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The hypocrisy of "Fine Art Photography"!

Rene F Granaada

New member
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.
Will, what can I say more than that I fully agree with your comments, and... the only judge is... time, it will tell.

René-Frank
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Tautology (rhetoric), repetition of meaning, using different words to say the same thing twice, especially where the additional words fail to provide additional clarity.

Thus, "fine art photography", given that photography is (along with painting, sculpture, etc.) categorized as "fine art".

An often quoted example of tautology is "nape of the neck".
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Tautology (rhetoric), repetition of meaning, using different words to say the same thing twice, especially where the additional words fail to provide additional clarity.

Thus, "fine art photography", given that photography is (along with painting, sculpture, etc.) categorized as "fine art".

An often quoted example of tautology is "nape of the neck".
but there is no "nape" of the neck to remove from Fine Art Photography!

First and foremost there's no "given" that photography is "fine art" or art for that matter. Most photography is not for art's sake and not art at all. "Art Photography" is a category of photography to itself, "The Photography of Art" and does not mean not photography as art! It's a discrete profession for some specialty photographers. This is what Leonardo did in New york before he left for Bolivia. He did Art Photography and was an Art Photographer.

So, there is no redundancy of the terms "Fine Art Photography, taken together.

Asher

Besides, in logical discussion, tautological means essentially true of itself or of unquestionable truth.
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
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.
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

It would be very helpful to me if you would state your definition of the term fine art photography in dictionary style.

That should help me understand your outlook.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Asher Kelman

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

It would be very helpful to me if you would state your definition of the term fine art photography in dictionary style.

That should help me understand your outlook.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Doug
Doug,

From the outset, I have described fine Art Photography in reference to our behavior in making pictures and selecting pictures for preservation that evoke feelings and experiences we want to return to and rise above what commonly can be achieved by snapping images of what ever one happens to like at the moment. I don't want to escape your challenge to come up with a definition. I'd be interested in how I'd approach such a definition and even if one is possible without constraining would can be included as Fine Art Photography.

For the moment I'd refer you to the struggles to answer your question in post # 6, not that any of these are entirely satisfactory, but each has some aspect of what Fine Art Photography might include. I don't say this in some rigorous manner, rather it's just an approach for the moment.

Your provided definition of Fine Art

"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."

Includes photography, however, we'd agree, I think that photography, in generalcan easilly be many things, but is not always or even generally "Art".

I don't know whether one can define Fine Fine Art Photography without reference to


  1. Photography collections in museums
  2. Our wish to return to the pictures again
  3. Photographs that are considered unique in some way
  4. The power of the pictures to evoke complex sets feelings and experiences
  5. The apparent possession of a life form
  6. The entry of the photograph into the market of Fine Art Photography
  7. The Photographer having a conscious artistic intent

The latter two characteristics might be non-essential.

That's my limited progress just for now and no definition!

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
A good topic? Yes.
Worthy of being turned into a sticky? Definitely.
Should we discuss it again and again? No.
Cem,

Not at all! There's not the slightest motivation on my part to do anything but re-visit an important topic that, IMHO, has not been addressed and argued fully. I feel some voices were dismissive, focussing and diverting our attention to trivial semantics. We have new voices now and I'd hope for fresh views, novel arguments, insights and further understanding.

If I didn't know you better, I would suspect that you are trying to fire up controversial issues just to create more traffic.
My very dear and devoted friend, Cem,

I fully understand and appreciate your suspicion. Yes, you can describe and interpret recent posts in that way. The current thread on the "Blue Marble", for example, is one of the most important and humbling assembly of ideas I have seen for some time. I myself have learned a lot and been moved considerably. I will be influenced and refined by the ideas and revelations there. Art often has a social purpose and now, more than ever, we must not dismiss conversation with such cynicism and impatience.

"That old talkative man in the back" may tell his stories over and again, but there are new passengers to hear them. Yes, we must repeat, sometimes we do this in our quests, missing key signposts the first time. When we come back, the experiences since that last time have also changed us and now we may be more prepared to understand.

As to Art and the Hypocrisy of Fine Art, this thread has received 8,867 views to date, a sign of the importance of this topic. Maybe, there's more to learn. :)

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I guess I am just a Wall Art Photographer?


Or should that be Photographic Artist!!!!!!!!!!

Will,

You are indeed a photographer and a fine one. To be fine art, I'd imagine it should be worth saving. At the extreme end, it should be a good sibling to the Scythian Necklace shown above. I feel pretty certain that it's not only a technical masterpiece, but also a cultural marvel and yes, fine art that transcends time and belongs to the heritage of man.

So while we know what might be the best, everything in between is measured very roughly. One takes a risk always in declaring something is fine art!

I'd be happy enough to produce work that's worth printing.

Asher
 

doug anderson

New member
Agreed. Most "fine art" photography is kitsch. It's been a long time since serious artists have taken this word seriously. I have seen awful photos pretending to be "fine art:" Kitschy frames, overphotoshopped color, a kind of deathly coating of gloss.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Agreed. Most "fine art" photography is kitsch. It's been a long time since serious artists have taken this word seriously. I have seen awful photos pretending to be "fine art:" Kitschy frames, overphotoshopped color, a kind of deathly coating of gloss.
Doug,

Everything that moves is pretentious, having some sort of "outside look" to influence the viewer. The artist gets a style they happen to like. The craftsperson might lean towards the tastes of the client. Both, however are in the photographic artist, catering for their own taste and that of the public. Where "kitsch" is the passion of the artist and of their buyers, it works and likely as not, they wouldn't buy finer art anyway.

We, if we presume to be artists, have to make what moves us.

One is fortunate if that moves others too. Your "Photos as Paintings" have a veins that work for me very well. So be true to yourself first or just be a craftsman and do what someone thinks they need. but Art should move you, the photographer. That's my starting dogma.

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
As I said earlier in this thread (when I was a young feller):

• All photography is art.

• Like any work product, and all work, some is fine and some less than fine.

• "Fine Art(s)" is a term only suitable to identify a department at a university (or possibly an entry sub-category in a county fair).

Now in Texas, from which I recently escaped, fine-ness can actually be quantified, but there is only one point on the scale: "fine as frog hair". I suppose everything else is "not fine as frog hair", but that is not officially documented.

Best regards,

Doug
 

Alain Briot

pro member
• All photography is art.
Doug
Actually not all photograhy is art, far from there. Forensic photography for example is the exact opposite of art. Hence the necessity to add the terms 'fine art' or 'art' or 'artistic' to the word photography when talking about art photography unless we are in a situation in which everyone involved knows that we are talking about (a museum show for example). However, whenever a range of photographic uses are featured, that precision is necessary to avoid confusion.

Painting doesn't have that problem. 'Painting' either refers to wall painting or to art, so it's virtually impossible to be misled about what we are looking at!
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Alain

And how about the graphic masters used in photolithography to "print" circuit boards. Is that art?

They are of course called "art masters" in the trade.

As far as I'm concerned, an image taken for forensic purposes (with no attention given to, say "artistic" considerations), is art, just as is a sketch made by a police artist from a witness' description.) I might in fact want to display the image on my wall, next to what what my great-granddaughter did with finger paint. Are they both art? Neither? One? Which one? Would neither of them ever hang in an art museum? Don't bet on it.

Suppose I took am image of a complex watch mechanism (let's not yet say what the motive is) and posted it on the forum, lets say not in connection with an explanation of the working of the watch (because you know that if it was from me it would likely be that), but just because some people might think it was pretty. Maybe you would.

Then I said, "Ha ha, joke's on you - I took that to send to the manufacturer to illustrate what I found to be a manufacturing flaw, and you thought it was art!"

Best regards,

Doug
 

doug anderson

New member
Doug,

Everything that moves is pretentious, having some sort of "outside look" to influence the viewer. The artist gets a style they happen to like. The craftsperson might lean towards the tastes of the client. Both, however are in the photographic artist, catering for their own taste and that of the public. Where "kitsch" is the passion of the artist and of their buyers, it works and likely as not, they wouldn't buy finer art anyway.

We, if we presume to be artists, have to make what moves us.

One is fortunate if that moves others too. Your "Photos as Paintings" have a veins that work for me very well. So be true to yourself first or just be a craftsman and do what someone thinks they need. but Art should move you, the photographer. That's my starting dogma.

Asher
Asher, I agree, art should move you. I guess what I'm objecting to is art that calls attention to itself as "fine" but in fact is a decorator painting (or photograph) that is fine art only to those who which art to be comfortable and not edgy or illuminating.
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
Let me be a bit provocative: It is "art", when it hangs in a museum or gallery. for modern art, that is what counts. If someone works hang in a museum, they are artists and if yours don't you are not. It is a game with simple rules. Museum and gallery curators do not have infinite amount of money and display space. So they must choose. What they chose is art, what they don't chose is not. And they have to justify their choices, so it is not just random or just their taste. We don't always understand their criteria, but they do have criteria.

People who don't understand their criteria often have no education about the history of art and still believe that art is the same as craft: the ability to make something nice, or complex, or a close representation of reality. That concept is gone. The link between craft and art disappeared at the end of the 19th century as is immediately apparent if you examine the works around that period. And the reason why it disappeared is something we should all know about here: photography. Suddenly, the painters (which craft was to be as close as possible to reality before that time) were faced with the necessity to redefine art. This is exactly the time when painting became to depart from the rendition of a convincing reality. The painters were drawing their "emotions", their "feelings" about the world or went abstract. But there was no reference to which their work could be compared any more, it was only "art" because they said so.

This school of thinking culminated with Marcel Duchamp's fountain. This is a seminal work in that it changed the definition of art forever. From that point on, the definition of art became "what is produced by an artist " and indeed Marcel Duchamp and his dadaist / surrealist friends took great care to present themselves as such. They were amongst the firsts to understand how the concept of celebrity was linked to art and use it to their advantage. Of course, everything hangs on the definition of "artist", but this is a self-appointed clique. And you can't get in unless you convince the clique. We are still in this era: become recognized as an "artist" and whatever you produce will be art. Don't, and you'd be ignored and forgotten.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Let me be a bit provocative: It is "art", when it hangs in a museum or gallery. for modern art, that is what counts. If someone works hang in a museum, they are artists and if yours don't you are not. It is a game with simple rules. Museum and gallery curators do not have infinite amount of money and display space. So they must choose. What they chose is art, what they don't chose is not. And they have to justify their choices, so it is not just random or just their taste. We don't always understand their criteria, but they do have criteria.
Jerome,

Well put, but it's only the last, the very last part of a long chain of fight for survival of a work.

The pieces finally selected by museums and collectors is fairly easy to classify as Art! But the work that is done by the self-designated "artist" is also born as "art" when the thrill they imagined and hoped for occurs in the work at hand. It does not mean it's art that will move anyone else or that will outlast them, but it's the start of the long hard difficult chain of selection that ends up with a small proportion of works saved by museums for posterity.

Asher
 

Cem_Usakligil

Well-known member
...
This school of thinking culminated with Marcel Duchamp's fountain. This is a seminal work in that it changed the definition of art forever. From that point on, the definition of art became "what is produced by an artist " and indeed Marcel Duchamp and his dadaist / surrealist friends took great care to present themselves as such. They were amongst the firsts to understand how the concept of celebrity was linked to art and use it to their advantage. Of course, everything hangs on the definition of "artist", but this is a self-appointed clique. And you can't get in unless you convince the clique. We are still in this era: become recognized as an "artist" and whatever you produce will be art. Don't, and you'd be ignored and forgotten.
I have enjoyed reading this Jerome and it rings true to my ears. With the exception that the closed circles of artists go far further into the past than the turn of the 20th century. But I get your point and I agree. I also think that the situation has many analogies in other fields. Such as the boards of many large corporations are mainly comprised of figures belonging to the old boy networks, societies and alumni. One can cause bankruptcy of quite a few corporations and still become the CEO of yet another one, just by the virtue of belonging to those circles.
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
(I'll continue playing the devil's advocate .)

The pieces finally selected by museums and collectors is fairly easy to classify as Art! But the work that is done by the self-designated "artist" is also born as "art" when the thrill they imagined and hoped for occurs in the work at hand. It does not mean it's art that will move anyone else or that will outlast them, but it's the start of the long hard difficult chain of selection that ends up with a small proportion of works saved by museums for posterity.
That is what the "artist" want you to believe: that they were always artists, that they always had this "vision" which raises them above the crowd of mere mortals and that what now hangs in a museum always had this peculiar quality which started before they were recognized.

The truth is that one can't prove any of this, because the definition of artist is self-referential. Is an artist whoever manages to have their works hang in a museum, the definition is simply not valid before that point. Saying they were artists before that point, they always had this peculiar quality in themselves, simply violates the definition.

And, in truth, known, internationally recognized artists often have a period of experimentation where they try many different things till they find a style which sells. They cannot have had a "vision" when history proves they were seeking one, can they?
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
I have enjoyed reading this Jerome and it rings true to my ears. With the exception that the closed circles of artists go far further into the past than the turn of the 20th century. But I get your point and I agree. I also think that the situation has many analogies in other fields. Such as the boards of many large corporations are mainly comprised of figures belonging to the old boy networks, societies and alumni. One can cause bankruptcy of quite a few corporations and still become the CEO of yet another one, just by the virtue of belonging to those circles.
The closed circles of artists aren't that old in their present form. That circles of power are closed goes back to the dawn of humanity, but it is a different thing.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
(I'll continue playing the devil's advocate .)



That is what the "artist" want you to believe: that they were always artists, that they always had this "vision" which raises them above the crowd of mere mortals and that what now hangs in a museum always had this peculiar quality which started before they were recognized.

The truth is that one can't prove any of this, because the definition of artist is self-referential. Is an artist whoever manages to have their works hang in a museum, the definition is simply not valid before that point. Saying they were artists before that point, they always had this peculiar quality in themselves, simply violates the definition.

And, in truth, known, internationally recognized artists often have a period of experimentation where they try many different things till they find a style which sells. They cannot have had a "vision" when history proves they were seeking one, can they?
This system of museums that collect art, do so for posterity and also, where funded by benefactors, to attract more financial support. So the curators, (in addition to finding the exceptional art worthy of saving), might also dealing with aspects of fashion and so all their selections may not be justified long term. Also they likely as not miss some artists they should have collected.

So museum acquisition is merely an excellent practical definition of the finest of art, but not a logical definition, like "up" is opposite to "down". Also the measure of vision in the collected or rejected art is not made by acquisition. Rather, as a group, museums will tend to collect much of offered or available works that often have unusually strong vision. Included will be some recognized work that clearly represent samples of the best craftsmanship, but little vision and the reverse. The best example of the latter, in Duchamp's iconic signed and repurposed "Urinals" to which he contributed no craft of forming the art. He just signed and repurposed an off the shelf object. It happened to be a curvaceous white porcelain object of considerable evolved generations of simplicity. It was not made from his imagination but in a mass-production by unknown factory artisans.

What is collected does have a better chance of long term survival for society and is a rough representation of the best of our Art. Work that is not collected is not necessarily "not Art" just not art that's recognized right now. Similarly, what is collected is not necessarily possessing the greatest vision nor does it mean that what's excluded lacked that quality. Rather, as a whole, many of the collected pieces do seem to be extraordinarily enriched in vision.

Still, I assert that all people who imagine and export their thoughts to material form in such a way as to realize the experience of the feelings and reactions they hoped for from the work are indeed artists. It may not go further than that. It just depends on the work getting known enough and infectious to reach collectors and move them sufficiently. If that person has patrons, connections or is a celebrity already, then this climb to value might be a lot easier. In our open societies, exceptional vision is, (we would hope), recognized often enough that many of the best works do indeed arrive at a museum to be preserved for the rest of us.

The final "practical definition" of "Art" going forward is what is collected by museums and collectors, even though we know that this is not an exclusive definition, as there's much extraordinary work that never reaches collectors or museums, again for a myriad of reasons.

Parallel to this are many works that sell in countless art galleries as "Art". Some do seem to be as worthy as what's collected. This layer of work is still Art, just not as yet all recognized as the finest art by museums that, by doings so, give a stamp of reassurance to private individuals, that the work is likely worth the investment. Below this is the product of self-proclaimed "artists". Yes, they can still be called artists, even though their work never gets to a local or national gallery. Imagination exported in an evocative form can be and is often art. Just may not have the magnetism to attract anyone but the artist and his cat.

Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
(I am still playing the devil's advocate, and therefore not 100% serious...)

You are confusing the concept of art with the concept of "worthy of preservation for future generation". They are completely different concepts. Anything old enough is worthy of preservation, we have hordes of scientists digging in what the generations before us discarded as junk and carefully placing these in museums all over the planet. It does not make the stone tools of the neolithic, mass produced grave offerings of the Egyptians or weapons of the middle ages any more to "art" than our current hammers, graveyards decorations or kalashnikovs. They are only old and rare and therefore expensive and worth preserving.

But we are talking about fine art here and fine art is quite simply defined as what one can buy as such. If it has the stamp of approval of a museum, it is of the finest sort. It is a commercial concept and the idea that art pieces are worth preserving only happened because it would defeat the purpose of the commercial concept if one could acquire Duchamp's fountain or bottle rack by searching the museum's trash. That is the only reason that the museum, which has limited storage space, does not discard them after an exhibition, since it would be much cheaper to discard them after the exhibition and order new ones from home depot when another exhibition is planned. They are mass produced objects. One can get the same object at any moment.

Art is simply a concept to allow some goods to be marketed as Veblen goods.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
(I am still playing the devil's advocate, and therefore not 100% serious...)

You are confusing the concept of art with the concept of "worthy of preservation for future generation". They are completely different concepts. Anything old enough is worthy of preservation, we have hordes of scientists digging in what the generations before us discarded as junk and carefully placing these in museums all over the planet. It does not make the stone tools of the neolithic, mass produced grave offerings of the Egyptians or weapons of the middle ages any more to "art" than our current hammers, graveyards decorations or kalashnikovs. They are only old and rare and therefore expensive and worth preserving.

But we are talking about fine art here and fine art is quite simply defined as what one can buy as such. If it has the stamp of approval of a museum, it is of the finest sort. It is a commercial concept and the idea that art pieces are worth preserving only happened because it would defeat the purpose of the commercial concept if one could acquire Duchamp's fountain or bottle rack by searching the museum's trash. That is the only reason that the museum, which has limited storage space, does not discard them after an exhibition, since it would be much cheaper to discard them after the exhibition and order new ones from home depot when another exhibition is planned. They are mass produced objects. One can get the same object at any moment.

Art is simply a concept to allow some goods to be marketed as Veblen goods.
Jerome,

I actually agree with most of what you say, but stick to my contention that one has to accept layers of art existing. That art starts with the export of an imagined set of feelings and esthetics into, (or onto), a new, (or existing physical form), designed to evoke a range of emotional feelings and or reflections by the visitor to it. We also agree that Fine Art is most often found in museums. It's a rough and ready way of recognizing fine art and pretty reliable. It's not however exclusive, nor does it necessarily imply vision of the highest order.

Art exist outside of museums, but the latter are the best references for Fine Art. As to the relics of the parts and representations of modern craft, museums do collect these, but we know to differentiate them. Some are art, others not. No disagreement here.

Asher
 

Michael Nagel

Active member
Veblen Goods had to be named! This is how I see a large share of the Art market as well.
So is something worth to be preserved because it is (fine) art or because it was popular, in fashion?
Difficult to draw a line here.

I remember discussions with artists complaining that their works became less and less exposed at smaller galleries because their work is getting out of fashion and other trends are more interesting.
Personal relations also play a role here.
Now - to be recognized, an artist has to start with expositions in smaller galleries before being accepted in larger galleries.

Then there is the recent example of Vivian Maier, her work is considered as art, yet she was not interested in expositions, she often did not bother to develop the film...

I am against the concept of self-proclaimed artists as I mentioned here and in the next post below the first mentioned.
Artist is a title that - in my eyes - can only be attributed by others.
Not every work of an artist is art...

Best regards,
Michael
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I am against the concept of self-proclaimed artists as I mentioned here and in the next post below the first mentioned.
Artist is a title that - in my eyes - can only be attributed by others.
Not every work of an artist is art...
Yes, as both Jerome and you post, we get a clearer concept of what art and artists might be. Thanks for your continued efforts in arguing and delineating this subject.

So who can be genuinely called an "artist". Obviously, already recognized and featured painters, sculptors and fine art photographers are qualified by acclaim to be artists. But what about the rest of us? What of the person investing his/her dreams and waking hours to expressive art? Does that occupation confer the right to answer, ".. and what do you do?" with, "I'm an artist!". As you imply, it might be less presumptuous to answer, "I work making pictures I enjoy and that I hope others will buy and even collect as art.

But in short, saying "I'm an artist" is a brief social statement of what we think we are doing, that's all! But are we indeed really artists? Well, until a reputable collector or museum begins acquiring one's work, it's a noble, but unproven and highly unlikely aspiration for most "artists". For us, "The jury is still out." In fact, the fate of our "self-proclaimed" art is akin to walking up the steps of a Court of Law. One cannot predict the outcome and even if it wins, (this time), that does not prove one is vindicated in any of our claims. This is because for art, we need time to further filter the work society values or fail to recognize immediately. Still, calling oneself an artist is, in the meanwhile, a practical social designation, like saying, "I'm pissed", "broke" or "at the end of my rope", a shortcut expression that we all understand, no more, no less.

Asher
 
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