have been altered and more or less (imho) robbed of some meaning by the continuous clatter of "buy me", "buy me" which is omnipresent in our lives.

IMHO the words "fine art photography" are essentially an attempt to separate the work from commercial work.  Actually the concept is difficult, because HOW the photo is used may determine what it is.  

An interesting comparison would be the work of William Shakespeare - this is now considered great art.  But it was NOT created as great art - it was ABSOLUTELY commercial work ground out to make a living.  Original Shakespeare works were presented under rowdy (sometimes bawdy) conditions...in a very different era.

I do agree it IS great art - as are the plays of George Bernard Shaw.  Interestingly enough GBS plays have very careful notations about how the words are to be spoken, often stage directions, often comments as to the emotions of the character - according to GBS this is because he noted WS left NO stage directions whatever.

Incidentally, Kurosawa's "Magnificent Seven" and the original "Godfather" (the movie not the pot-boiler novel from which it was made) are also great art.

Some photography made for the simplest of commercial reasons is also great art - (some of W Eugene Smith's b/w images made for LIFE - of all the crassly commercial magazines) are great art...better IMHO than the portentiously self-important work of Ansel Adams - which are really only excellent technical exercises - any greatness is in the subject matter).

I find Mr Briots work admirable - but much of it is art basically because of the subject matter - the skill is in the technical end and in the patience and skill with which he chooses lightings of great subjects.  (I do NOT find his work 'portentiously self-important' like that of AA).

I feel Mr Reichmann's work is more often art than Mr Briots - he takes an immensely broader range of subjects.  The art value of Mr R's work often lies in his view of the subject rather than the majesty of the subject itself.

An example would be Mr R's series on ship-breaking in an asian country (the name of which escapes me)...wonderful images, often damaged by excessive white mattes or surrounds (IMHO of course).

As someone trained in actual painting I feel photography is inherently a much more difficult art - photography is dreadfully limited by the simple fact the camera places NO EMPHASIS on anything per se - the photographer has to create "art" by lighting and what he includes or excludes - incredibly difficult compared to the simple task of the painter (ignoring the technical difficulties of painting).

An excellent idea of what I am describing can be had by comparing the wildlife are of the late Bob Kuhn (readily googled) with any wildlife art photographer's work.  If you skip over the difficulty of having the patience, skill, and talent to paint like Mr Kuhn you realize that his work is ENORMOUSLY freer and more flexible than ANY wildlife photography.

Basically the task of any artist (camera or brush, pencil, stone) is to produce an emotional reaction in the viewer.  This is ENORMOUSLY harder to do with a camera.  Another good example is how difficult it is to make a funny - or poignant - photographs -while someone like a skilled editorial cartoonist or the great world war II creator of "Willie and Joe" could do it in a black and white comic strip.

Liebowitz is accepted as a fine portrait photographer - but her work is not much compared to a fine painter - mostly because her medium is so limited and difficult.  How could you compete with Frans Hals with a photograph ?  Or Vermeer ?

And yet - a really successful photograph has an enormous immideacy and sense of reality that no painting can have - which is essentially why photography dominates advertising.

I think in essence I am trying to say the phrase "fine art photography" is essentially a sales gimmick - an advertising catchphrase with almost no meaning.

A photograph can be art (even if that was never the original intent) as can a play, or a movie.  But IMHO photography is the most difficult of the visual arts - simply because photographs see too much.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on August 16, 2008, 11:47:18 AM
Rennie12

You have some good points there - I endorse the view on W. Eugene Smith to which one could add Don McCullin, Larry Burrows and a few others of the era. I also think not a lot of Saint Adams - as with much of todayīs work, great sterility with perfect technical control seems (to me) to be what many photographic  genres are about. It ainīt enough to have a great subject: you have to do something with it to make it an experience other than that which just being there can give everybody else, even without a camera in their hands.

Painting and photography. I am happy to see you give the photographic discipline some respect, coming as you do from a painting background. I painted a bit too, as a teenager, visited lots of galleries etc. and quickly realised that it was one thing to buy Van Gogh postcards and copy them stroke for stroke, but quite another to go out into the great big yonder and do something original. You are right, too, that photography offers fewer options for creative control. A painter only has to include what he wants to - the photographerīs life is beset with trying to exclude, to get to the nub of something. That, paradoxically, is one reason why paper rolls help photography along yet, at the same time, hold it back. Think about it: it is then all up you and the subject - no background to help either mask or distract from the faults yet the perfect way to present wonderful works. An unforgiving bitch, you could say. And yes, I know about and use Photoshop, but thatīs not the same thing.

Many painters work from photographs. I have mixed views on this, having both a cousin and his son as professional painters, the father in Scotland and the son in Canada. I know the father uses his own photographs as references, but he was well through art college before he started using them and they did not become too great an influence on his art - they remain notes - his paintings look like paintings... Yet, I know others whose works look like copies of photographs simply because that is what their work becomes: no personality input, just a painted copy of their own mundane photograph. And you know what - I have friends who rave about how brilliant an artist so-and-so is and they buy that work. You will note that I use no names.

Mr Briot. I discovered him via this site and have read what he publishes here. Strangely, of all his work, that which appeals most to me goes back to some Parisian photographs he made around the time, I think, when he was trying out, and writing about, the Epson 800(?) printer, the one before the larger 1800 model. I understand the appeal to a European of the different scale of the US panorama, why he might have felt happier to work in that environment, particularly as his English is so good. At the same time, I often feel he would have found greater subjects much closer to home. But possibly not the markets. I must stress again, just to cover my ass against attacks, that there is NO criticism meant, simply an expression of how I think about what an individualīs work does for me, a harmless extrapolation of what I see on the monitor. In a way, Alainīs experience might be an extension of the UK thing in my own early pro life, where the standard belief was that you had to go to London or Manchester to make a living in photography. I would have done the same, except that my comfortable home in Scotland would have purchased a garage in London. In the event, I didnīt have to go anywhere.

Michaelīs work: I have often posted here in response to his home page shots, and if my old memory doesnīt betray me, I have mainly felt him to be far more exciting a photographer with subjects other than landscape. This is not to knock his landscapes, which are exemplary, but to say that he has so many other strings to his photographic bow that I am happy to see him use, and which arouse my interest more. Some of those sreet shots are finest contemporary art. It would be interesting to know if he has them for sale in his gallery and how they shift compared with his traditional landscapes.

Hell, one could write forever about photography and art and what it might or might not be - letīs just be glad they both exist, even sometimes within the same work.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: dalethorn on August 17, 2008, 10:19:41 AM
Fine Art as a definition becomes more relevant when you consider the funding that supports the museums and exhibitions, not to mention the politics on the inside.  As to wants and needs, I consider social progress to be beyond both - it's a must.  And social progress on planet Earth is easy enough to discover, but finding the reliable source is not.  My personal feeling is that digital tech offers great freedom for average people who could never afford the analog alternatives.  If we can couple that with better food and and resource distribution without poisoning the planet to death, then social progress will continue, and digital tech can document that rather than more death and disaster.  I wonder just how much Fine Art contains imagery of death and disaster, in different time periods?  And do we tend to hide these things more today than, say, 100 or 200 years ago?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ashaughnessy on August 18, 2008, 05:32:28 AM
I agree with Rennie12 that this is an argument about words. There are many definitions of the word art (look in the dictionary) and if you wished you could create your own definition. I think you need to differentiate between whether something is art and whether something is good or bad. You might choose a definition for the word art (or fine art) and then decide something is art *according to that definition* but still decide that you don't like it or that it is bad.

Art is also a social and political phenomenon and so definitions of art need to take this into account. Here are some definitions of art (or fine art) that are particularly concrete. We can use concrete definitions to draw objective conclusions but it still doesn't say whether something is good or bad, just whether it is art *according to that definition*. Each of these definitions is different - they aren't intended to be complementary.

Definition 1) - Art is whatever can be funded by the UK Arts Council.
If the arts council will give you a grant to do it, then its art. Might be good or bad, worthless or important, this definition doesn't care. Or you could insert the name of any official body into this definition.

Definition 2) - Art is whatever will sell in a high-end auction house or gallery.

Definition 3) - Art is whatever the "art establishment" agrees is art.
This assumes we can agree on a definition of "art establishment", but I suspect it wouldn't be too difficult to do that - galleries and museums, university art departments, government funding bodies, national newspaper art critics, etc. Note this definition excludes any contribution from "the general public" as to what is art.

Definition 4) - Art is whatever the general public agrees is art.
This would almost certainly give a different answer to definition 3.

Definition 5) - insert your own definition here.

The point is we can define art in any way we like and then decide whether something is art according to that criteria but if we want to answer a concrete question then we will need a concrete definition. For example, the question "can I get funding for my arts project" will need the concrete definition of "art is whatever will get funding from funding bodies", then you can decide whether your work meets that definition (and you'll need to convince them its good art :-)

Anthony
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ChrisS on August 18, 2008, 04:12:19 PM
Anthony - I agree with your comments. But - would you say all such definitions are equal? If I insert Definition 5 and it's really weak - say, 'fine art is just what makes me happy' - on what grounds could you exclude it, or claim that it's less important than the ones you have offered? In its context, I could argue that it's a great definition - but the context (what makes me happy) is nothing like as important or convincing as the definitions you've offered. Can the definition of art be so open?  (It seems to me it can't.)  If not, on what grounds can we prioritise one definition over another?

RobC - the point you make about traveling vs. staying local (if I can paraphrase you in that way) has been on my mind for some time. One of the most important things art can do, I think, is to call our attention to the things we overlook. And that could involve trips to the ice-caps or to deserts, or it could involve looking more closely at our own back yard. Given the ethical issues that some forms of travel now raise, I think there's a strong case for looking for the overlooked where we are.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on August 18, 2008, 04:45:06 PM
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RobC - the point you make about traveling vs. staying local (if I can paraphrase you in that way) has been on my mind for some time. One of the most important things art can do, I think, is to call our attention to the things we overlook. And that could involve trips to the ice-caps or to deserts, or it could involve looking more closely at our own back yard. Given the ethical issues that some forms of travel now raise, I think there's a strong case for looking for the overlooked where we are.
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The search for subjects is a troubled quest, not only because it is often difficult to know just what we are looking for, but possibly because the search is in the wrong place, not physically but psychologically. I feel that it is often more a matter of educating our eyes, really seeing whatīs around us than of finding something new in another place.

Having just written this, I know that in my own career I did use travel as a means of finding something fresh to say; coming up against something very new to me was certainly helpful in providing new themes for old topics and it did raise the self-esteem part of the experience: being somewhere exotic (relative to where one lived) had the effect of making one feel a little special, and the enthusiasm and effort put into the job rose accordingly. I know perfectly well that a pro should be able to do good work anywhere, but there is little doubt in my mind that location works on several levels at once, helping life along.

I donīt really think that the above paragraph is a contradiction of the first; more, I think it underlines the difficulty of finding inspiration in the īsame old placesī, not because subjects might not be there, but because familiarity has destroyed the abilty to see anew.

Even that might not alway be as straightforward as I might have appeared to put it. My personal problem, in working life, was that location was generally about providing background to a model or model and product; location as subject in itself is another matter, and possibly more difficult a one to handle. I think it must be. For example, I have lived the past twent-seven years more or less in the same little Spanish town and it was only some few months ago that I discovered some previously unseen (by me) motifs which fitted neatly into a little idea that I had about catching a series of pictures that would illustrate the emotion of unease. They had always been there, but I just wasnīt looking for them at the time. So, was I blind all that time, or was the need simply not there to provoke the vision?

We could all have been bank managers.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ashaughnessy on August 19, 2008, 04:31:01 AM
I don't know if all possible definitions have an equal footing. I know that some definitions are subjective ("art is what I like") and so we'll never get agreement about what's art according to such definitions. Objective definitions can be made that can give objective answers but I don't know whether they're any more valid than subjective definitions. I'm not even sure we need a universally agreed definition.

Perhaps we should go back a step and ask ourselves why we need to know what's art and what's not art? Perhaps the answer to that question will give a definition of art, though it might still be a subjective definition.

For myself, I used to ask the question "is this art" as some way of deciding whether I was supposed to like something or not. If someone in "authority" had labelled something as art but I didn't like it, then I'd feel the need to understand why I didn't like it. If it wasn't labelled as art then it didn't matter. A lack of confidence on my part. Now I don't have the same need to know whether something is art.

For example - is Duchamp's "fountain" art? Well I don't really care, so I don't need a definition of the word "art" to tell me if its art. If I really needed to know if its art then I'd have to work out why I needed to know that and then that might give me a definition I could use.

Anthony
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on August 19, 2008, 06:13:09 AM
Anthony

And I used to think that I suffer from a labyrinthine mind!

Taking your recommended step backward and asking whether we really need a definition of what is or is not art is too late: the question has already been posed, not just here, but everywhere and for as long as memory serves.

I think the situation here is that we are thinking of such definitions purely in terms of photography, which in a photo-forum is fair enough. Also, I suspect that the need for such a question is powered by a possible lack of confidence still extant among photographers that our art is not art at all, just a mechanical trick which some perform better than others.

I have no idea where this next bit of wisdom came from, but the more I think about it, the more accurate it seems to be: there is no art, just artists.

I wonīt even go into the matter of how an artist defines his work - one I respect very much says that much of his work is not art either, but that some select examples of that work do, in fact, measure up to his standard of what is or is not art.

Go figure!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: ashaughnessy on August 19, 2008, 09:29:11 AM
Here's a concrete and real-world "question behind the question".

Which artists, artistic pursuits, and art objects should be considered worthy of funding with public money?

Let's say a museum wanted to purchase Duchamp's fountain / urinal using money from the public purse. There may well be discussion about whether Duchamp's work is art in this context and therefore worthy of public funding. This gives us a context in which to decide whether his work is art. Its still subjective but at least we have a framework for the debate and we can now focus our discussion in this context.

There are an unlimited number of contexts (questions behind the question) leading to an unlimited number of definitions of art. Without knowing the context in which the question was asked, we can't answer it.

Consider looking at the definition of the word art at www.dictionary.com - there are several definitions and you would choose whichever is most relevant to the question you're trying to answer.

Anthony

PS: I've just re-read the original post and it does suggest that deciding whether something is fine-art is context-specific - so perhaps I agree with the original poster. I think one possible useful definition of "fine art" is what you sometimes see on commercial photographers web sites, where they distinguish portfolios of their commercial work from their personal (AKA fine art) work.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Misirlou on August 19, 2008, 04:25:17 PM
The artist is simply trying to tell you something, without doing so directly. How clever they are at balancing that intended communication with indirect abstraction is how I measure their quality.

What I look for now is a sense of the artist's momentary experience. I really get jazzed by works that gives me the feeling of experiencing the moment that the artist experienced. I don't necessarily care if the artist was trying to make some larger point either. It seems as if there are more than enough political statements to be found in art today, and I'm just not that interested in sermons: Give me a sense of what it feels like to be be present in a different time or a different place.

By that criteria, St. Ansel is deserving of the veneration. His technical prowess helps me to see what he saw, and that matters a great deal, to me. I can get lost in some of his photos. Just stand there for a few minutes and try to imagine what the air smelled like, or how the waterfall sounded. I also prefer his later, "blacker" style, because I think those abstractions were more bold. It just so happens that he eperienced a lot of his favorite moments in the national parks. If he shot car shows, I might like those just as much.

The French impressionists are out of favor at the moment, but I can't think of better examples of that "sense-of-the-moment" feeling. I appreciate cubism and abstract expressionism too: Not too many more powerful images than Guernica. And I really enjoy films like Radio Days. A real sense of time and place in that one. To me, that's art.

Yeah, I know these things aren't "edgy," and they don't require a cultivated art background to understand, but that's not where I want to be these days. A few years ago, I went to a jurried exhibition where it seemed like the artists' notes were all full of statements like "I'm trying to challenge conventional notions of gender identity." Pretty hard to communicate that successfully with a static art piece.

I do see a distinction between commercial photography and so-called fine art photography. A photographer might be trying to capture a set of images solely to put food on the table, wihtout regard for communicating anything other than "this is a shiny toaster," and there's nothing wrong with that. If that same photographer worked hard to make an image that might communicate on its own, even if the buyer didn't really notice or care, that could be art too. It's just that not very many collectors are going to spend much time savoring the moment expressed by a photo of a spiffy, carefully-lighted toaster.

Of course, I fully expect someone to pull out their toaster art now...
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on August 24, 2008, 03:44:48 PM
Letīs not forget the example by Warhol: Campbellīs Soup! Why not the toaster, indeed!

That remark about gender was so true: I remember exactly the same rubbish coming out about all manner of subjects that had zilch to do with gender, sex or even people. To me, thatīs all curator-speak and not really worth absorbing, though it is worth reading it and wondering at the ingenuity of some minds to make such leaps of faith into the power of words. It is quite alarming just how much words can be employed to create myth which in turn becomes accepted knowledge, rock-hard fact! Look no further than the MF Piccy section of this forum to see how that happened to me.

Actually, if that sort of thing is so easily done in our society, then can anyone really wonder that states like Iran feel they NEED a bomb to equal the equation? Mobs are not pretty things; certainly not works of art unless perhaps in paintings!

On the matter of artistīs message: I really doubt that many artists are even aware that they have one. My instinct is that they do as I do - do what feels right at the time, sometimes it works and often it does not. In professional work too, there is (was?) a good deal of that about, the freethinking photographer taking a brief and interpreting. I accept that that has gone today on the big work. I recall a TV interview with Helmut Newton where he made the same point: īeverything has become such a big deal now,ī were his words. Good, bad? Who can tell - itīs just the way it is.

But will it always be that way? I have a sneaking suspicion that the apparent demise of TV advertising and the parallel fall in print advertising revenue to internet advertising might see a return of the simple photographic operation. After all, I spend too much time on the web already and most advertising manages to get screened away; that which does get through is very small-sized and not up to much. Will it make sense to continue lugging around the cart of bricks referred to elsewhere on the forum? Will there, indeed, be a market for all of those projected MF digi backs if the scene changes that radically? What will pay for it? More debt? We know where that has got us today.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on February 20, 2009, 04:23:20 PM
Quote from: alainbriot
For me a fine art photograph is one that is done with the goal of creating a work of art. It is an image that is done with a high level of craftmanship and care.

The goal is an artistic rendering of a subject in the finest manner possible.  

it should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.

In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.

I guess Cartier-Bresson wasn't an artist then. After all, he didn't do his own printing. But if you'd concede that he was an artist, then, when one of his magnificent photographs was printed in Life Magazine was the photograph on the magazine's page "fine art?"

The whole stupid question was answered long ago. Why not move on to a more important question like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I know, it might depend on the size of the pin, but there surely must be some generalizing factor similar to the quality of a "fine art" photograph's mounting.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Professional on February 20, 2009, 06:39:26 PM
WOW, i asked this question in some websites and i didn't know that it has been asked here long time ago, nice thread, i need to read it, because i think all what is missing with me is skill or talent maybe to be an artist, i need to know about art to become different photographer or to be special.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: tonysmith on March 02, 2009, 08:34:00 PM
I am very late to this discussion but since the general topic "what is art?" has interested me for a long time, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts.

I read a definition of art in Microsoft's Encarta several years ago that went something like "Art is a work produced through a combination of skill and imagination that is intended to produce in the audience a response that is emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, or some combination of these."

I always like this definition as relating to the "intention" not the judged quality. It allows for good art and bad art but does not discriminate. I also liked "a combination of skill and imagination" as it allows for different combinations of these qualities but insists on some of both.

As to "fine art", Wikipedia says "Fine art describes any art form developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility. This type of art is often expressed in the production of art objects using visual and performing art forms, including painting, sculpture, dance, theatre, architecture, photography and printmaking."

The combination of those two might define "fine art photography" pretty well.

Regards

Tony
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 03, 2009, 12:09:44 AM
All art is a vision penetrating the illusions of reality, and photography is one form of this vision and revelation.

Ansel Adams, foreword to Yosemite and the Range of Light, 1979.

Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on March 03, 2009, 11:03:27 AM
Quote from: alainbriot
All art is a vision penetrating the illusions of reality, and photography is one form of this vision and revelation.

Hear, hear, Alain. Exactly! Art hasn't much to do with the quality of printing, the sharpness of the lens, etc., etc. -- or the "artist's" intent or skill or imagination. It has to do with a transcendental experience you encounter through the object or performance that's is the "art." In my opinion, Archibald MacLeish never was a great poet, but he was a very good teacher and he understood what makes art, in this case a poem, effective. In his book, "Poetry and Experience," here's what he had to say about Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." a poem powerful enough to have been read to the U.S. at large as a requiem the day after John Kennedy's murder.

"I think we can probably agree that this poem is a trap and cage in which a heaven and earth we recognize is somehow caught. A boy’s agony, face to face with the humility and submission of a dying father, is held here in such a way that we not only know the pain but know something we had not known before about that mysterious turning away which is the cause of pain. But can we go further still? Can we say how this knowing is given to us?

"We can take, I think, at least one step. We can agree that whatever it is we know in this poem, we know only in the poem. It is not a knowledge we can extract from the poem like a meat from a nut and carry off. It is something the poem means — something that is gone when the poem goes and recovered only by returning to the poem’s words. And not only by returning to the poem’s words but by returning to them within the poem. If we alter them, if we change their order, though leaving their sense much as it is, if we speak them so that their movement changes, their meaning changes also."

In your words, Alain, the poem penetrates "the illusions of reality" and brings us face to face with something we can't put into words. The same thing's true of a photograph you properly can tag with the label, "art." I'm not sure MacLeish's word "know" in "whatever it is we know in this poem" is the right word, but I can't think of a better one. If the experience you have when you look at a photograph isn't transcendental -- if it doesn't "penetrate the illusions of reality" -- if you actually can explain in words what's important about the image, then it isn't "art." It may be beautiful, it may satisfy the rule of thirds, it may have diagonals, repitition, etc., etc., and it may be significant in some temporal way, but unless the transcendental experience is there, it isn't art.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: whawn on March 03, 2009, 08:17:49 PM
Quote from: RSL
In your words, Alain, the poem penetrates "the illusions of reality" and brings us face to face with something we can't put into words.
Uh-m-m...  Alain was quoting Adams.  

FWIW, It's clear to me that Adams was an artist, and so was Cartier-Bresson.  I submit that Weston was not, but he was a superb craftsman, which can stand in for art in nearly any weather.  

Or, you can take Frank Zappa's definition of art, and reduce the whole debate to reality:  "Art is making something out of nothing and selling it."  That makes all five persons I've mentioned artists, along with my writer grandmother and my sister-in-law who paints long twisty roots in odd colors and sells them at flea markets.  Her stuff, BTW, often comes with real emotional affect.

To add to the confusion, here's more from  Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_art):  "That fine art is seen as being distinct from applied arts is largely the result of an issue raised in Britain by the conflict between the followers of the Arts and Crafts Movement, including William Morris, and the early modernists, including Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. The former sought to bring socialist principles to bear on the arts by including the more commonplace crafts of the masses within the realm of the arts, while the modernists sought to keep artistic endeavor as exclusive and esoteric.

Confusion often occurs when people mistakenly refer to the Fine Arts but mean the Performing Arts (Music, Dance, Drama, etc). However, there is some disagreement here, as, for example, at York University, Fine Arts is a faculty that includes the "traditional" fine arts, design, and the "Performing Arts". Furthermore, creative writing is frequently considered a fine art as well."


In other words, the matter is largely a distinction without a difference (to borrow from I forget whom), and to argue about who is a fine artist and who is a punk is both pointless and frustrating.  
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 03, 2009, 08:34:37 PM
Here's more from the same source:

"Turn to the many estimable books available on the natural sciences and history of the region if you wish to ponder the facts and grasp the realities. The function of this book is to present visual evidences of memories and mysteries at a personal level of experience. Most such experiences cannot be photographed directly but are distilled at a synthesis of total personal significance; perhaps their spirit is captured by images visualized through the obedient eye of the camera."
Ansel Adams, in the Foreword to Yosemite and the Range of Light, 1979

Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 04, 2009, 12:28:30 PM
This is a terrible predicament: I simply canīt accept St Ansel as artist; I canīt accept Sarah Moon as anything but.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on March 04, 2009, 01:02:37 PM
Quote from: whawn
Uh-m-m...  Alain was quoting Adams.

You're right, Walter. That's what happens when I get in a hurry. It's an interesting point that Ansel said that. I don't think Ansel penetrated the illusions of reality with most of his photography. The only photograph of his I'd put into that category, even slightly, is a haunting picture of a woman behind a screen door. It was there several years ago in the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center during an Adams show -- hanging among the usual Adams pictures of what Wordsworth called "rocks and stones and trees," and the standard picture of Georgia O and friend. You'd walk around the corner of a display and there it was.

Ansel was a fabulous technician, but I wouldn't call him an artist. His own statement that "The negative is the score. The print is the performance," makes it pretty clear what he was after. He was very good at finding the right light, etc. for his landscapes, but landscape photography doesn't really penetrate the illusions of reality, it simply records them. Afraid I have to agree with Rob C.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 04, 2009, 02:09:31 PM
Quote from: Rob C
This is a terrible predicament: I simply canīt accept St Ansel as artist; I canīt accept Sarah Moon as anything but.

Rob C

Rob,

Why is this a predicament?
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 04, 2009, 04:02:23 PM
Quote from: alainbriot
Rob,

Why is this a predicament?


Perhaps because I fear that St Ansel should be respected as artist but I think of him only as technician; because Sarah has been my favourite of favourites for her fashion and Pirelli work but has left me dazed and confused ever since her circus pictures.

In short, I worry that somewhere along the line I have begun to lose my sense of perspective on these people. But I still love her, particularly when I read her interview with Frank Horvat in his Horvatland site. At the risk of sounding false, I have to say that in that interview she expresses so much truth (or opinion that agrees with my experience) about the making of a photograph that I feel we could be the same soul. I just wish we had the same talent!

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 04, 2009, 04:24:45 PM
Quote from: Rob C
Perhaps because I fear that St Ansel should be respected as artist but I think of him only as technician; because Sarah has been my favourite of favourites for her fashion and Pirelli work but has left me dazed and confused ever since her circus pictures.

In short, I worry that somewhere along the line I have begun to lose my sense of perspective on these people. But I still love her, particularly when I read her interview with Frank Horvat in his Horvatland site. At the risk of sounding false, I have to say that in that interview she expresses so much truth (or opinion that agrees with my experience) about the making of a photograph that I feel we could be the same soul. I just wish we had the same talent!

Rob C

I understand.  To me, what someone likes or dislikes in regards to art is so personal that I would not even consider trying to change someone's mind in that regard.  I don't think there's a right or a wrong.  Some like Picasso, others like Thomas Kinkade.  Others swear that Monet is it. Still others like none of these.  

The process of finding what art we like is comparable to the process we follow to create art.  It's all about who we are, what we want to express, what inspires us, what we went through, what we want to share with others, what we value and what we feel strongly about.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 04, 2009, 04:59:40 PM
Quote from: alainbriot
I understand.  To me, what someone likes or dislikes in regards to art is so personal that I would not even consider trying to change someone's mind in that regard.  I don't think there's a right or a wrong.  Some like Picasso, others like Thomas Kinkade.  Others swear that Monet is it. Still others like none of these.  

The process of finding what art we like is comparable to the process we follow to create art.  It's all about who we are, what we want to express, what inspires us, what we went through, what we want to share with others, what we value and what we feel strongly about.



Exactly right, and broadly the reasons why I feel that photography, as with probably all the visual arts, is so personal that it becomes very lonely. I canīt stand the thought of another breathing down my neck as I work and fortunately for me, when I was still working for a living I was able, most of the time, to work on my own with just the model.

I read of how it is now; how many stylists, hair people, makeup people, digital technicians etc. etc. are de rigueur on a shoot. I really woudnīt be able to operate like that; my mind would just close up. It used to be so good when the model knew about makeup, could do her own hair and would always have a big bag of props with which you were probably as familiar as was she! (We used to use the same small group of girls because we liked them, because we could build up on a shooting relationship, and because, simply, no negative surprises helped us and our work look good.)

But that wasnīt art: that was commerce. Or was it? Is there, if you love photography that much, any difference? It is a thought that makes me wonder about the currently popular ethic of "personal" work that you can sometimes - generally? - see in professional photographersī websites. What does it mean? Do they not feel passionately, personally, about their commissioned work?

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 04, 2009, 05:06:09 PM
Quote from: Rob C
Exactly right, and broadly the reasons why I feel that photography, as with probably all the visual arts, is so personal that it becomes very lonely. I canīt stand the thought of another breathing down my neck as I work and fortunately for me, when I was still working for a living I was able, most of the time, to work on my own with just the model.

I read of how it is now; how many stylists, hair people, makeup people, digital technicians etc. etc. are de rigueur on a shoot. I really woudnīt be able to operate like that; my mind would just close up. It used to be so good when the model knew about makeup, could do her own hair and would always have a big bag of props with which you were probably as familiar as was she! (We used to use the same small group of girls because we liked them, because we could build up on a shooting relationship, and because, simply, no negative surprises helped us and our work look good.)

But that wasnīt art: that was commerce. Or was it? Is there, if you love photography that much, any difference? It is a thought that makes me wonder about the currently popular ethic of "personal" work that you can sometimes - generally? - see in professional photographersī websites. What does it mean? Do they not feel passionately, personally, about their commissioned work?

Rob C


I agree.  I'm not into commercial photography, but last year I did 1 shoot in France for a commercial client (wine, what else could it be in france .  I was commissioned to take 3 photographs, which of course meant thousands of captures.  There was me, Natalie, the client, the art director, the location director, the driver, the scout and one other person whose purpose I forgot.  We had to have daily meetings at the hotel about how everything went (which was easy since we hardly ever left each other's presence) and we had to have meetings of the mind about how close (or not) we got to capturing the message we had to express in the photographs. I was paid well, and the food was good, so my wallet and my stomach were at peace but my creativity was stifled to a large extent.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: whawn on March 04, 2009, 08:31:21 PM
Quote from: Rob C
...that wasnīt art: that was commerce. Or was it? Is there, if you love photography that much, any difference? It is a thought that makes me wonder about the currently popular ethic of "personal" work that you can sometimes - generally? - see in professional photographersī websites. What does it mean? Do they not feel passionately, personally, about their commissioned work?
I had just this discussion yesterday with a gallery manager who complained that the gallery is 'so commercial.'  'Where's the purity?' of art, he asked.  My reply is that such purity does not exist.  (I have to mention here that he is managing the place for an artist, a sculptor who is both quite good and very commercial, and who puts his whole heart into each piece.)  We must all eat and we must all find shelter and comfort, and that requires economic activity.  Even the cave painters (whatever their motives might have been) could not create in an economic vacuum.  Our work must either sustain us, or we must sustain our work.  In neither case can be found 'purity.'  

Wyeth and Rockwell were 'just illustrators' back in the day, and are now celebrated (in some quarters, anyway) as artists of note.  Picasso painted some very ugly and awkward panels (I would submit his 'Seated Woman' 1918 to the jury, but I can't find an on-line copy); Mondarian is now, say some, boring and wall-papery, but still his stuff originated in the heart, as did Klee's and Pollock's.

The old masters, Rembrandt, for example, sometimes (often?) chafed at the restrictions of commissioned work, but still gave us both high craft and honest heart.  And, I think, those qualities define the lower boundaries of artish behavior.

Were the folk, who carved out the marble for Rome, artists or artisans?  And does it matter?  It was damned good work in some cases.  

Seems to me that the pursuit of perfection is the real work of an artist, and -- no matter how short any of us may fall of the goal -- that is the defining motive.  If you want what you make or do to be perfect, and when you strive to achieve that, you are an artist.  

Unfortunately, it is an effort doomed to failure, and that's why a lot of folks take up accountancy, instead.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 05, 2009, 10:03:14 AM
Quote from: whawn
Unfortunately, it is an effort doomed to failure, and that's why a lot of folks take up accountancy, instead.



Which also allows them to decorate their cave more lavishly.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on March 05, 2009, 02:23:33 PM
Quote from: alainbriot
I agree.  I'm not into commercial photography, but last year I did 1 shoot in France for a commercial client (wine, what else could it be in france .  I was commissioned to take 3 photographs, which of course meant thousands of captures.  There was me, Natalie, the client, the art director, the location director, the driver, the scout and one other person whose purpose I forgot.  We had to have daily meetings at the hotel about how everything went (which was easy since we hardly ever left each other's presence) and we had to have meetings of the mind about how close (or not) we got to capturing the message we had to express in the photographs. I was paid well, and the food was good, so my wallet and my stomach were at peace but my creativity was stifled to a large extent.

Alain, It's a good point. That's exactly why I stopped doing commercial photography back in the sixties. But on the other hand you were doing something you were equipped and trained to do and that wasn't all that far away from what you really wanted to do. Consider the plight of those who must do the equivalent of digging ditches so that they can live to produce their art. Then there's Elliott Erwitt who, not being the scion of a wealthy family as was Cartier-Bresson, had to do commercial photography for a living, but did what he called his "personal best" (in the book of that name) at the end of the day or in the interstices between assignments. Then, one day, there he was, doing a commercial job on kitchen appliances when in walked Kruschev and Nixon! What he got might not have been "fine art," but it wasn't a crashing bore either. To me, the most interesting part of that story is what Kruschev said when Nixon poked him in the chest. The news media bowdlerized the remark but Erwitt was fluent in Russian and translated the retort. I can't repeat it in a family forum like this one.

Fact is, it's possible to make a living doing grunt photography and still have time to do your "personal best."
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 05, 2009, 03:44:52 PM
Quote from: RSL
Fact is, it's possible to make a living doing grunt photography and still have time to do your "personal best."



But donīt neglect the fact that "grunt" photography also allows you to practice and practise your "art" at the same time that you are not doing it. There is no way that doing the non-heart stuff should be allowed to diminish your techniques for the other; rather, it should help, so perhaps they are not that separate.

Basically, I have a bit of a problem with the idea of the two being separate; in truth they may well be different genres, but they both employ cameras, computers and image control. You might prefer doing the one, but if you are having to do two different genres, then the assumption is that you are professional and thus obliged to do the less attractive for the money. But wouldnīt you be doing it to your best ability? And if so, isnīt that part and parcel of the challenge of photography? Doing your best?

I used to find the concept of personal work much more attractive as a young man; it didnīt really mean a lot, more a way of saying to whoever would listen that I felt slightly better than what I was actuall being paid to shoot... In short, a bit of an ego-trip - or even a face-saver? Who knows, but I do believe that a lot of these fancy ideals change with time, or at least, you view them with a little more ammusement or realism. Fact is, Iīm still trying to discover what I might have thought my personal work was all about.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: alainbriot on March 05, 2009, 04:26:04 PM
Quote from: RSL
Alain, It's a good point. That's exactly why I stopped doing commercial photography back in the sixties. But on the other hand you were doing something you were equipped and trained to do and that wasn't all that far away from what you really wanted to do. Consider the plight of those who must do the equivalent of digging ditches so that they can live to produce their art. Then there's Elliott Erwitt who, not being the scion of a wealthy family as was Cartier-Bresson, had to do commercial photography for a living, but did what he called his "personal best" (in the book of that name) at the end of the day or in the interstices between assignments. Then, one day, there he was, doing a commercial job on kitchen appliances when in walked Kruschev and Nixon! What he got might not have been "fine art," but it wasn't a crashing bore either. To me, the most interesting part of that story is what Kruschev said when Nixon poked him in the chest. The news media bowdlerized the remark but Erwitt was fluent in Russian and translated the retort. I can't repeat it in a family forum like this one.

Fact is, it's possible to make a living doing grunt photography and still have time to do your "personal best."

RSL,

I totally agree.  It's really a matter of goals.  If one has it as a goal to create a personal body of work, regardless of other variables, then it can happen even if the conditions are not ideal and even if one does not make a living from the personal work.  As you point out there are numerous photographers who did so.

I also think that being comfortable with commercial work is a matter of experience.  In my case, this was a brand new situation for me and while my skills at taking photographs and seeing images were there, I had to learn to work with a group of people instead of by myself.  I don't complain about this, I am simply pointing out the specific situation of the shoot.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on March 05, 2009, 07:39:06 PM
Quote from: Rob C
But donīt neglect the fact that "grunt" photography also allows you to practice and practise your "art" at the same time that you are not doing it. There is no way that doing the non-heart stuff should be allowed to diminish your techniques for the other; rather, it should help, so perhaps they are not that separate.

Basically, I have a bit of a problem with the idea of the two being separate; in truth they may well be different genres, but they both employ cameras, computers and image control. You might prefer doing the one, but if you are having to do two different genres, then the assumption is that you are professional and thus obliged to do the less attractive for the money. But wouldnīt you be doing it to your best ability? And if so, isnīt that part and parcel of the challenge of photography? Doing your best?

I used to find the concept of personal work much more attractive as a young man; it didnīt really mean a lot, more a way of saying to whoever would listen that I felt slightly better than what I was actuall being paid to shoot... In short, a bit of an ego-trip - or even a face-saver? Who knows, but I do believe that a lot of these fancy ideals change with time, or at least, you view them with a little more ammusement or realism. Fact is, Iīm still trying to discover what I might have thought my personal work was all about.

Rob C

Well, this isn't much fun. We can't seem to disagree. Fact is, I agree with everything you said, Rob. The two things aren't separate if you're doing photography for a living. I was able to give up commercial work because I had plenty of paying work outside photography. I gave it up after my last project (a truism), which was a coming-out ball for some debutants. I did the usual preliminaries and went to a rehearsal so I could be sure that I'd have everything I needed the night of the ball and so I could learn where the girls would stop and curtsy during their presentation, etc.. At the rehearsal there were about fifty women rushing around and every one of them was independently in charge. No one could give me a straight answer about anything. The night of the ball, all I could do was wing it. It all came out all right, and I made a nice chunk of change on the job, but that was the end of that. Weddings are pretty much the same kind of challenge, but on a lower level. I never liked those either.

Also, it seems to me that if you don't do whatever you're doing to the best of your ability the work becomes even more of a dead weight. I've seen that happen to people. Even the grunt work is important -- for your own sanity.

Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on March 11, 2009, 04:36:31 PM
Quote from: RSL
Also, it seems to me that if you don't do whatever you're doing to the best of your ability the work becomes even more of a dead weight. I've seen that happen to people. Even the grunt work is important -- for your own sanity.



Yes, thatīs how it worked for me. In my first year as an independent I did weddings, passports, anything that would turn a penny and pay the rent. In a relatively short time I realised that it was getting me nowhere. My original intention had been to do fashion; I decided that a quick death was going to be better than a long suicide and so I stopped all that, and put 100% effort into the fashion photoraphy, on the understanding that unless it worked out Iīd get the hell out of the business and do hell knows what.

In the event, it more or less worked out like that, with a bit of advertising thrown in for good measure. Later, events changed the business again and  calendar production and photography became the mainstay.

But you do have to enjoy your photography.  If not, then why do it? Not for the money - there isnīt that much of it there for the normal guy. Better to do something that isnīt an "almost" sort of photographic career.

Ciao - Rob C


Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: DavidHoptman on May 30, 2010, 05:52:13 AM


 

Thank you for the kind words :-)  

I agree that the term fine art is overused, but then limited editions are also over used.  Currently I only offer my portfolios in limited editions.  On request, and for certain images, I will date the print.  That seems more genuine to me than placing a number out of a huge edition, such as 25/2000, which is eventually meaningless since there are so many prints, even though each of them has a unique number.  Ansel Adams did not number his prints either, unless I am mistaken.

For me a fine art photograph is one that is done with the goal of creating a work of art. It is an image that is done with a high level of craftmanship and care.  It has to be mounted and matted to museum standards, in an archival manner.  

Above all the cost should take a second seat to the concern for quality.  Fine art is about quality, not about quantity.  It is not about trying to save money by buying lower-priced inks, paper, matboard and other supplies.  It is about creating the finest piece you can create, regardless of cost.  

The goal is an artistic rendering of a subject in the finest manner possible.  

Regardless of price and cost, a fine art print should sing. It should have a lyrical quality.  It should transport you to a different place.  It should open a window on another world, the world the artist is inviting the audience into.

it should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.

A full definition of fine art photography is challenging.  it's a little like defining what is a luxury home, or a luxury car.  Some brands and features come to mind, but how do you rate a new brand, a new product?  

In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.
[/quote]
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: DavidHoptman on May 30, 2010, 05:52:59 AM


  GREETINGS:
My opinion in regards to Fine Art Photography is this; many photographers today are stuck in a mechanical box. They use a camera which is a machine in all respects, then transfer their image files into their computer which again is a  digital/mechanical device, the image is worked in photoshop or with a myriad of other types of filters then the photographer hits another button on their key board and prints out the image on yet another mechanical device called a printer on a so called fine art paper with archival inks etc, etc.  Where is the human/hands on contact? where is the personal intervention that makes a image unique? where does creative process fit in? Straight Digital photography has made it possible for just about anybody to go out and shoot an image, print it, frame it, hang it and call it fine art. Kind of like an elephant with a paint brush and canvas whose works sell in a fine art gallery. Today digital photography has become so sanitized and removed from fine art processes that I am amazed as to how far the terminology FINE ART has gotten off track. The term fine art has become a commercial selling tool. Something that is FINE ART does not have to be labeled Fine Art!, it goes without saying: This term has been coined by digital paper companies in order to sell their product and for the most part digital photography has bought into this terminology in order to elevate their photographic process to the point where if one prints on fine art paper one has created a fine art image. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In regards to a fine art print having to mounted and matted to museum standards  in an archival way to make it fine art is absurd.  Again this is photographic thinking stuck again inside the box. There are a myriad of ways to present photographic imagery, they can be collaged onto found materials such as doors panels, found objects, cloth, toilet seats for that matter,worked on with pastels, charcoal, water colors, printed with alternative photo processes like Platinum and Palladium, Polymer Gravure, used in conjunction with printmaking processes, monotype, etc, etc, which in the end will render the work of art unique and probably more interesting in many respects than a straight digital FINE ART DIGITAL PRINT, because the photographer stepped outside the digital box and put the time and effort into process, allowing the image to express his  personal  feelings all the while enjoying the interaction of creative process with his captured image. The magic is in the doing.  
I could go on and on. I hope I haven't rained on your Parade.  This is not a personal attack on your work in any way.  

  BEST DAVID HOPTMAN.... www.davidhoptman.com

Thank you for the kind words :-)  

I agree that the term fine art is overused, but then limited editions are also over used.  Currently I only offer my portfolios in limited editions.  On request, and for certain images, I will date the print.  That seems more genuine to me than placing a number out of a huge edition, such as 25/2000, which is eventually meaningless since there are so many prints, even though each of them has a unique number.  Ansel Adams did not number his prints either, unless I am mistaken.

For me a fine art photograph is one that is done with the goal of creating a work of art. It is an image that is done with a high level of craftmanship and care.  It has to be mounted and matted to museum standards, in an archival manner.  

Above all the cost should take a second seat to the concern for quality.  Fine art is about quality, not about quantity.  It is not about trying to save money by buying lower-priced inks, paper, matboard and other supplies.  It is about creating the finest piece you can create, regardless of cost.  

The goal is an artistic rendering of a subject in the finest manner possible.  

Regardless of price and cost, a fine art print should sing. It should have a lyrical quality.  It should transport you to a different place.  It should open a window on another world, the world the artist is inviting the audience into.

it should demonstrate an above-average printing skills.  Ideally, it should demonstrate outstanding printing skills.

A full definition of fine art photography is challenging.  it's a little like defining what is a luxury home, or a luxury car.  Some brands and features come to mind, but how do you rate a new brand, a new product?  

In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.
[/quote]
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on May 30, 2010, 12:24:51 PM
Quote from: DavidHoptman
In photography we all know that specific photographer's work can be safely considered fine art: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Joel Meyerowitz, all produced fine art work.  But how about a new photographer whose work hasn't been "stamped" with the fine art label by his or her peers?  More difficult to say.  I hope the above list, however partial, does help.

David, That's an interesting list of people you consider to be "fine" artists. How about Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand, to name just two who didn't do Ansel Adams type work?

Actually, "Fine Art" always has been a marketing term in the same way that limited editions of photographs are pure marketing ploys. Neither idea has anything at all to do with the "art," fine or otherwise, embedded in the work.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on May 30, 2010, 01:39:59 PM
Quote from: RSL
David, That's an interesting list of people you consider to be "fine" artists. How about Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand, to name just two who didn't do Ansel Adams type work?

Actually, "Fine Art" always has been a marketing term in the same way that limited editions of photographs are pure marketing ploys. Neither idea has anything at all to do with the "art," fine or otherwise, embedded in the work.
I would certainly include Frank and Winograd in my list.

It's also of interest that Edward Weston once objected to being called an "Artist" in the publicity for and exhibit. He said something like, "Scratch 'Artist' and write 'Photographer', of which I am very proud." 


Eric

Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: RSL on May 30, 2010, 02:48:59 PM
Right! I'm with Edward on that one.
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on May 30, 2010, 05:48:02 PM
I don't believe that anyone can definitively specify what constitutes fine art.

Art exists within a broad media spectrum and even whether it is fine, good or just bad art is ever open to debate. It is what anyone thinks it is and maybe if there's any final criterion it is a personal one that might result in a positive response to the question: would I buy it (if I could) or tell other people about my ownership or appreciation of it?

One could speculate endlessly and get nowhere at all. You would first have to agree what might be art, never mind good, bad or fine.

Rob C
Title: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on May 30, 2010, 07:13:00 PM
Quote from: Rob C
I don't believe that anyone can definitively specify what constitutes fine art.

Art exists within a broad media spectrum and even whether it is fine, good or just bad art is ever open to debate. It is what anyone thinks it is and maybe if there's any final criterion it is a personal one that might result in a positive response to the question: would I buy it (if I could) or tell other people about my ownership or appreciation of it?

One could speculate endlessly and get nowhere at all. You would first have to agree what might be art, never mind good, bad or fine.

Rob C
Then I think I'll describe my own art as "medium to medium-fine."   

Eric


Title: Re: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob Reiter on October 19, 2010, 12:36:57 PM
For years, I've used the tag line "Fine art printing for photographers and other artists" simply to distiguish our service from "machine printing". This started in the days when The LightRoom was a Cibachrome lab, but I think it still applies today because of our level of commitment to helping our clients get the best prints of their images. I never saw it as comment on the pictures themselves. Beauty-and fine art-are in the eye of the beholder.
Title: Re: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: popnfresh on October 25, 2010, 09:14:16 PM
To label any art "fine" is a judgement call and it's going to be different at different times in different places and to different people. A Cartier-Bresson primt that hangs in the Museum of Modern Art might not be deemed worthy of lining the cage of a Taliban Commander's canary. But in every culture there are general values that art must exhibit to earn the rank of "fine". Most often these can't be read off like a laundry list, but exist on a more subconscious level that we can only begin to describe after prolonged exposure to the artwork. I know what's great art to me because of the way I respond to it. If you ask me why it moves me, I will need to think a while before I answer. Then I will gradually begin to describe the qualities I see in it that I like. But none of those by themselves encompass the "fineness" of an artwork. A great work of art is a living thing, and like all living things it dies when dissected into its constituent parts. What is fine art? Like pornography, I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.   
Title: Re: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: stamper on October 26, 2010, 03:44:52 AM
Then I think I'll describe my own art as "medium to medium-fine."  

Eric

I would describe mine as medium-rare, very rare.  ;)



Title: Re: What is 'fine art photography'?
Post by: Rob C on October 26, 2010, 03:54:45 AM
Then I think I'll describe my own art as "medium to medium-fine."  

Eric




That's a fine old vintage post I've just discovered.

I'll drink to that, Eric!

As for you, Stamper, you've just made me feel very hungry, and it's only ten in the morning.

Rob C