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Author Topic: “Fine Art,” photography, what makes an image deser  (Read 25363 times)
mr.dude
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« on: August 10, 2006, 07:07:12 AM »
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The question is, what separates a photograph from being labeled “fine art” and one from just the regular “photograph” label?

I see this term “fine art” term thrown around quite a lot.   So I’m asking for opinions as to what defines “fine art” or a “fine art photo”.  I am not looking for the definition that states something along the lines of fine art being of the traditional categories of painting, music, and blah blah, as that is a very out of date and narrow minded idea.  Nor am I looking for other textbook definitions.  I want to know what you think it is in your own words.  Is this term so loosely applied and overused that it no longer has meaning anymore?  Is it fine art only because some “expert” claims it as such, or is it only when the viewer feels it is?  What about all the stuff many of us call crap but either sells for a lot of money, is well known, or is exhibited in well respected museums ans galleries? How many of us that use the phrase "fine art" or critisize art have actually studied art?  I have my own opinions on the subject but I’d like to hear some intelligent responses to take into consideration.   I hope everyone understands that people are just stating their opinions and not claiming authority in the matter.  

BTW if someone wants to claim that it’s not fine art if it’s not shot on film and produced in the darkroom AND has good reasons, then I’d like to hear it.  So far I’ve only heard things like “cuz I like it / the process is old / I can’t describe it, I just know it / some people are willing to pay more for it” which aren’t good reasons and certainly aren’t going to change anyone’s minds.  Basically I’ve just heard weak arguments as to why their preferred process was superior, and usually a lot of other things that point to a poor understanding of the digital process and sometimes a fear of change.  

Thanks for everyone's participation.
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michael
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2006, 07:48:53 AM »
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The term isn't one of value judgement. It is intended to discrimate between photographs taken for any other purpose.

So, a photograph taken of a house to put in a real estate ad, or a child to put in a family album, or a mountain to put in a travel slide show, are what they are. But if a photograph of a house, a child or a mountain are made with the intention of being displayed or sold as "art" then that's what they are. They may be crap, but it's reasonable to call them "fine art" because that's their intended purpose.

Michael
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mikeseb
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 01:04:12 PM »
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My simplistic way of looking at this: fine art photos are taken primarily to represent a more abstract quality or characteristic of the subject--beauty, symmetry, form, tone--rather than to present literally the subject itself. This distinguishes them from advertising, portraiture, fashion, architecture, and other variants of commercial photography, where the concreteness of the subject itself is what you hope to depict. (words rarely fail me but they do so here.)

Obviously there is overlap and one can take a fine-art architectural image, for instance (my intention in my photos at the Brickworks last fall, for instance); but a literal representation is not the primary goal for a fine-art image.

My amateur's take on this. Forgive the art-school babble
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michael sebastian
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« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2006, 02:35:26 PM »
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The term isn't one of value judgement. It is intended to discrimate between photographs taken for any other purpose.

So, a photograph taken of a house to put in a real estate ad, or a child to put in a family album, or a mountain to put in a travel slide show, are what they are. But if a photograph of a house, a child or a mountain are made with the intention of being displayed or sold as "art" then that's what they are. They may be crap, but it's reasonable to call them "fine art" because that's their intended purpose.

Michael
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I agree with Michael that "purpose" is the key word here.  What we think of the end product is up to us, and the original intent of the person creating the work is up to them.  If you intend to create art, if this is your purpose, then it is art to you unless you decide it is not.  The audience is free to decide whether they agree or not.
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Alain Briot
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seany
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2006, 05:27:09 AM »
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I agree with Michael that "purpose" is the key word here.  What we think of the end product is up to us, and the original intent of the person creating the work is up to them.  If you intend to create art, if this is your purpose, then it is art to you unless you decide it is not.  The audience is free to decide whether they agree or not.
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Perhaps it would be a good idea to scrap the the term "fine art" when referring to photographs as inevitably it lends itself to misinterpretation and has a grandiose flavour which is undesirable.Basicly there are only photos they can be catorgorised as excellant,good,bad,mediocre etc etc.they can be used for whatever purpose one likes,just because a photo is intended for one purpose does not mean it can not be used for another purpose as well i.e. a well composed holiday photo can be exhibited if properly framed and mounted.
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Hank
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2006, 10:43:30 AM »
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Along with "purpose" you also have to consider the audience.  

If you are selling or hanging for pubilc dispaly rather tha simply keeping them at home for your own pleasure, viewer opinion weighs in.  In our studio the perception of "fine art" niggles into clients decision making in purchases- not only which to buy, but also whether to buy and how large.  It's great when people stand enraptured in front of your photos, but it's not business till they are motivated to buy.  Even for access to public display venues with no intent of sales, the owner of the venue must at some point decide whether or not it is art, and whether or not to associate themselves with it.
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seany
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« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2006, 02:34:05 PM »
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Along with "purpose" you also have to consider the audience. 

If you are selling or hanging for pubilc dispaly rather tha simply keeping them at home for your own pleasure, viewer opinion weighs in.  In our studio the perception of "fine art" niggles into clients decision making in purchases- not only which to buy, but also whether to buy and how large.  It's great when people stand enraptured in front of your photos, but it's not business till they are motivated to buy.  Even for access to public display venues with no intent of sales, the owner of the venue must at some point decide whether or not it is art, and whether or not to associate themselves with it.
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In each case above the decision is basicly one of purpose i.e. is it suitable for the buyer or the gallerys requirements=purpose
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Hank
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2006, 03:12:30 PM »
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That semantic hair split rather well-   lengthwise.
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2006, 03:55:53 PM »
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Mr Dude

Your question was: what separates one photograph from being fine art and another just a photograph. The answer is very simple: opinion. Nothing more and nothing less.

Ciao - Rob C
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russell a
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« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2006, 04:55:35 PM »
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Susan Sontag, in her book, On Photography asserts that [paraphrasing] "all photographs become art once they reach a certain age."  One can verify this by examining the photographic holdings of most any museum.  It's a matter of simple annointment.  The more influential  the person executing the annointment, the wider the sphere of possible effect.

If there were a required reading list for visitors to this "Art" forum, it would possibly raise the level of discourse or reduce the periodicity of the familar cycle of predictable exchange.  In that spirit, I would suggest the following for those interested:

Sontag, Susan, On Photography, Picador, New York, 1973, 1974, 1977

Danto, Arthur C., After the End of Art, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1997

Greenhalgh, Paul, The Modern Ideal, the Rise and Collapse of Idealism in the Visual Arts,V & A, London, 2005

Barrett, Terry, Criticizing Photographs, Fourth Edition, McGraw Hill, Boston, 2006

Adams, Robert, Beauty in Photography, Aperture, New York, 1996
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mr.dude
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« Reply #10 on: September 01, 2006, 07:14:00 AM »
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hi all,

   thanks for all of your responses so far.  i also asked another group of working artists/photographers the same question a while back.  from their response and the ones found here, it seems that there is no general agreement on what seperates "fine art photography" from just "photography".  most, if not all responses were valid and made plenty of sense.  i've got to say that the reason i asked this question was because i had run into a few individuals that were making claims that certain photographs or methods of photographing (specifically digital related processes) were not fine art.  while none of these comments were directed at my work, this struck me in a odd way since i had never heard of real defining and widely agreed upon explanation of what IS fine art photography and what ISN'T.  i feel these responses have supported the idea that there is no real definition, and that those who go around claiming such and such work is not fine art are just....
« Last Edit: September 01, 2006, 07:20:38 AM by mr.dude » Logged
Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2006, 11:37:58 AM »
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Hi russell a

Well yes, you can quote any number of writers with higher or lower prestige values but, at the end of the day, all that they are giving you is not a lot more than opinion. It has to be so - without scientific parameters there is no option other than the subjective view of each individual.

I have read so many so-called art photography magazines and books and it always comes down to opinion and also, generally, a hard sell springs out to surprise one somewhere down the line.

So in the end, call it what you like and enjoy it for what you think it's worth (the 'art' photograph before you) but don't put any faith in the commercial sector trading in such material: it's there to turn a buck, just like everyone else. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with this unless you become hooked on the idea of art as investment, at which stage I believe you feed the commission frenzy of every picture peddler in town.

This is exactly as an earlier scribe here has stated - should the right guru give you or whoever he deems marketable his /her blessing, then that person is on his/her way. The smell of that anointment reminds me of funeral parlours...

Sweet dreams - Rob C
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James Godman
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« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2006, 06:07:51 PM »
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Maybe the moral of this is to do what you love and let others call it what they want.  Also, the notion that something is not art because of a particular technology used is ridiculous.  New technologies have been used to create art since the beginning of mankind through today.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2006, 04:03:03 AM »
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I agree with Michael that "purpose" is the key word here.  What we think of the end product is up to us, and the original intent of the person creating the work is up to them.  If you intend to create art, if this is your purpose, then it is art to you unless you decide it is not.  The audience is free to decide whether they agree or not.
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I still have a synthaxical problem with this approach though.

My view is that the purpose alone, deprived from any of the means required to reach a certain acceptance among viewers, is an empty shell.

This definition of fine art hereby proposed is in my view an - admitedely ellegant - attempt to escape from the delicate task of casting a judgement on a piece. Forget the "fine", and you are back on the fudamental question "is this art?" or "what is art?".

This definition does IMHO not serve photography in its endless quest for recognition as a form of art, because art in photography becomes just whatever.

This definition does IMHO also not match our intuitive feeling of what such a definition should be.

The post-modern relativist culture we have grown into is very seductive in many ways, but it is too often the result of our fear of complexity. Taking a meta-like one step back approach a la "I will just propose the recipient and you do whatever you want with it" has some value, but is mostly in the end a negative approach.

Art-quality and quality are clearly different things, but defining the purpose alone as being enough to define are is too simplistic. The audience should be part of the equation, in the measure that it shoudl accept the attempt as being art. To me, you cannot do art alone, only something that could be art. The purpose only defines a potentiality that has to be materialized by an audience.

Just my un-educated view though.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
LoisWakeman
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« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2006, 09:32:52 AM »
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Bernard - as soon as I read this, I immediately though of Schrödinger's cat. When the gallery is empty, the photo is simultaneously (fine) art and not art. When an observer gets within viewing distance, he collapses the quantum wave function and the true state of the image is revealed.

 
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2006, 10:11:50 AM »
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Bernard - as soon as I read this, I immediately though of Schrödinger's cat. When the gallery is empty, the photo is simultaneously (fine) art and not art. When an observer gets within viewing distance, he collapses the quantum wave function and the true state of the image is revealed.

 
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Lois,

Brilliant.

Never thought I would have the chance to hear about quantum physics here, but yes, the crystalisation of a potential art form into something categorized happens in my view as a revelation, an acknowledgment,  in the mind of an audience.

No audience, no instantiation of the photo, it keeps floating as a selfish creation whose photons are still desperatly looking for an eye where to rest and try to seduce and convince.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
alainbriot
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« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2006, 02:26:16 PM »
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My essay "Being an Artist" discusses the importance of the audience specifically, in particular Section 6 which is titled "Being an Artist Means having an Audience" :

http://luminous-landscape.com/columns/aesthetics10.shtml

Do note that my previous post in this thread was not meant to be "A definition of fine art" as Bernard states, but simply a response to the original post about fine art.  I am working on an essay titled "Photography is Art" in which I will provide a much more complete answer to this and to other questions.   My definition of art will be featured in this upcoming essay.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2006, 02:28:49 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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wynpotter
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« Reply #17 on: September 07, 2006, 03:32:27 PM »
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If one finds an Ansel Adams, Edward Wesson, etc original print at a flea market for $2, is it art. Is it art or not because of the venue it's found.
A print by XYZ at a gallery in Jackson Hole, well lite, music, all the trappings of "Class", $10,000, is it art?
Because the customer is naive enough to believe the gallery, this can lead to the possible corruption of art.
A man meets a woman at a bar. He ask if she would have sex with him for $1000. She agrees. He then says how about $100. She said " what do you think I am" his reply " I know what you are, we are simply negotiating the price"
Sometimes people want to be lied to, the truth is not exciting enough. I was in a Gallery in Santa Fe several years ago and since I am also a potter, a pottery piece for $800 caught my eye. I asked if it were "Hand made in the traditional coil built method and was assured it was. It had the artist "cert of auth" and could be relied on as genuine.
When I ask why the piece had the noticable marks of a "slip cast " mold made piece, I was asked to leave.
One must factor in the reality of the world in deciding if it's art. IMHO, many times it's more about the $$$$ than Art
Just a passing thought, Wyndham
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aksundevil
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« Reply #18 on: September 07, 2006, 08:02:28 PM »
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A print by photographer XYZ is probably not, as an investment, worth 10,000 dollars. Is a print by Ansel Adams worth 10,000 dollars? As an investment, it very well may be if care was taken to preserve it for some years; it might be sold at some point for more than $10,000. So I don't even think the price a photograph is actually worth can ever be used to define 'fine art photography'. Similarly, just because a photograph by XYZ will never be 'worth' $10,000 (or even $1000 or even $100) doesn't mean it's not 'fine art'. Did any of that make sense?
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #19 on: September 07, 2006, 08:46:58 PM »
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Yes, it makes sense. I agree that it is important to distinguish between "fine art" as something of intrinsic value to an audience, and "fine art" as an investment field. The investment (monetary) value of a photograph or painting depends on many factors, such as scarcity, that have nothing to do with the artistic value of the image, except, sometimes, after the fact.

On the market, an Edward Weston print printed by his son Cole brings a lower price than the same image in an original Edward Weston print, even if the two prints are visually indistinuguishable. But it is certainly the case that the artistic value (which term I am leaving vague and undefined, except that it is distinct from the monetary value     ) of Weston's ar Ansel's prints has contributed significantly to their investment/monetary value.

I hope this makes sense.  
« Last Edit: September 07, 2006, 08:47:22 PM by EricM » Logged

-Eric Myrvaagnes

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