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Author Topic: What is 'fine art photography'?  (Read 149325 times)
Rob C
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« Reply #100 on: July 14, 2008, 03:33:41 PM »
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This is a very important point, IMHO.

Some will argue vociferously that the creator's intent is of no importance whatever; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera doesn't matter at all").

Others will argue that the creator's intent is of the utmost importance in every case; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera is the only thing that matters").

This slipperiness of definition is one of the things that keeps 'fine art photography'  interesting.
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Eric

Just found your website - don´t know why I missed it before. Very pleasing pics you have there; the doorways are something very dear to me - I have had this thing about putting models in them, one way or the other, on just about every time I have had the opportunity! You should have a look at the site of a friend:

[a href=\"http://www.keithlaban.co.uk]http://www.keithlaban.co.uk[/url]

he has a thing about Greek islands, and doorways too. Enjoy.

Rob C
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« Reply #101 on: July 14, 2008, 05:37:56 PM »
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Eric

Just found your website - don´t know why I missed it before. Very pleasing pics you have there; the doorways are something very dear to me - I have had this thing about putting models in them, one way or the other, on just about every time I have had the opportunity! You should have a look at the site of a friend:

http://www.keithlaban.co.uk

he has a thing about Greek islands, and doorways too. Enjoy.

Rob C
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Rob,

Thanks for the kind words, and for the tip about Keith Laban. He indeed does lovely work.

-Eric
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #102 on: July 15, 2008, 02:52:50 AM »
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Nick - I understand what you've said about photography not having a particular purpose, but am still not clear about it being an end in itself. Am I right in thinking it must at least be for someone (viewer or creator)? In which case, the end exists in the relation between the photograph and the viewer/ creator, and not just the photograph itself? It seems to me it has to be. And if it is a photograph of something, it has to involve that something as well, doesn't it? And it's here - in the involvement of the viewer and the subject - that my problem with the idea that the photograph is an end in itself lies.
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You are over-analysing  

I simply mean that the reason for making the print is just that, making the print. Once it's made then it exists for anyone to make of what they will.

The print stands alone as an object of art to be displayed, enjoyed, laughed at, whatever. But the print itself is the conclusion, the final end point, and in fact the reason for starting the process in the first place - hence 'final cause'.

So, a fine art print is made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it. If you accept this definition of 'fine art print' then images made for other purposes, no matter how good, cannot be fine art prints.
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ChrisS
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« Reply #103 on: July 15, 2008, 03:48:45 AM »
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You are over-analysing   

I simply mean that the reason for making the print is just that, making the print. Once it's made then it exists for anyone to make of what they will.

The print stands alone as an object of art to be displayed, enjoyed, laughed at, whatever. But the print itself is the conclusion, the final end point, and in fact the reason for starting the process in the first place - hence 'final cause'.

So, a fine art print is made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it. If you accept this definition of 'fine art print' then images made for other purposes, no matter how good, cannot be fine art prints.
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I'm with you, but bear with me a bit longer!

When you take the photograph and make the print, you're making decisions about what looks/ works best, aren't you? And that 'best' depends on your ambition for the work - to represent or create visual pleasure, horror, or whatever - and it depends on how well the work will engage the viewer.

So, is a photograph ever 'made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it'? The image is always 'of' or 'for' something - if only for looking at and contemplating.

In which case, is a photograph to be used for commercial purposes any less an end in itself than a photograph that's taken to evoke some aesthetic response in the viewer?
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« Reply #104 on: July 15, 2008, 07:00:13 AM »
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I'm with you, but bear with me a bit longer!

When you take the photograph and make the print, you're making decisions about what looks/ works best, aren't you? And that 'best' depends on your ambition for the work - to represent or create visual pleasure, horror, or whatever - and it depends on how well the work will engage the viewer.

So, is a photograph ever 'made with the sole purpose of making an image and printing it'? The image is always 'of' or 'for' something - if only for looking at and contemplating.

In which case, is a photograph to be used for commercial purposes any less an end in itself than a photograph that's taken to evoke some aesthetic response in the viewer?
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I think you are reading too much into the situation here. Nothing is 'lesser' or 'greater' than anything else. A commercial image is made to meet a client's needs, an editorial image is made to please a magazine editor and a fine art print is made with no need for anything further, just the satisfaction of the creator (there does not even have to be a viewer really, although that opens up another question about art which I don't want to go into).

"I made this print, here it is on display. I don't need you to like it, buy it, use it to sell shampoo, worship it, or anything else ".

In many ways fine art is the ultimate self-indulgence - the work is made for the creator's own personal reasons, not to necessarily please anyone else, and not really needing to know what anyone else thinks about it. It's art for art's sake.
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ChrisS
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« Reply #105 on: July 15, 2008, 08:40:32 AM »
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"I made this print, here it is on display. I don't need you to like it, buy it, use it to sell shampoo, worship it, or anything else ".

It's art for art's sake.
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Isn't it true that once the work is put on display in a public place (gallery, book etc.) - and most of us are responsible for this decision ourselves - we purposefully seek to evoke responses? These responses, then, constitute 'ends'. We may not 'need' the responses that you list, but we're looking for some outcome or end - otherwise, why put them in that public place? Unless you're saying that it makes no difference at all to art whether or not it provokes any response or has any outcome - a situation I find hard to imagine.

An alternative might be to keep the work hidden from public view, but then I can't imagine how the work would enter the category 'fine art', as it wouldn't ever enter that arena (unless, somehow, being hidden was part of its meaning - a possibility which Duchamp did explore).

In short, the work only exists in a meaningful way in relation to things other than itself. Whether intended by the artist or not, this relationship will lead to a diversity of 'ends'. Unless you bury it 10 meters beneath a field, and then forget where you buried it!

The concept 'art for art's sake' is terribly problematic, principally because - as we've seen lots of times in this thread - art is so many things. So the term does nothing to close the concept 'art' down - except that historically, it was used to suggest that - as you say - art was an end in itself. As a term, it was already in trouble by the late 19th century. (Though I'd certainly accept that this doesn't mean that you could not revive it - just that it's fraught with difficulty.)
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Rob C
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« Reply #106 on: July 15, 2008, 04:06:46 PM »
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Quote from: ChrisS,Jul 15 2008, 01:40 PM
Isn't it true that once the work is put on display in a public place (gallery, book etc.) - and most of us are responsible for this decision ourselves - we purposefully seek to evoke responses? These responses, then, constitute 'ends'. We may not 'need' the responses that you list, but we're looking for some outcome or end - otherwise, why put them in that public place? Unless you're saying that it makes no difference at all to art whether or not it provokes any response or has any outcome - a situation I find hard to imagine.

There is a huge difference in concept between the picture, which is the piece of art, and the later display of that picture, which might or might not be done in an artistic manner or even for any artistic purpose other than the other fine art of parting someone from his money.

The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

Rob C
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« Reply #107 on: July 15, 2008, 04:33:14 PM »
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The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

Rob C
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Correct, it's a simple as that. I'm not defining what art is Chris, just trying to nail down what the term 'fine art' means.
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EricWHiss
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« Reply #108 on: July 15, 2008, 09:43:13 PM »
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I hear what you are saying, but have you ever seen a traditional landscape shot (ie a scene or vista, not a close-up or abstract) that is not sharp front to back and that is any good?

It's all about the light and the composition - and everything must be sharp. The eye auto focuses on anything it looks at, therefore in a large scene something that is OOF is jarring, the eye wants to see it in close detail and can't.

That's why big, supersharp prints are so appropriate for landscape imagery. Hard to take it further really - in fact to apply other creative techniques as you suggest means it's not really landscape photography anymore. It's quite a tightly defined genre when you think about it.
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Came into this great thread and have been reading every post - but Nick you've got me to add my first reply here. You can't be serious about that sharpness thing can you?   Take a look at the nature/art  photographer of the year last in last years IPA awards for a good example of some stunning soft landscape images.   And the eye does not have infinite DOF anyhow so if the whole scene is rendered with no OOF areas then your brain won't allow you to believe you were actually there - to put themselves in the scene as it were.  Even with a large print it will always be read as 2d with sharpness from edge to edge at least IMHO.  Mimic the way the eye sees to make it have depth and look real.

What do I think about photography as art?  Well most of it isn't. Most of it is documentary.  Is there a sunset or a landscape photo that isn't already hackneyed or cliche?  The words fine art have become the new "deluxe".   When you see something labeled as fine art you know its neither.
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« Reply #109 on: July 15, 2008, 09:59:41 PM »
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And the eye does not have infinite DOF anyhow so if the whole scene is rendered with no OOF areas then your brain won't allow you to believe you were actually there - to put themselves in the scene as it were.  It will always be 2d with sharpness from edge to edge at least IMHO.

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What you see appears to have infinite depth of field simply because your eye focuses on whatever you look at without you being aware of it. Just look around you.

This to conjure any sense of 'being there' or looking out of a window, there must be sharpness everywhere.

If you want to do other creative things fine, soft focus is fine, limited DoF is fine, but the closest a photo can get to depicting a view is when it is critically sharp all over. It's the traditional core of landscape photography (and even painting - ever see an OoF Constable?) but that's not to say it's a rule that cannot be creatively broken.

Sure this is reportage or recording, with very little relevance to art, but the goal of full sharpness is not 'silly' at all. No more than soft focus, DoF effects or any other visually unnatural effect.

Don't knock it just 'cos you don't like it.
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ChrisS
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« Reply #110 on: July 16, 2008, 02:16:42 AM »
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The artwork is a finite entity with its own life; what anyone does with it or thinks about it once it exists are totally different things.

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I'd say that no life exists in itself - it's always in relation to other things, and this relationship to other things results inevitably in different ends. In this sense, the artwork isn't 'finite', I think.

And while I agree that the work, once in a public space, is open to all kinds of interpretation or responses, as the producers of the works we shape those responses by our decisions about the image's production. (Though I don't think we can determine those responses - who knows what might be made of the works?) Production, the object produced and consumption are never completely remote.

So - I don't think that the two moments of the work you refer to (the object and its consumption) can be 'totally different things.'

To be honest, I can't think of anything that's an 'end in itself', least of all things that people produce. Are there other examples?
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Rob C
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« Reply #111 on: July 16, 2008, 05:28:04 AM »
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So - I don't think that the two moments of the work you refer to (the object and its consumption) can be 'totally different things.'

To be honest, I can't think of anything that's an 'end in itself', least of all things that people produce. Are there other examples?
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Well, Chris, I guess we just have to accept that our minds work in different ways.

Rob C
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ChrisS
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« Reply #112 on: July 16, 2008, 06:41:44 AM »
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Well, Chris, I guess we just have to accept that our minds work in different ways.

Rob C
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Yes. I think there are two extremes:

1. that what constitutes fine art (photography) is really just a matter of subjective opinion;

2. that what constitutes fine art (photography) is quite objective and definite.

It's pretty clear that most of us occupy positions between these two extremes. And - as I said somewhere earlier in this thread (I think - I'm finding it hard to remember), this process of debate must be one of the defining characteristics of fine art. I'm happy to agree to differ on this (in the knowledge, of course, that I'm right.  )

Time to take some photos...
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Chris_T
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« Reply #113 on: July 16, 2008, 07:10:49 AM »
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This is a very important point, IMHO.

Some will argue vociferously that the creator's intent is of no importance whatever; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera doesn't matter at all").

Others will argue that the creator's intent is of the utmost importance in every case; and they are wrong (as wrong as "your camera is the only thing that matters").

This slipperiness of definition is one of the things that keeps 'fine art photography'  interesting.
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As if that's not slippery enough, I will add the following.

Let's first separate the "arguers" into two groups: the creators and the viewers (critics). Some creators have strong desire/expectation that the viewers would come to understand/agree/appreciate their intents. They would take measures such as statements/receptions/interviews/rebuttles to disclose/explain/defend their intents. But some creators would keep mum about their intents and let the viewers to determine on their own. Why creators have such different views would make an interesting discussion topic.

On the flip side, all critical viewers would want to know the creators' intents. Some would like to start with knowing the creators' intents, but some would prefer to find out on their own. With all these permutations, it is natural for the creators and viewers to reactive differently.

BTW, the above is about work of "art" in general, and not limited to photography. We probably all love/hate songs that we can't decipher their lyrics, or movies that we can't nail down their endings. The intrigue of these work is often the reason for their popularity. Only the creators know for sure about their work's intents, and may or may not care about the viewers' reactions.
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« Reply #114 on: July 16, 2008, 08:07:21 AM »
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Well put, Chris. That's one of the most meaningful statements I've seen in this whole thread.

-Eric
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« Reply #115 on: July 16, 2008, 01:22:19 PM »
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Lots of good thought's Chris and EricM,

The 900# gorilla is the monetization of art. So much of what we see and know about art as a culture has more to do with what could be sold than anything else.

For example let me suggest a Thomas Kinkaid story that I heard from a friend who interviewed one of the guys behind this artist for a VP job. He had told her that some of his business friends decided that there was a market for medium priced art and they went looking for a non confrontational artist, something that would appeal to everyday people.   One of the guy's wifes suggested a painter that came to their church.  So they created a franchise around this guy that was built up to the point of 400 employee's and mass production of "paintings"  using canvas in injet printers. These were sold at franchised "galleries" in shopping malls around the country. Buyers could pay a premium to have a "master" paint in the highlights onto the canvas that Kinkaid never touched.  

How does this relate to art and to photography?  Well I think that a large group out there cares very little for the content, final cause, or quality but rather only cares if money can be made.  This pollutes the concept of what is art and confuses the players - critics, artists, and public.

I'm not saying it voids the roles of the 'creators' or 'critics' but I do feel that both groups are steered by money and marketing to a large extent.

The solution to all the marketing madness is better public arts education - and I'm happy for this discussion.
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ChrisS
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« Reply #116 on: July 16, 2008, 02:06:06 PM »
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The 900# gorilla is the monetization of art.
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At least since the Renaissance, there's been a clear connection between art and wealth. In fact, the view that art has no use - or no end apart from itself - has fed into the conventional, elite status of fine art. (Only wealthy people could spend large amounts of money to buy something so without use! The rest of us are trying to pay the bills. Thus, art becomes a status symbol.)

Such attitudes persist, for sure, but art really has opened up to all kinds of critical possibilities. What we tend to see in the major private galleries and read about in much of the main-stream press, though, is definitely underpinned by precisely what you describe, EricWHiss.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #117 on: July 16, 2008, 05:21:13 PM »
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At least since the Renaissance, there's been a clear connection between art and wealth. In fact, the view that art has no use - or no end apart from itself - has fed into the conventional, elite status of fine art. (Only wealthy people could spend large amounts of money to buy something so without use! The rest of us are trying to pay the bills. Thus, art becomes a status symbol.)

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Hooray for wealthy people! Without them artists would have a tough time existing. Art is certainly a discretionary purchase, with the looming recessions around the world it will be interesting to see how that affects the art market.

I'm perfectly happy with the alleged commercialization of art. What's not to like about someone paying you do what you enjoy most? Artists, too, have bills to pay.
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Nick Rains
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #118 on: July 16, 2008, 06:00:37 PM »
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Hooray for wealthy people! Without them artists would have a tough time existing. Art is certainly a discretionary purchase, with the looming recessions around the world it will be interesting to see how that affects the art market.

I'm perfectly happy with the alleged commercialization of art. What's not to like about someone paying you do what you enjoy most? Artists, too, have bills to pay.
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The problem is that too many of the wealthy prefer to wait for the artist to die before they invest in his/her work.  
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #119 on: July 16, 2008, 06:07:03 PM »
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The problem is that too many of the wealthy prefer to wait for the artist to die before they invest in his/her work.   
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LOL

Actually no, the trick is to invest in artists' early careers before the prices go up after their demise.
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