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The hypocrisy of "Fine Art Photography"!

Simply stated "Fine Art Photography" dose not exist in the natural world! "Fine Art Photography" is nothing more than a marketing slogan similar to new and improved. Adding the word "Fine" to "Art Photography" will not make it art nor will taking it away make it any less art. The label "Fine Art Photography" is simply used as a reason to ask a higher selling price for a photograph. Epson is a prime example of this with there "Fine Art Papers" being just another excuse to charge more when you can buy other manufactures papers for less that have just as long of an archival life but are called museum papers or archival papers. Other manufactures as well as photographers have also jumped onto this bandwagon. Some photographers have even gone as far as to call themselves a "Fine Art Photographer" and Then even go on to say you have to print on the most expensive printers, papers and inks to be a "Fine Art Photographer"! Wow I did not know that how you printed a photograph changed the type of photographer you were???? I guess that saying that you are selling an "Archival Print" just loses that sales (cash register) cha ching that "Fine Art Photography" has!

Your truthful comments are welcome.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Will,

I can agree with you that often, "fine", like the word, "Green", as an added descriptor of a commercial project is often a marketing hype and scam. However, Art Photographer might mean glamor, LOL!

Asher
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Fine Art Photography is at least Photography made with artistic intent.

Will,

I can agree with you that often, "fine", like the word, "Green", as an added descriptor of a commercial project is often a marketing hype and scam. However, Art Photographer might mean glamor, LOL!

Asher
Will,

I wanted to check out if my supposition that "Art Photography" referred to so called "Glamor Photography" and it appears I'm not alone in thinking this way. Furthermore, snickering at the term Fine Art Photography" ignores the accepted meaning in art circles, including scholars of art. There are no universally-accepted definitions of the related terms "art photography," "artistic photography," and "fine art photography," as exemplified by definitions found in reference books, in scholarly articles, and on the Web.

Definitions in reference books

Among the definitions that can be found in reference books are:

  • "Art photography": "Euphemism for nude photography"[1].

  • "Art photography": "photography that is done as a fine art -- that is, done to express the artist's perceptions and emotions and to share them with others"[2].

  • "Art photography": a definition "is elusive," but "when photographers refer to it, they have in mind the photographs seen in magazines such as American Photo, Popular Photography, and Print, and in salons and exhibitions. Art (or artful) photography is salable."[3].

  • "Artistic photography": "A frequently used but somewhat vague term. The idea underlying it is that the producer of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression"[4].

  • "Fine art photography": "a picture that is produced for sale or display rather than one that is produced in response to a commercial commission"[5].

  • "Fine art photography": "the production of images to fulfill the creative vision of a photographer. ... Synonymous with art photography"[6].

  • "Fine art photography": also called "decor photography," "photo decor," or "wall decor," this "involves selling large photos... that can be used as wall art"[3].

Definitions in scholarly articles

Among the definitions that can be found in scholarly articles are:

  • Two studies by Christopherson in 1974 defined "fine art photographers" as "those persons who create and distribute photographs specifically as 'art.'"[7][8]

  • A 1986 ethnographic and historical study by Schwartz did not directly define "fine art photography" but did compare it with "camera club photography"[9]. It found that fine art photography "is tied to other media" such as painting; "responds to its own history and traditions" (as opposed to "aspir[ing] to the same achievements made by their predecessors"); "has its own vocabulary"; "conveys ideas" (e.g., "concern with form supersedes concern with subject matter"); "is innovative"; "is personal"; "is a lifestyle"; and "participates in the world of commerce."[9]

Definitions on the Web

Among the definitions that can be found on the Web are:

  • The Library of Congress authorities use "art photography" as "photography of art," and "artistic photography" (i.e., "Photography, artistic") as "photography as a fine art, including aesthetic theory"[10].

  • The Art & Architecture Thesaurus states that "fine art photography" (preferred term) or "art photography" or "artistic photography" is "the movement in England and the United States, from around 1890 into the early 20th century, which promoted various aesthetic approaches. Historically, has sometimes been applied to any photography whose intention is aesthetic, as distinguished from scientific, commercial, or journalistic; for this meaning, use 'photography'"[11].
  • Definitions of "fine art photography" on photographers' static Web pages vary from "the subset of fine art that is created with a camera"[12] to "limited-reproduction photography, using materials and techniques that will outlive the artist"[13].

Discussions of "fine art photography" in Usenet newsgroups[14][15], Internet forums[16][17], and blogs[18][19] have not come to a consensus regarding the definition of the term. Source, formatted for ease of reading.


So just relax my friends. There's no reason why photography made for art to be hopefully purchased and chosen for galleries, museums and collectors should not be called Fine Art!

A label "photographer", alone, means available for hire for anything perhaps. We are not that!

Asher
 
I stand by what I have said "Fine Art Photography" is nothing more than a marketing slogan!

The day 10 or more major universities have a degree in "Fine Art Photography" is the day it is more than a marketing slogan!
 

Rachel Foster

New member
Will, I guess I"m like Ken. I'm missing the point. Could you please elaborate? Are you saying photography cannot be art? Are you saying that nothing is "fine art?"
 
Will, I guess I"m like Ken. I'm missing the point. Could you please elaborate? Are you saying photography cannot be art? Are you saying that nothing is "fine art?"
Ok Rachel, Here goes. If you do photography and consider your photographs to be art then they are regardless of what others might say or think no-matter what you call them.

There is no established definition of "Fine Art Photography" beyond it being an advertising slogan!
 

Rachel Foster

New member
Ah....so this is more to the question of what constitutes art?

Now, that's an interesting debate, possibly unanswerable. I'll think on this a bit.
 

Doug Kerr

Active member
Many things are art.

A handsome kitchen cabinet is art.

A well-executed human interface is art.

A barn swallow's trajectory as she scoops up bugs a few inches off the pavement is art.

A child's drawing in the beach sand is art.

Some art is truly fine.

I'm not sure what art is Fine.

If we could decide what was Fine Art, what would we do with that answer?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Fine Art Photography: maybe, res ipsa locutus!

I stand by what I have said "Fine Art Photography" is nothing more than a marketing slogan!

The day 10 or more major universities have a degree in "Fine Art Photography" is the day it is more than a marketing slogan!
Will,

You are right to take umbrage on people wrapping themselves in attributes not matched by what they really do. So, in that case, sure, get mad at some occasional guru who calls her/himself a fine artist and is really just a marketer of mediocre work. However, you alone, cannot, even with all the strength you can muster, argue that the term "Fine Art Photographer" is itself bogus, for it is not.

There are scores of degree programs that concentrate on expanding the capability highly selected photographers with an existing portfolio. The end result is a degree, Master in fine Arts, MFA, Photography as their specialization. Entry into such programs is harder to come by, more competitive each year. What is sought is the mental and artistic challenge, a space in their lves devoted just to being creative. Unfortunately, an MFA does not guarantee a job, just the "good" experience like a trip to the Himalaya's or a journey down the Amazon, each that sort of "good" experience. Ultimately, fine Art Photographer's are recognized by their intent, workmanship, creative insight and a following by an educated community over a long period of time. Mostly, fine art photographers are those who must make art, irrespective of how they will sell it. There's an inner need that making art helps to fulfill. Schools offering MFA degrees cannot guarantee that the degree will help them in any way. The program, however does give mental stimulation by the presence of so many talented students working together with fine photographers and other artists. More than that, they get access to not only well-equipped darkrooms but also major studio space for sculpture or painting as they might choose. However, few Fine Art Photographers have come from this background. It's not surprising since the MFA degree in Photography is likely a poor investment if getting a job was the end point of success. There are few jobs to be had, yet applications increase! So most would-be Fine Art Photographers start their creative work part time. Most often, at least until sales start, the photographer has another job, maybe even unrelated to the arts. Occasionally the artist uses photography in earning a living.

As an example, Ben Rubinstein is a fine Art Photographer, producing B&W pictures, here, each carefully planned and executed with technical skill and informed composition such that the work is impressive to those of us who are used to seeing the various genre of B&W fine art photography in Galleries and Museums. That he earns his living as a hard-working Wedding Photographer, is besides the point! His Jerusalem series is not made for a client, just for the purpose of creating art to be displayed, enjoyed and perhaps to outlive him. The same with Jim Galli's work, here. You wouldn't ever even think of saying they are not deserving the title "Fine Art Photographer, if they chose that heading for their business card.

Leonardo Boher's portrait of Aleucine, here, is, at least to my esthetics and judgement, an outstanding example of a work by which this up and coming photographer will earn himself the title, Fine Art Photographer. The standard of photography here is so far ahead of 99.99% of what we see. We can learn a lot by studying such pictures and not by quibbling on the titles they have earned.

I can add to this pictures by many others here, for example Ken Tanaka's picture's of trees, silhouetted against the sky, with their motif embroidered with many many birds or a picture of a canal by Karl Esser and so many others. No one can rightly take away the earned right to be called a fine art photographer when they make plan and execute such work and deliver a final image that is so magnetic, impressive and which calls us to return again and again and tell our friends about it's life and importance.

None of these impressions are false and I have only touched the surface of who among us creates fine art.

Notwithstanding that, as in the use of the word "lite" or "light" to imply some healthy food, or "green" to suggest environmental responsibility, we should look to see the photographer in light of his/her artistic work and so not allow ourselves to be fooled by hype.

Now that does require developing some understanding as to what might constitute fine art! For that, we have an interesting and equally contraversal ongoing discussion here.

Asher
 
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Ken Tanaka

pro member
There is no established definition of "Fine Art Photography" beyond it being an advertising slogan!
I'll grant you that the expression is often used pretentiously by commercial interests. (N.B. That is the correct word, not "hypocrisy"). That notwithstanding, for the record, not for an argument, you're dead wrong, Will.

"Fine art" is a long-established categorical term in the art world (versus, say, decorative arts). "Fine art photography" refers principally to context of presentation rather than specifically to motivation of creation. For example, the nature of much of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado's work falls squarely within social and cultural documentary. But the context of the presentation of his work, through his gallery representations, museum exhibitions, and publications is squarely that of fine art.

I've little confidence that the above will change your mind or attitude on this subject but onlookers might consider this informative as this type of debate probably bubbles up on dozens of Internet (amateur) photo forums every week.
 

Kathy Rappaport

pro member
Ok Rachel, Here goes. If you do photography and consider your photographs to be art then they are regardless of what others might say or think no-matter what you call them.

There is no established definition of "Fine Art Photography" beyond it being an advertising slogan!
Will - that was last weeks post. You must have been on the pier with the Italian Model.

My art is fine art if I say it's fine art. You can't tell me otherwise. It's not a snapshot, it's what I choose to make and if I can get more money for it by calling it FINE - fine with me.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Will - that was last weeks post. You must have been on the pier with the Italian Model.

My art is fine art if I say it's fine art. You can't tell me otherwise. It's not a snapshot, it's what I choose to make and if I can get more money for it by calling it FINE - fine with me.
Kathy,

Art can be made or discovered and repurposed from trash. Simply have it evoke some experience for you and yes, it's your art. That's "fine" by me too!

"The fine by me" photograph could be Fine Art too. However, more likely than not, it's merley job for a client and called Portrait Photography. Likey that totally welcomed photoalbum you deliver is appreciated and gives lots of joy. However good it is, that's not necessarly fine art.

Now if you make a worthy print from that collection that casts a spell on new people a 1000 miles away and they want to acquire it for their city museum, then, yes, it might very well be "Fine Art Photography". There's an added dimension and dynamic, as Ken points out, of presentation and interest in the community, (outside the circle of folk who know the subjects), that might make a work Fine Art.

I believe that art has the air of life breathed into its nostrils. That means the artist gives it life but the community ptovides the place for it to continue living with us.

My goal for a picture might very well be "Fine Art". However, that and all the attention I might give, does not as yet, for me at least, define work as indeed, "Fine Art". I can say it's "art", why not? That I can do.
 

Doug Kerr

Active member
It is interesting to note the following discussion of the term fine art (from Wikipedia), which is consistent with the use of the term to designate certain university departments, programs, or degrees:

"Fine art describes any art form developed primarily for aesthetics and/or concept rather than utility.[1] This type of art is often expressed in the production of art objects[2] using visual and performing art forms, including painting, sculpture, music, dance, theatre, architecture, photography and printmaking. Schools, institutes, and other organizations still use the term to indicate a traditional perspective on the art forms, often implying an association with classic or academic art."

The article continues:

"The word 'fine' does not so much denote the quality of the artwork in question, but the purity of the discipline."

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Will - that was last weeks post. You must have been on the pier with the Italian Model.

My art is fine art if I say it's fine art. You can't tell me otherwise. It's not a snapshot, it's what I choose to make and if I can get more money for it by calling it FINE - fine with me.
Kathy,

Art can be made or discovered and repurposed from trash. Simply have it evoke some experience for you and yes, it's your art. That's "fine" by me too!

"The fine by me" photograph could be Fine Art too. However, more likely than not, it's a job for a client and called "Portrait Photography". Likey too, that totally-welcomed photoalbum you deliver is appreciated and gives lots of joy. However technically competant it is, that's not necessarly Fine Art.

Now if you make a worthy print from that collection that casts a spell on new people a 1000 miles away and they want to acquire it for their city museum, then, yes, it might very well be "Fine Art Photography". There's an added dimension and dynamic, as Ken points out, of presentation and interest in the community, (outside the circle of folk who know the subjects), that might make a work Fine Art. When you work is so recognized, then the next great print you make in that series will already have the earned imprimatur, "Let it be shown as "Fine Art" and not just another treasured wedding shot"!

My goal for a picture might very well be "Fine Art". However, that and all the attention I might give, does not as yet, for me at least, define work as indeed, "Fine Art". I can say it's "art", why not? That I can do.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Active member
I continue to be baffled by this thread.

If we could reach some consensus on what activity, or what deliverables, would qualify as "fine art", what could we then do?

Could we, for example, look at a business card that said, "Harry Wormwood - Fine Art Photography", and be able to comfortably opine as to whether it was "truthful advertising"?

Could we look at a newspaper advertisement for an exhibition of "fine art photography" and know what we were in for if we went?

Could we look at an artistically-exquisite photograph, done for product adverting purposes, that won a prize at the State Fair in the Photography category of the Fine Art division, and be able to smugly say, "Oh really, now - that can't be 'fine art'!" (Although I think Ken had given us a clue there.)

I note that university Fine Arts programs, or departments, or degrees, embrace certain broad kinds of art (greatly variable between institutions) , making a distinction from, or even within, "liberal arts", or even from the "scientific arts", or perhaps the "domestic arts".

The scope of such a department typically includes painting. But I doubt that the term is intended to tell us that only the study of "fine" paintings is conducted there. It only tells us that the courses there probably don't cover barn painting.

I think this is as fruitless as the earlier quest to decide what "art" is in photography. It's just at a more refined level.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I continue to be baffled by this thread.

If we could reach some consensus on what activity, or what deliverables, would qualify as "fine art", what could we then do?

Could we, for example, look at a business card that said, "Harry Wormwood - Fine Art Photography", and be able to comfortably opine as to whether it was "truthful advertising"?

Could we look at a newspaper advertisement for an exhibition of "fine art photography" and know what we were in for if we went?

Could we look at an artistically-exquisite photograph, done for product adverting purposes, that won a prize at the State Fair in the Photography category of the Fine Art division, and be able to smugly say, "Oh really, now - that can't be 'fine art'!" (Although I think Ken had given us a clue there.)

I note that university Fine Arts programs, or departments, or degrees, embrace certain broad kinds of art (greatly variable between institutions) , making a distinction from, or even within, "liberal arts", or even from the "scientific arts", or perhaps the "domestic arts".

The scope of such a department typically includes painting. But I doubt that the term is intended to tell us that only the study of "fine" paintings is conducted there. It only tells us that the courses there probably don't cover barn painting.

I think this is as fruitless as the earlier quest to decide what "art" is in photography. It's just at a more refined level.

Best regards,

Doug
Doug,

That you are baffled is obvious. Limit yourself to photography and start with exhibits in major museums. Forget engineering definitions. Here they are harder and more dynamic but in a way just as exclusive. Fine art has nothing to do with what one writes on ones card. The MFA programs? As I said and it's worth repeating, the MFA in photography at the Rochester Institute, for example, gives a "good" experience only like a journey down the Amazon, (but also with a studio, feedback, instruction and time set aside just for art). The MFA for photography requires a portfolio to enter. The program is a "good experience" not a proof of anything. The actual work has to measure up!

Fine Art Photography is something physical like a symphony that has qualities humans appreciate experiencing. So till now, there's no mathematical formula to define such Photographic Art. Fine Art Photography is shown in galleries, guarded in collections and not given up over time. These are the photographic works that society wants to treasure as representing, evoking and experimenting with esthetics of human feelings, imagination and thought. So we don't expect formulaic definitions any time soon!

Regarding that advert, that too might be collected as fine art. Why not? There's no rule against it.

If you are in Los Angeles ever, I'd be glad to take you to some of the most outstanding Photography collections, that will, like recognizing a persian cat from other cats becomes obvious over time.

Asher
 

Kathy Rappaport

pro member
Can I come too?

If and when that happens in LA, can I join the party? In a few hours time you can explore the Getty and the Annenberg Center. The rest of the day you can go to LACMA.
 

Doug Kerr

Active member
Hi, Asher,

My concern is only what use we might make of the term "fine art photography".

I guess that is the curse of my engineering outlook - I always think that a term we use should have some application. And I don't limit that to engineering terms, or to applications in engineering.

Perhaps next week we can seek the true meaning of the term "frammis".

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Perhaps next week we can seek the true meaning of the term "frammis".
Exaclty, frammis applies to terms that perplex you. However, if you discern the meaning, then like training wheels, when you "get it", the frammis is no longer used. I have faith that despite your protestation that you view life from an engineer's perspective, that you too will be able to grasp the gestalt of "Fine Art" in your mind even though it cannot be held in your hand.

Just concern yourself with Photographs, not art in general, as that's too broad. If you are willing to put aside the cynical approach, (that you appear to present, that "Fine Art" is totally undefined and some label that a photographer sticks to his work), then there's a lot of good experience ahead for you. Or maybe, you are just being an adversary and enjoying battling for its own sake.

Asher
 

Rachel Foster

New member
I think I get Doug's point, though. So what good will it do to generate a definition for the term? Will that further art? I suppose before attempting to answer that question, we must determine what level of definition we find acceptable. For example, shall we accept definition such as Justice Potter offered for pornography? That will do no one any good at all.

Shall we operationalize it? (Define a construct by the method used to measure it, in essence.) If such a thing were even possible (and I submit a consensus would never be reached), what would that do for those attempting to produce or buy "art?"

Before getting caught up in the attempt to define "fine art" (regardless of medium) perhaps it might make sense to consider whether or not there is any benefit to such an endeavor.


Did I get it right, Doug?
 

Kathy Rappaport

pro member
Undefined

This on going theme here at OPF makes me think of a bunch of old men sitting in a living room. like a bunch of elder Rabbis, perhaps, stroking their beards, discussing the Talmud. None of them have a definitive answer, it's an ongoing discussion and the answers will never appear. The arguments go on and on and on...leaving everyone else to scratch their heads and continue the contemplation of said subject.

Carry on.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
[B] Art, Fine Art and Fine Art Photography, a set of mutually supported journeys.[/B]

Hi, Rachel,

I'm sorry, I've been asked not to contribute any more to this issue.

Doug
Doug,

I know I didn't ask you not to contribute, rather emphasized the value of your photography more than in dismissing Fine Art as an undefined term. I'm enjoying your own recent photography, the starling nest, where the answer to this conundrum may be discovered. It requires continuing on that personal journey of fascination, inspiration, motivation, craft and technique to record and express the wonders around us in pictures. Allow me to repeat exactly what I wrote to you concerning my interest. (I have made several syntactical/spelling corrections and added the picture from my subsequent post to you.)

Art, Fine Art and Fine Art Photography, a set of mutually supported journeys.

Doug,

Semantic debates are enjoyable but we should now let it rest, although you are free to add comments as you wish. With your recent photographs of starlings, your work on the cul de sac view and the cows, you show that you have a mental vision beyond your oft-claimed mere engineer's descriptors of things. The body of work you have photographed is concerned with what we value from our heart. These are definitely from the heart and encouraging early markers of where you could travel.

Each initially is no more than a nugget of gold found in a river bed discovered by your own two hands and enterprise. Getting it to be more than that takes further effort.




From an Exhibit in Hungary May 2009 Scythian Gold Neclkace Fair Use


If you look at the pieces of Scythian gold, (fashioned by generations of Greek artisans, kept as part of the Scythian warrior's community), you will see examples of fine art in gold. It's that we want in photographs.

That is the essence of art we seek to identify and preserve in collections. If it's a photograph, we'd call it a Fine Art and it would be also valued by it's demand and rarity, neither, of course as powerful as the Scythian gold! However, our work has also to stand the test of history and few of our works will do that as well.

Asher

When you started to share these pictures, I was so pleasantly surprised and each new set of pictures shows me a further place you are on a journey in photography. Rather than [just] debate Fine Photography, let's do it and our mutual job is [performed] by sharing and feedback to help each other with signposts on the way.
 
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