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The hypocrisy of "Fine Art Photography"!

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
To further confuse the issue
http://billjayonphotography.com/Artists- Rebels without a Cause.pdf
I was pointed to this writer by TOP a few days ago, and am really enjoying him.
Clayton,

This writer, Bill Jay, here is a humorist who's stand-up argument that Fine Art is nothing more than a commercial advertisement starts from a path of ridicule where in a film, an archeologist brushes away millenia of dirt from a shard of pottery and from that infers the values, gods and political structure of some lost civilization. Just like the Extenz infomercials, promising to make something bigger than possible, this essay is, itself, self-delusional at the least and likely dishonest too.

Look at the hard evidence of the Scythian Gold and then reread the mockery in the quoted writing. The writing there all becomes so foolish and, while entertaining, perhaps as are all diatribes against "authority" are, it can be safely dismissed as nothing more than an enjoyable, albeit cynical, rant.

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher,
My apology for having mischaracterized what you said, which was:
None needed by good friend, I just wanted to share my Scythian Gold example of outstanding archaeology. I want to demonstrate, even with just one picture this prime example of both fine art and how archeology, in itself, can be so rewarding yet humbling and inspirational. This particular necklace represents for me a remarkable work of fine art, perhaps a "Standard" like the measurement reference of "The Meter" kept in Paris. One intricate and follows no formula the other simple and the basis for our rational system of measurement in science. Both stand the tests of history. To me, art can be something fashioned from crude unrefined gold nuggets collected from a river bed by one's efforts.

Fine art has technical and inspirational fingerprints in its final form. When photography goes from a "nice snap" to a "Fine Art Photograph" it has to take a similar arduous journey, where few arrive. The artistic form cannot be defined by some formula but it can be shared as you have attempted yourself and is something we experience from the heart. To that extent, and to the degree Fine Art takes a major place in our cultures, Fine Art and Fine Art Photography are not only real but worthy endeavors with a lot of rewards even when not sold.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Kathy,

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.
Zeyer sheyn gezogt!

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Kathy,

So you say that the argument that Fine Art Photography is a sham versus the notion that it represent the work we want to treasure are equal in weight. Well I'm surprised that my rationale doesn't measure more. I think you are just being funny! I'm not!

Both Doug and Kathy, if I may press you, address the subject. Would the maker of fine photographs, of the obvious quality of the Scythian Gold masterpiece, be justified in using the word "Fine Art Photography" on his/her card? Would the gallery selling such a photograph be exaggerating by calling this work, "Fine Art"?

Leave aside the humor, schtick and reparté, just the fairness of it.

Asher
 

Michael Fontana

pro member
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.

Maybe the old men are likely young dogs, running each after its own tail....

So what is Raw Ar t- beeing opposite Fine Art?
Would you think dada beeing Fine Art? And what's about the work of Richard Serra?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Maybe the old men are likely young dogs, running each after its own tail....

So what is Raw Ar t- beeing opposite Fine Art?
Would you think dada beeing Fine Art? And what's about the work of Richard Serra?
Hi Michael,

The argument here is not about the place of Dadaism, itself a revolt against romantic art and authorship. It's not about the work of Richard Serra, although that would be an interesting topic too.

Here we are just dealing with Will Thompson's claim that "Fine Art Photography" is nothing more than a marketing slogan similar to new and improved.. My answer is to show that Fine Art Photography does have real meaning far beyond Will Thompson trivialization.

Look at the Scythian Gold Necklace, if that is labeled as such, it's the truth. There's no sham. Work viewed as Fine Art Photography has a long way to go in similarly proving itself to history in the same convincing manner. However, you could give us examples of work you would seek to buy for a collection, if your purpose was to preserve for future generations the finest photography examples humanity has made. You wouldn't throw up your arms in despair that there's no such thing as Fine Art Photography, yelling, "It's all a sham!" I'm sure, even with just $1,000,0000 you would have difficulty in securing some of the finest works ever made. These would represent, no doubt, different schools and periods but the choice would have little to do with advertising, but rather with addressing issues like originality, craft and vision and properties like evoking feelings and ideas in schooled and/or non-schooled viewers.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Asher,
Kathy,

So you say that the argument that Fine Art Photography is a sham versus the notion that it represent the work we want to treasure are equal in weight. Well I'm surprised that my rationale doesn't measure more. I think you are just being funny! I'm not!

Both Doug and Kathy, if I may press you, address the subject.
Asher, you have in fact discouraged that.

Doug
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Asher,

Here's my brief.

This thread was begun on the matter of the meaning, if any, of a certain term, to wit: "fine art".

I addressed that, including from the standpoint of what would be the meaning of a meaning, and how (if at all) we might utilize that insight.

You transport the conversation into the realm of the wonder of art (certainly an important issue, far more worthy of discussion than the meaning of the meaning of "fine art"), and then trivialize the "semantic" discussion.

But you'll have to excuse us that didn't get the memo about the change in syllabus of this course.

In any case, we're off to Nassau in a few minutes, and I have to be careful not to miss the "F" train.

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Asher,

Here's my brief.

This thread was begun on the matter of the meaning, if any, of a certain term, to wit: "fine art".
No, not at all! It's never was about "Fine Art", but whether or not there's such a real entity as "Fine Art Photography". Let's go back to the beginning, since you appear to miss that first post!

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.
Again, your subject is not the same and far from it:

Asher,

Here's my brief.

This thread was begun on the matter of the meaning, if any, of a certain term, to wit: "fine art".
You indeed changed the topic and then proceed to create a windmill to joust against.

I addressed that, including from the standpoint of what would be the meaning of a meaning, and how (if at all) we might utilize that insight.

You transport the conversation into the realm of the wonder of art (certainly an important issue, far more worthy of discussion than the meaning of the meaning of "fine art"), and then trivialize the "semantic" discussion.
We don't need to look to see what would be a meaning of a meaning, like asking "What would be a meaning of a sunrise if it where to occur?" Fine art is a recognized subject that's appreciated and collected without a lot of uncertainty by those investing their hard-earned cash into it's collection.

I just want to keep us on the topic Will started. "Is the term Fine Art Photography a sham?" You refuse to address that pretending there's a need to find some definition "Fine Art" and then find a use for it! We already have "Fine Art Photography" in existence. All you have to do is experience it and then you can describe examples. Ideas might change as history is a tough filter. Still, it's not arguable the fine Art Photography exists.

Asher
 

Michael Fontana

pro member
Asher

Working quite often with artist, I don't understand that °fine° in Fine Art.
I know art only, there isn't any thing like art from blue-eyed artists, art from red-haired artists, etc.
From that point of view, yes it's a marketing slogan.

I have a small but fine (sic) collection of art, including paintings and sculptures from european artists, Africa and Australia.

So now, is that bark from Austalia fine art now?
Yes, if its worth 5000 $? No if it's only 500?

My ladder from the Dogon, with a face ingraved in it? (--> thank you photography-thread)
They' re shown in important art collections, and the big ones are worth quite a bit of money, despite the fact, that they were used from these people to get on the first floor.

In that context, the idea of fine-art looks to me to be a western-centric anachronism:

Do you mind, if I just don't care about that, and see art as a parth of life?

The dogon-ladder works very good together with some of the european artist in the same room - but not with all. Interesting, isn't it?

If I had to buy for a collection, I wouldn't buy fine art photography, but art.
Collecting art has to do a lot with a passion, and not with a definition, and a amount of money.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
If I had to buy for a collection, I wouldn't buy fine art photography, but art.
Collecting art has to do a lot with a passion, and not with a definition, and a amount of money.
Michael,

I too follow my passion and sometime it might mean stopping my car and gathering a fallen giant palm frond with a separation from the trunk of the palm made of layers of amber and sienna variations that give such a good experience. Other times it could be an African mask or a small Benin sculpture intended for some long lost ritual. The cost, very little! Art? For me yes. But that's not the real issue here.

I really don't want you to spend that $1,000,000 on mostly white folks photography, LOL! Rather I want to show that you could, if you wished, gather together an important collection of photography that collectively would earn the title, "Fine Art Photography" not because of some advertising sham, but because they represent great works worthy of being preserved for future generations to enjoy. That's the essence of Fine Art Photography.

Asher
 

Michael Fontana

pro member
Quite a lot of photographers (potters, etc as well) have a complex towards art, beeing themselfs in between of art and handcraft. So they try to make it more classy with different means (important frames) and with using special terms.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Quite a lot of photographers (potters, etc as well) have a complex towards art, beeing themselfs in between of art and handcraft. So they try to make it more classy with different means (important frames) and with using special terms.
Yes, Michael,

And that is probably what Will Thompson is raging against: flim-flam, puffery, snobbism and simple exaggerated advertising to help promote a Photograph. However, there is really such a thing as a fine photographic print which you and I might really love to have. That's what I'm talking about, not the wish to make oneself seem important as a photographer.

It must be astonishing for the perfectly competent and talented photographer to see someone else selling one photograph for $10,000 or more when we have just as good, unprinted in our portfolios!

Asher
 

Michael Fontana

pro member
Yes, Michael,
..........It must be astonishing for the perfectly competent and talented photographer to see someone else selling one photograph for $10,000 or more when we have just as good, unprinted in our portfolios! Asher
Well, the artmarket is not the same as art -
not all artists feel at home in art market, but that's a different discussion than the O-P's statement..

(Actually, I have lived a few years from my art, and selling in that 10' 000-range - while it looks like beeing very much, minus the 50% of the gallery, and minus the materials and frame, its not that much.)
 

Kathy Rappaport

pro member
Photography as art

One of the major impacts of Photography as Art has stemmed from the fact that digital is in the hands of everyone now. With or without the skill to create a techically great photograph. Anyone with a cell phone is a photographer.

So there lies a major obstacle to fine art photography. Just like a kid with a box of crayons. Anyone can use them but can anyone draw something special?
 

Alain Briot

pro member
I stand by what I have said "Fine Art Photography" is nothing more than a marketing slogan!!
Seeing FAP as a marketing slogan is a valid perception. However, there's nothing wrong with marketing. Photographs won't sell just because they are good or pretty. Like any product, they need to be marketed. Marketing is taking control of your financial destiny instead of hoping that luck will bring you money.

Here is an introduction to my marketing approach:

http://tv.smibs.com/2009/07/21/episode-25-photographer-alain-briot-on-art-the-recession-business-on-the-web/
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
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."
Thanks so much Doug for this added dimension. It's really helpful. Like this we get to build a picture of what our society means by the use of these words.

Asher
 

Rachel Foster

New member
I was serious in my query as to whether defining the term will further the interests of art in any way. If it will, then we (artists, those who appreciate art, people in general) would be well advised to pursue such a definition. If not, then we can relegate it to a fun debate topic to be picked up or dropped as the spirit moves us. Is there an advantage to defining the term?

I doubt we'll ever find a REAL consensus on whether any particular piece of art is "art." I, for one, find "primitive art" of less interest than a child's art. Others feel the same about the entire genre of "modern art," others about impressionism, etc. But consensus on the term "fine art" may or may not be possible.

Again, is trying to find such a consensus on definition of any value?
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

Thanks so much Doug for this added dimension.
My own basic point is that the term "fine art photography" is not presumptuous, but is tautological, unless our intent is to distinguish such work from, for example, photography meant solely for technical purposes (such as the examination of the relationship of the parts of small mechanisms, or photography used to ascertain the dimensions of objects, or terrestrial photogrammetric or forensic photography).

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Hi, Asher,
My own basic point is that the term "fine art photography" is not presumptuous, but is tautological,
Tautological as rhetoric or as unquestionable truth? Neither applies well! Rather it's partly self-referential!

Asher
 
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Jim Galli

Member
I can't believe this made it to page 6.

To Will's original rant I would simply comment, "so what? who cares" Words are cheap and delusion is frighteningly close to universal. Call it anything you want. What matters is your audience percentile. Ford called the Thunderbird a sports car, but we all knew it wasn't.

My fear is that the tidal wave of pictures in the last 10 years has so cheapened the whole idea of photography as art that art is everything and nothing. You eat lunch in these high end trendy sandwich and wine places and some guy has 5X7 inch snapshots printed by Costco in frames with prices in the $220 - $350 range. Either we've all got a blinking neon baseball cap that says [BLINK]STUPID[/BLINK] or the guy who hung that crap up is delusional. It isn't fine art, it isn't art, it isn't anything at all, so call it whatever you like.

By audience percentile I mean, if your stuff is hanging in the Getty and people are reacting to it, chances are it is art. If it's hanging in your house like most of our stuff, well, call it whatever makes you feel good. I get tickled that my 3 sweet daughters actually fight over who gets what. To them it's art cuz Dad made it. I should have had a dozen.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I can't believe this made it to page 6.
If not for that, I'd have not introduced folk to my "Scythian Gold Standard", thought about what the damn phrase meant nor re-examined what Photography Schools were teaching. I ended up impressed with the "good" experience an MFA in Photography can give. Mine was in little villages in Nigeria and the place in Mozambique where blacks and whites have little to no sense of racism and in the townships in Zimbabwe where saying Zanu instead of Zapu could end up with an African being beaten up. My answer to Will is that fine photography is something distilled from life's experience, the tranquil, awesome, shameful and frightening. Engraving that in a photograph is something I want to do. That to me is the struggle to make art and I'd love a few of my pieces, like my sons, to do better, be more honest, do more for people in their life than I have in mine!

In the end, I am happy just getting the work done and feel great if others actually appreciate my work. I do not do it except for ideas and feelings and to help lift a lantern.

To Will's original rant I would simply comment, "so what? who cares" Words are cheap and delusion is frighteningly close to universal.
I think that Will would agree with you here! His rant is directed against that very self-delusion. Yes, he's overboard, but he'll float!

Yes, Will, there is Fine Art Photography! And BTW, Americans did land on the moon and Extenz™ will not lengthen your life span, give you more miles to the gallon or stop flowers from wilting!

My fear is that the tidal wave of pictures in the last 10 years has so cheapened the whole idea of photography as art that art is everything and nothing. You eat lunch in these high end trendy sandwich and wine places and some guy has 5X7 inch snapshots printed by Costco in frames with prices in the $220 - $350 range.
Worse, it's made up 10 foot tall and overlaid with acrylic on which someone has printed a train schedule

"... and that goes for $62,000", says the Givanchy clad lady coming straight out of Vogue as she leans forward and passes me the Bordeaux, touching my arm, whispering, "I think I can give you a special deal of $42,000." She's now within warmth of her face and body range, "You see, we're packing up for another exhibit and we are trying to sell the remaining few pieces of this collection, so they don't need to be stored! I'd like to it go to one of our best clients, someone who really appreciates fine art!" I look at her and appreciate the hunter in her, stalking her prey!

By audience percentile I mean, if your stuff is hanging in the Getty and people are reacting to it, chances are it is art.
That is as close to a definition as I can imagine!

Asher
 

Will Thompson

Well-known member
Asher,

Actually the Americans did not land on the moon!

Rather there spacecraft did and then the astronauts walked or climbed out onto the noon.


Jim,

It is good to see that you got the the jest of this post on the first try.
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

Tautological as rhetoric or as unquestionable truth? Neither applies well!
Well, I appreciate your insight into the semantics here. You're entitled to stroke your beard!

Rather it's partly self-referential!
Perhaps that's it. Certainly better than self-reverential! (Not that we have any of that here!)

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Art is Self Referential!

Tautological as rhetoric or as unquestionable truth? Neither applies well!
Well, I appreciate your insight into the semantics here. You're entitled to stroke your beard!
That's not called for, my friend! I was not being semantic. I just had no idea as to what you could be talking about when you use such a rich, fancy and to me "elitist" high-sounding word, to wit, tautological which has two distinct meanings. One in the discipline of logic and the other in the occupation of rhetoric. Worse, neither of which I could relate to "Fine Art Photography"!

How you can call my being perplexed by your word use as "semantic" behavior, I cannot fathom! Just try not to use such complex words and we'd be O.K.

Rather it's, (ie. the term Fine Art Photography), partly self-referential!
Certainly better than self-reverential! (Not that we have any of that here!)
Self-Reverential or Self-referential: One can indeed understand what Fine Art Photography by simply experiencing it and, like recognizing beauty, it's not amenable to your demand for mathematical and rigorous definitions. Such tools are not needed. Any art, and once too rigidly defined would allow no room for growth. Art, as opposed to religion, must include plasticity, evolution and the breaking of boundaries.

Fine Art Photography is itself, "Self Referential". One learns what it is and infers what it might include by examining what people have chosen over the last 100 years or so to preserve for the folk to treasure. It has nothing to do with my opinion. Fine Art Photography is a branch of art and a reflection of some of the best photography done and in turn that's a reflection of our societies values and esthetics.

And in that way, Fine Art Photography means much more than what's on ones visiting card, it's what's in the Getty and other such places! I have on my own card, Fine Art Photography, but that just represents by goal, something to aspire too and as such, it's the truth as best I know it.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

That's not called for, my friend! I was not being semantic.
It is interesting that you think semantic is pejorative.

But but I think that reveals part of the problem I experience around here.

My intent was to thank you for your insight into the semantics of the issue here. I'm sorry you took it as an affront.

Now there are times that people speak harshly about my semantic orientation.

I just had no idea as to what you could be talking about when you use such a rich, fancy and to me "elitist" high-sounding word
Wow! Elitist!

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Hi, Asher,

It is interesting that you think semantic is pejorative.
Not in the least. Being semantic or the like of parsing "is" were not my intent, rather I was confused as to what you might mean by the word "tautological" which has opposite meanings in different contexts, neither of which I could relate to "Fine Art Photography". I find use of such complex words outside of a clear context is of little value.

But but I think that reveals part of the problem I experience around here.

My intent was to thank you for your insight into the semantics of the issue here. I'm sorry you took it as an affront.
For that I thank you and don't mean to snap back!

Now there are times that people speak harshly about my semantic orientation.
You and I, both!

Wow! Elitist!

Doug
Not you, yourself, just the word!

Asher
 

Rachel Foster

New member
My comments are not directed specifically to Asher and Doug, but are more just general musings.

I think that any place where one offers something of value one has created up for critique, there is a real vulnerability. This applies to everyone involved in such an endeavor, by the way, regardless of level of involvement. That’s going to create a wariness, an underlying defensiveness.

Now, here, we talk about our photos, which all of us would love to be “art” whether we admit it or not. We also debate ideas and concepts. Wow, double whammy! Our work , our brains, our education, and our values all put out there, laid on the line.

Add to that the fact that a fair number of us are academicians (I think). The Academy is the most brutal arena I’ve ever played in. I matriculated from the University of Washington. Baptism by fire applies. Once back in the “real world” I had to tone my style down a great deal because I found that comments I thought I was delivering quite gently were not taken as such by the receiver.

Asher and Doug, above, discuss semantics, snapping, and elitism. What an amazing exchange that was. For one thing, it reminded me that it’s a wonder that we can get along here at OPF. The mix I just described (vulnerability, expertise, academics, all that) really sets the stage for conflict and hurt feelings.

I think it’s important that we Forumites remember the delicate nature of what we are doing here and recognize how well we do it.

And, I’ll stop short of getting all gushy and singing Kumbaya or something.


Ah, maybe just one verse? Kumbya, my Lord, Kumbaya.................
 
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