"State of Fine Art Photography"

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ann, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    A writer called me today requesting an interview to discuss Fine Art Photography.

    Of course one of my first question was, "is this in relation to digital vs film"?
    He indicated that this was not the case.

    Anyone have a strong view point they wish expressed? (i certainly have my own) but since my world is relatively small in relationship to the world I thought i would toss this out for input.

    the article is for local use,(Atlanta) not national or international publication
     
  2. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    go with your heart on this... I don't even know how to define fine-art anyway. It's one of those terms that looks great on paper, but carries very little definite meaning. I'd suggest talking about it as it relates to you and your work, and you should be fine. But then, I am no authority on this.
     
  3. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Well, first go with your own toughts...mine is the state of fine art photography is very good, strong as ever. The collectors market is still driven by what we all know as 'fine art photogrpahy', and collectors still want prints, prices are holding - at least from what I read. People still want good, high quality prints.
     
  4. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    You've opened it now!
    Whenever I walk galleries or big shows with groups of galleries I leave mad. I appreciate and understand financial obligations that require selling and reselling old and proven images. Name recognition still drives the market whether your great or not! (most were great). The tecknology for creating silver based and alternative processed photograpic art has never been better. The talent level and work I'm seeing today is amazing. Yet the work placed in front of the collecting public is old. The statement I've heard from gallery owners is " You can't do this and expect financial gratification, you have to do it for yourself".
    On line galleries don't seem to be much better, They target fine art photographers as their market to sell on line space rather than taking the responsibility to represent talent and go out and sell to the art market. some are even bold enough to take money from the artist and a percentage of the sales price.
    It's not all sour grapes however, for those who can skirt the restraints of financial and recognition, there is more oppertunity for artistic proficiency than ever.
    Personally for me the commercial end pays for my addiction. When money does come through artistic accomplishment it's blown anyway on celebration. The one shinning light this past year for us was B/W UK showing our work in their magazine then sending us a check for the use of the images. WHAT A CONCEPT! Ailsa your a progressive.
    I guess the gallery owners are right after all in that we are responsible for our own path. I'm having a blast, but It would be nice to be financially gratified also.
     
  5. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    After a few decades of thinking about it, I still haven't managed to figure out what a "Fine Artist" or even an "Artist" is. The only conclusion that I've managed to draw with any certainty is that I am not one.
    I am just lost in a world of visual wonder and trying to figure out how to capture it as I see it on silver coated paper.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2004
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Preface:
    Its late and I suspect I'll regret this post...

    Fine art is a phrase, that may not have a definitive meaning. Art is a form of communication. Art created by a camera is a specific language. A language which has infinite dialects.

    We are all a bundle of experiences, emotions, memories, and dreams. If I can take from this bundle a cohesive statement that helps me understand this bundle I have begun to create art. If, as I continue to make new and better statements, you begin to understand me, us or something larger I am beginning to succeed.

    Art is the language that can describe, colour, smells, love, hope, the human condition now or across all time. The language uses nuance of media to give it special revreberations. The brush strokes of a painting as light catches it, or the weight of bronze sculpture juxtapostioned agianst the imprint of the sculptors fingers.

    Photography is special. Photography captures this very small slice of time as it really is or might be or seems to be -- in the hands and eye of the photographer. The implied reality that a photograph offers gives it special resonace.

    There are countless nuances to photography. Some are shared with other media such as scale, being two dimensional, composition, generally reflective etc...

    Other nuances are all its own. Grain, the effects of filtration, the breadth colour (or lack there of), and or tonality and contrast.

    How this special stature and the uniqueness of the media is used by the photographer in making his statement clearer determines the success of the work as a piece of art.

    What is the state of fine art today? I have no idea. I believe as stated above, that the tools available today are, on net, the best ever. I believe that the viability of photography as an art form is extremely strong.

    I do know what an artist is. An artist is any one who has ever tried to communicate something important to another person. A successful artist is one who has been understood.
     
  7. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    The state of Photographic Fine Art is DISMAL in one major respect.

    It is all about fashion.

    Just like a LOT of the art world is.

    As someone who is now experienced is multiple arts (I am now a modestly accomplished glassblower....and you guys wondered where I was for the last few months...), I think I can safely say this.

    I'll take an example from the world of glass and compare it to photo.

    If you learn to blow glass in Europe under the Venitian School, you will work for years with just plain glass, making things like plain, uncolored goblets. You will learn to perfect your work in clear glass and THEN go to color. If at all. The results are often etheral works that show extremely fine craftmanship.

    Here is an example of a vase using the extremely difficult reticello technique.

    [​IMG]

    Now, in the U.S. you get a lot more people coming out of the 1970s "glass revival". And, dare I say it, this is where we see guys like Chihuly come from. Now, I like what is going on out there. I think there is some amazing work out there. But let us look at some of Chihuly's work.

    [​IMG]

    Now, here is the thing....by VENITIAN standards, that piece is....well....

    Total crap.

    Making something like that is EASY. In fact that ruffled edge hides a LOT of sins. Probably in part to make the lipwrap easier to deal with. In fact I have made similar pieces.

    Anway, the question is this....

    Which one would be considered "high art" and most desired by the dealers in the U.S.?

    Or anywhere really?

    We all know it would be the Chihuly.

    But why? The reticello is an INSANELY hard technique. It requires you to make TWO objects, one fitting inside the other, with cane applied precisely so that they are in exact opposition. That vase is really TWO vases fused together. And THEN the handles and stuff are added.

    That Chihuly was probably made in under an hour. The reticello...days.

    But which is "more arty" to us? And which is viewed as "Fine Art"?

    The work by the guy with the fashionable name of course.

    And like most fashion, going BACKWARDS is bad. Being "retro" is o.k. if you just pick and choose, but the facts are that many people look down on work like Siskand and Adams' now when compared to say Richie Fahey.

    And yes, I have heard people, actual people the art world listens to, say that Richie Fahey, is "more artistic" than Adams!

    Let us compare...

    Fahey - [​IMG]

    Adams - [​IMG]


    Honestly, I love BOTH. I mean Adams because, well.....damn...it is just stunning...Fahey because I love the painted extalure 1950s style.

    But to many in the "white glove set" (a term I heard used by Jack Dykinga when I met him....and an appropriate one since I also heard a local photo prof say Dykinga was "too commercial" to be an artist... :roll: ), would chastise anyone for even thinking the two could be even seen in the same room!

    And why is that?

    I dunno. I just know that I have seen good landscape and formalist shooters, people who are up and coming be told "You can't do that! Nobody will buy that! It is too old!"

    It seems like the art world is some sort of fashion crazed teenager. A print that was gorgeous 20 years ago many be considered crap now. As well as the aestehtic that created it. Or in the very leats it would be considered "historical" in that it was "old" and really we need to see NEW things.

    And by that they mean whatever the fashionistas get together and SAY is "new".

    I mean it is getting bad folks....I know a woman who was told in all seriousness that if she wanted to be considered a "fine artist" she needed to "incorprate her menstral blood in her work. Because bodily fluids are big now."

    At which point I will NEVER buy another painting ever by the way....
     
  8. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    OTOH Robert, can it be considered "fine" art just because it was difficult to make? I don't recall exactly word for word, but Don Imus in his little photo book tells of a story where he would tell people how difficult it had been to take one particular shot, how he had to climb uphill, both ways, in knee deep sand, then rappel down 200 feet, wait for 3 hours to take the shot, only for people to say, "yeah well, it is a nice pic".....his conclusion was, people don't give a damn how difficult it is to make something. If people like something, they will buy it regardless of the time it took to make. Here is where we see the artist's sensibility, in your glass examples, to tell you the truth I would not go for either one, the first one is a well crafted elegant piece, yet, by style it dates itself and it is somewhat boring. The second one is too obvious, I mean, yellow and green?....if I had it, after a while I would probably start putting my spare change inside it.

    I agree with you and Thomas that the "white glove set" as you call them seem to be at odds with what they want. Those of us out there trying to show our work often hear the "your work is too formal," meaning it is old fashion, or "we are looking for more contemporary photography," meaning it is not shocking enough or big enough, yet the moment a stablished artist or photographer contacts them to show their work, they bend over backwards to show the same old stuff.

    IMO there is no such thing as "fine art." It is a coined phrase to lend more credibility to those in the position to make decisions on what to show or not to show. The moment they say it is "fine art" then, even if it is an absolute piece of sh!t, by just implying it is something extraordinary then the rest of us, the unwash masses, are probably too uncouth to "get it." I belive 99% of the art shown by museums done by "new" or contemporary artists is absolute crap, but then there is the 1% who are truly doing extraordinary things and they justify the notion the gloved set had that their judgement was correct. I see them as being similar to Edison when he was trying to invent the light bulb, they try 1000 things until they get one right. I am sure everybody here can name a few artists who completely baffle us as being the next best thing.

    In the end I think whoever said " I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!" has the right idea. If I was to do an interview like this, I would ask the interviewer to tell me what is fine art, given than nobody has been able to define what is art, I imagine defining what is "fine art" might be just a tiny bit more difficult. I do know this, I can hear the white glove set gnash their teeth every time Thomas Kincaide sells a painting...:smile:
     
  9. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you can get it out with Optrex!


    I've always held the view that art is subjective. What is great to one is crap to another. Like what you like.
     
  10. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    I used to think the term 'fine art' was incredibly pretentious because it makes the presumption that calling a work 'fine art' makes it art. It always seemed like a tautology to me. But now I just rationalize that the term was created to distinguish one type of photgraphy with artistic intention as it's motivating factor from other types of photography whose primary motivation is something more practical (and probably commercial) - such as photojournalism or advertising.

    In any event, whether so called Fine Art photographs succeed at being art or not will be decided after some time has elapsed. Usually only a few lucky artists have the satisfaction of being recognized and lionized in their own time AND have work whose merit is still acknowledged a hundred years later. Pick up an old magazine from the early 1900's and read some book or art reviews that absolutely gush over someone you have never heard of. The odds are greater that you will find something like that rather than a contemporaneous positive review of someone we all now acknowlege as great. Most people reviewing Van Gogh's work during his lifetime detested it - many actually found it revolting. And during Van Gogh's lifetime there were many artists who were part of the oh-so-current crop of 'geniuses' whose names we don't even recognize today.

    Relax, do your thing, follow your own voice. and let the chips will fall where they may. Leave some prints for your grandkids on the off chance your work is belatedly recognized as great. It won't matter to you because by that time you're probably six feet under anyway.
     
  11. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    I agree with you, Jorge
    It's been a few years since I've been to the "AGO" (art gallery of ontario).
    They had some nice stuff on loan from Europe (you know the stuff produced by people who actually had talent), but it was quite old, dated. Then they had a lot of very modern stuff that anyone could produce and (to me) does not require any talent except perhaps how to use a glue gun and come up with single word fancy names. I visited the "powerplant" a modern art gallery and again, haven't been back. Few photos, all were blurry and half you couldn't tell what the subject is/was/supposed/might be. I was told "it represents the artist's rage against the norm." And here I thought "norm" was a relative word. I visited the small galleries along Queen street west (again in Toronto) and was even more dismayed. I felt I was doomed and would never sell a print as I was too "old fashioned, not contempary enough" or as Jorge says "no shock value". I was a part of the "unwashed masses" who doesn't get it. IMHO "getting it" was seeing how much $$$ you could get out of a sucker who was artistically challenged, or just blind.
    When I went to New Orleans, I visited galleries along Royal street and in the French Market, and my heart was lifted. Here I found prints I would consider hanging on my walls. I also saw many prints a multi-artist show they have at the Distillery in Toronto. Everyone there are emerging/stuggling artists with some really nice stuff. (well there was some crap too)
    As for your interview Ann, talk of what you know. Express your opinions when asked, and be polite. Don't say "it's crap", say "not my prefered style". (Crap is a word used by only the highest ranking elit members of the white glove sects for something that won't net them enough $, or by the unwashed masses who don't know better) :wink:
     
  12. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Simple: if it's 4x6 or 5x7 and in color, it's a snapshot. if it's in color at all, it's commercial. if it's any size and square or 8x10 or larger in black and white, it's fine art!

    I'm kidding of course, but using the AIPAD show as a barometer of what galleries internationally regard as collectible, fine art, it's not too far off the mark. It's true that well established 'names' are the backbone of the fine art market, but the galleries represented at AIPAD (and that's a very large number of them under one roof) definitely do represent and promote new and 'emerging' fine art photographers as well.

    As to what constitutes a fine art photograph, I've no better a definition than anyone else, but I think one knows one when you see one. To be silly again, then, I guess if a photograph serves no apparent useful purpose, it must exist because the photographer believed in it for whatever reason that decision was made. Perhaps that makes it art.
     
  13. lee

    lee Member

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    My take is that Clay probably has the proper perspective on this "fine art" thing.

    lee\c
     
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  15. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Clay describes art that has psychological or cultural permanence. In other words it stands the test of time -- like Shakespeare or Bach. Some art can be so tied to its period or culture that it losses its value over time or distance, but during its time or within its culture it can be as important as or more so than that which has survived the ages. In some of my art history classes these two types of art were referred to as temporary or cultural, for those works that lacked permanence and physiological, for the work that survived. One is not necessarily better than the other. An example of a 'great' artist who may not last the test of time is Warhol. The same may be found to be true of the entire Pop Art movement. Meanwhile, the preceding movement, Abstract Impressionism, has never been well received by the general public, but stands a far better chance of surviving for generations to come.

    I would be inclined to discount the term fine art and simply refer to art as art, just as i would not discount work that does not survive the ages.
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    In photography a fine art photograph becomes such if a critic(s) find it interesting, if people actually pay money for it or if it is old enough that its age or historical content merits such a definition.

    I don't think these have always been the standards but they seem to be today. To understand what will be determined as fine art, it is probably more important to understand who are the critics and the current fads in photography.
     
  17. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    QUOTE=Jorge]OTOH Robert, can it be considered "fine" art just because it was difficult to make? ..:smile:[/QUOTE]

    I recall a short story on Public TV a few years back (when Picasso was still living) about the famous “artist”. It went into his contemporary life, I think he was in his late 70’s or early 80” at the time. In one scene, he and his interviewer were walking through a Spanish pottery shop when Picasso stopped to pick up a small discarded narrow neck clay vase. In real time he transformed that reject into a “Picasso” work d’art! I thought it was rather attractive with a definite “Picasso” definition. I once had a friend who had the same talent for making art of essentially nothing but he just disappeared – haven’t heard from him in years.

    To get accepted in the art society one needs “contacts”. Don’t know how to do this other than to be really aggressive in the field. Or be really really pleasant. That ain’t me!
     
  18. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    I don't find "fine art" to be a pretentious term at all, or a vague term. For me, it's something that exhibits both vision (or talent, what ever that is), and some degree of skill (or craftsmanship), and usually employs fine materials that actively contribute to the final product. I find the work of Jackson Pollack to be compelling, but I'm not sure he was a craftsman. Some will, I'm sure, disagree.

    As to the state of fine photography, I can only report what I see here in my neck of the woods. Friends and family seem to find it fascinating, and are always happy to receive a print as a gift........... I least I think they are. I'm not sure how "fine" my stuff is, but the two art shows I've done thus far have been very successful, both in terms of sales, and in the booth traffic and the interest that people showed. However, out of 75 artists attending, there were only two photographers. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

    A friend who is a high end commercial shooter, and had never gone the art show/print sales route, is finding a brisk market for his work.

    I have to think (or I want and need to think) that in this rather chilly world, an object of beauty that shows the skilled touch of a human hand will always have a market/audience. A well done fiber print is a thing of beauty, very organic, not at all plastic or digital. It's something that we know can last beyond us, it's function undiminished (another rarity in today's world).
     
  19. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Pollack did some very impressive 'representational' work prior to (and possible after) becoming famous for his gesture line paintings. I once had a book that had reprints of some of his illustrations -- he was quite an individual.
     
  20. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Jorge -

    Good point. Although for me it is frustrating because it boggles my mind that anyone PAYING for "fine art" would be satisfied with poorly made crap. That we are now in a world where only the "content" counts and NEVER the craftmanship.

    And even the content is a joke.

    They recently awarded an MFA here to someone who had, allegedly, spent 3 years working on her thesis.

    It was a joke. It looked like it was all shot in about 2 weeks, with maybe a couple of rolls being used. The work was sort of like Cindy Sherman Sans Any Idea Of What She Is Trying To Do. Just this person in a house they just bought. Honestly little more than snapshots.

    And it was all very basic hotlight or "backyard at noon" lighting. Everything was at f8 or f11 (hey, why focus?), and it was simply large color prints that looked almost lurid.

    And sadly, I am sure this woman will soon be VERY VERY rich....

    Skilless, but rich.
     
  21. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    LOL.....yeah, a$$ kissing is an acquired skill.....
     
  22. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I understand Robert, I also feel often times bewildered by some of the things that are called art. Of course there is also my favorite, what I call "elitist art" done by people like, Dr. Bob mentions, who have influence, or a friend in high places or rich parents. They create art that is an absolute crap that nobody understands, buys or would be caught dead with it in theri house but yet is hailed as the second comming of Christ by the art critics.

    As Clay says, better to do your own thing, enjoy it......and of course there is always wedding photography if one wants to make some money...:smile:
     
  23. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Well said!!!! That's probably one of the best descriptions of the process that I have ever read.
     
  24. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Well, I guess I will never be considered an artist by these people (which is fine with me); Jack Dykinga is one of those photographers I admire the most (as well as Joe Cornish).
     
  25. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I am a huge Dykinga fan myself. In part because my landscapes SUCK. I am just not a landscape person. Jack on the other hand is a freakin' genius with his left-handed Arc-Swiss (yes, he uses a special camera made just for him and his left handedness...Getting THAT done is an accomplishment in and of itself!)

    In fact my work looks less and less like his every single day. And some people have said "That is weird! How can you like Dykinga?" Mostly because I have one of these sitting large on my wall and signed by the man himself (a great gift from him).

    [​IMG]

    Nothing like my work.

    But why MUST it be like my work for ME to like it?

    It is a GREAT FREAKING SHOT! I love it!

    It is GORGEOUS!

    And if that ain't fine art, then screw fine art!
     
  26. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Amen!

    Landscapes are all I do, and all I'm interested in - partially due to people like Jack Dykinga. Another fine photographer is Joe Cornish (UK). Take a look at his gallery http://www.joecornish.com/gallery/gallery.htm.

    Here is one my my favorites: Ravenscar (perhaps one of our UK members can tell me where this is)

    [​IMG]

    He also has the touch.