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Author Topic: What is 'fine art photography'?  (Read 185067 times)

Nick Rains

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #80 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.
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Rob C

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #81 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

Moynihan

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #82 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..."


 

Rob C

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #83 on: July 02, 2008, 12:23:25 pm »

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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

ChrisS

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #84 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.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #85 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.'  
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Rob C

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #86 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, can´t let you away with that one! Far too inward looking for a convincing definition - but then, the "blink" might just excuse you...ˇ!

It´s raining here for a change, probably because I´ve started to do some outdoor varnishing again, one of those chores that comes around every year just to remind me that I´m 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

Nick Rains

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #87 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.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #88 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!
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Chris_T

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #89 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.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2008, 11:31:38 am by Chris_T »
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Chris_T

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #90 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 :-)
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Rob C

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #91 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 ´an end in itself´ 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 Chris´ list fit best.

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

Rob C

ChrisS

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #92 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?
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Rob C

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #93 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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I´ve got to be missing something here, but I can´t 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

ChrisS

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #94 on: July 13, 2008, 04:14:43 pm »

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I´ve got to be missing something here, but I can´t 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.)
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Nick Rains

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #95 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...
« Last Edit: July 13, 2008, 06:56:00 pm by Nick Rains »
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Nick Rains
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Nick Rains

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #96 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'.
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Chris_T

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #97 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.

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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.
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ChrisS

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #98 on: July 14, 2008, 02:12:56 pm »

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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.
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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What is 'fine art photography'?
« Reply #99 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.
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