(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally representing objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.
Alfred Stieglitz’s photograph The Steerage (1907) was an early work of artistic modernism and considered by many historians to be the most important photograph ever made. Stieglitz was notable for introducing fine art photography into museum collections.
Here is a list of definitions of the related terms “art photography”, “artistic photography”, and “fine art photography”.
- “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”.
- “Fine art photography”: “The production of images to fulfill the creative vision of a photographer. … Synonymous with art photography”.
- “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”.
- “Fine art photography”: Also called “decor photography,” “photo decor,” or “wall decor,” this “involves selling large photos… that can be used as wall art”.
- In 1961, Dr. S.D.Jouhar founded the Photographic Fine Art Association, and he was its Chairman. Their definition of Fine Art was “Creating images that evoke emotion by a photographic process in which one’s mind and imagination are freely but competently exercised.
- “Fine art photography”: “A picture that is produced for sale or display rather than one that is produced in response to a commercial commission”.
One photography historian claimed that “the earliest exponent of ‘Fine Art’ or composition photography was John Edwin Mayall, “who exhibited daguerrotypes illustrating the Lord’s Prayer in 1851”. Successful attempts to make fine art photography can be traced to Victorian era practitioners such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and Oscar Gustave Rejlander and others. In the U.S. F. Holland Day, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen were instrumental in making photography a fine art, and Stieglitz was especially notable in introducing it into museum collections.
Until the late 1970s, several genres predominated, such as; nudes, portraits, natural landscapes (exemplified by Ansel Adams). Breakthrough ‘star’ artists in the 1970s and 80s, such as Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cindy Sherman, still relied heavily on such genres, although seeing them with fresh eyes. Others investigated a snapshot aesthetic approach.
American organizations, such as the Aperture Foundation and the Museum of Modern Art, have done much to keep photography at the forefront of the fine arts.
Ansel Adams’ The Tetons and the Snake River (1942).
Attitudes of artists in other fields
The reactions of artists and writers have contributed significantly to perceptions of photography as fine art. Prominent painters, such as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso, have asserted their interest in the medium:
- I have discovered photography. Now I can kill myself. I have nothing else to learn. – Pablo Picasso;
- I have always been very interested in photography. I have looked at far more photographs than I have paintings. Because their reality is stronger than reality itself. – Francis Bacon.
Noted authors, similarly, have responded to the artistic potential of photography: …it does seem to me that Capa has proved beyond all doubt that the camera need not be a cold mechanical device. Like the pen, it is as good as the man who uses it. It can be the extension of mind and heart… – John Steinbeck.
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