What is "Fine Art"?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by thefizz, Sep 13, 2006.

  1. thefizz

    thefizz Member

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    I see more and more people setting up web sites (I plan to do one myself some day) to show and sell their photographs. A lot of them describe their work as Fine Art Photography whether it is darkroom produced or from an inkjet printer. Some of these people may be experienced and some not so.

    So can someone define "Fine Art Photography" for me please? Does it matter how it is produced? Are we all Fine Art Photographers?

    Peter

    p.s. Apologies if this is in the wrong forum section.
     
  2. mortimer

    mortimer Member

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    Not that I'm any expert, but lurking through all the old forum posts last night I actually came across this answer to this very question, posted by David Hall:

    it's art if you say it is, as the artist. It's fine art of the rest of the world agrees.

    To me, that about sums it up.
     
  3. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    "So can someone define "Fine Art Photography" for me please?"

    Can't be done.
     
  4. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    its a marketing tool used by galleries and so called "fine artists"
    so they can charge what they want for what they want to sell...
     
  5. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Work done with an artistic purpose and the requisite skill to communicate this.

    Defining art is really not difficult - PRODUCING it is the hard part!
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Peter,

    It's a substantially meaningless term, except perhaps in the long term when you're dead and people say, "Ah! Peter! Now there was an artist..."

    There are two criteria for pictures: critical appeal, and sales. Unless you are independently wealthy, the latter is usually to be preferred.

    There's actually a free module about it in the Photo School at www.rogerandfrances.com, which you might find interesting or amusing or both.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  7. thefizz

    thefizz Member

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    That seems to be the case today as very Tom, Dick and Harry boasts about producing Fine Art Photography even though some of them wouldn't know a properly produced photograph if it slapped them in the face.

    I know what I like might be crap to what someone else likes but I thought the term "Fine Art" applied to the processes (i.e. FB paper, archival washing, mounting etc.) and not the actual subject of the picture.

    To me a properly prduced FB print could be classed as Fine Art but not something printed in my local 1 hour shop?
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    It is difficult to define "art," but it is easy to define "fine art."

    "Fine art" is art for display only, not for illustration, document, journalistic purposes, commercial applications, advertisement, etc. "Fine art" does not mean "art" or "good art" or "great art."

    "Fine art" is opposed to "applied art." Specific works of "fine art" may be crap, and specific works of "applied art" or "illustration" may be great art, but there is nothing in the terms "fine art" or "applied art" that suggests one or the other.

    "Fine artist" is something you can put on your tax forms. "Artist" is something that it is up to future generations to decide.
     
  9. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Technique has absolutely nothing to do with it. Think of 'installation art' or deliberately ephemeral art. You could have a 'fine art' print made by your mini-lab, or you could make a palladium print on hand-made paper coated by virgins under the light of the full moon and processed to last for 1000 years and still have it fail as fine art. Consider some of Jackson Pollock's 'Pure Paint' paintings: the highest or finest of mid-to-late 20th century 'Fine Art' but falling apart at an ever-increasing rate today.

    David's definition -- that 'fine art' is the antithesis of 'applied art' -- is the one that has been accepted for the last 200 or 300 years, but without wishing to disagree with David for one moment about a classical definition, I'd suggest that 500 years ago there was no distinction and that his definition is, shall we say, under siege to some extent today. It's probably the best definition you'll ever get, though.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  10. don sigl

    don sigl Member

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    Way back in the days of my college youth, Fine Art photography was distinguished from Commercial or professional photography. They were separate programs with separate degrees. They also had significantly separate philosophys. The main difference had to do with vision and technique. The Fine Art people considered vision the priority...technique was less important and played a secondary role in the creation of Art. The Fine Artists learned technique as they needed it. As I recall, none of them ever touched a densitometer.
    The Commercial photographers were more pragmatic. Their courses were clearly geared to learning techniques and understanding the materials and processes (As I remember one of the primary freshman courses was called M&P; Materials and Processes. Better known to the student body as Misery and Pain).
    Commercial photographers dreamed of making it big in NY and shooting covers for ultra fancy glossy magazines. The Fine Art photographers....had much more interesting discussions on philosophy and poetry. I think most of them figured they could make a few bucks waiting tables until they landed that teaching job.

    Of course I describe the extremes. Most of us were somewhere in the middle, regardless of the program we chose. So Fine Art kind of blends into Commercial and visa versa.

    Generally though, Fine Art is focused on marketing through galleries, whereas commercial work....generally is not (with exceptions). I have worked on both sides of this fence. Personally, I find the Fine Art side immensely more satisfying from a creative perspective, and contrary to some opinions here, I find it much more preferred than the days when I made a descent living as a commercial photographer.

    Regards,
     
  11. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    For what it's worth, I sell selected prints on my site, but I don't refer to them as fine art, but rather as the work of a craftsman. Fine art has, for me, always been one of those terms that sounded a bit ostentatious. I tend to pay less attention to terms like this and see art as simply art, or not.

    - Randy
     
  12. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    I call myself a Fine Art Photographer and sell what I call Fine Art Photographs in part due to the fact that I participate in so many Art Shows (gallery representation hopefully to come). I put a tremendous amount of care in composition, lighting, and exposure with my transparency work which is taken to the nth degree through printing onto a Chromira machine with my Printer, Bill Nordstrom (Laser Light Photographics). The final work is displayed in custom made wooden frames that compliment or contrast the images.

    Rich
     
  13. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Fine art is what real or aspiring artists talk about and try to define when they are not actively doing what they think that they do.

    Discussing it and attempting to define it is like trying to put legs on a snake.
     
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  15. catem

    catem Member

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    I think 'Fine Art' sometimes gets a bit mixed up with the term 'Fine Printing' which is used to mean archival printing; the two can be connected but needn't be. In fact I'm sure it's possible to produce fine art - certainly art - printed in almost any process/media.

    I think it depends on the kind of photography you do and what it's prime purpose is, aswell as how it's produced (I've now confused myself about the last bit). I don't think photography such as documentary, travel or portraiture is always so easy to categorise as art, or 'fine art' , though they can certainly become so.

    For myself my photographic interests are mainly portraits and still life & more recently landscapes. I don't personally call any of it fine art (though I've had commissions and sold a couple of prints after an exhibition & all were archivally printed). Come to think of it I don't call it art either though I have no objections at all to other people doing so :smile:. If I finally get some of my still lifes or landscapes onto a website I might offer 'fine art prints' because it sounds good. Or I might just leave it out.
    Cate
     
  16. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    And its an unfortunate circumstance that claiming the "Fine Art" moniker is a necessary evil of selling or exhibiting. Many of the hoiti toi only pay attention to "fine art".
     
  17. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    I find the term 'Fine Art Photography' a little pretentious, and agree with Cate and others about the distinction between art and craft. Often the photographer's description of why they call their work 'Fine Art' seems to have more to do with craft than art. But it is their right to call their work whatever they want.

    One of the distinct, magical qualities of photography that attracts me is that it is capable of being mechanically reproduced at low cost and good quality. I like its proletarian nature, in contrast to the more aristocratic fine art. I have nothing against the aristocracy or people who make non-reproducible photographs, and this is not inverted snobbery, it's just that I feel like a proletarian at heart.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  18. clay

    clay Subscriber

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    I'm not sure the phrase 'Fine Art Photographer" has any positive connotations or associations anymore, if it ever did. I think that if something is truly art, it will be obvious that it really is such, and conversely, labelling something 'art' doesn't make it art.
    It'd be a lot easier and less controversial just to ask the question "What is art?"
     
  19. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    and alex

    you forgot to mention that a "fine art photographer" never ADMITS that s/he had and exhibition in a café or bistro because the "fine art photography gallery" will never show work exhibited by a "café/bistro artist" ...
     
  20. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    When people ask me what I do I have several choices. I can just tell them I'm a photographer. But they never seem satisfied with that and ask if I shoot weddings, etc. I have replied by saying that I'm a "landscape photographer" and then people ask me if there's a good living to be made in photographing gardens. So out of the desire not to call myself an "art photographer" or "fine art photographer" I tell them a far more detailed and lengthy description of what I do. Like," I travel around and shoot B&W photos of landscapes and scenes and then make prints which get sold in galleries" which still sounds pretentious and then they ask me if I own the galleries. I guess if I did they could then generalize me as a "gallery owner".

    Simple fact of the matter is that if you make your living by selling prints or "art" that no matter what you say, short of not saying anything, it's bound to sound pretentious to someone. Using the term "art photographer" doesn't work well either because most people seem to think that anything to do with art is BS or that it's just a hobby of mine. I guess I'm stuck with the long answer.
     
  21. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Didn't know about that caveat John. Thanks. I'll certainly keep it in mind if I should ever have a chance at the Wichita Art Museum.
     
  22. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I have to agree with David. I have two sections on my web site for images, Fine Art and Travel. I approach each differently. My travel images, mostly done in 35mm, don't have the studied approach I use with my Fine Art work, mostly 4x5.
     
  23. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I as well. Most of my images are triple matted, and I select the color of the inner mat based upon the image as well as the frame itself. I look at the complete package, not just the image.
     
  24. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I call my stuff "fine art photography" because......well because......I can.

    It's called marketing.

    I'd call it "fine cuisine" but since I don't own a restaurant, I don't.

    There a many words I could use but since I didn't bother to take the time to think of them, I just copied what someone else had done.

    Seems to work.

    Michael
     
  25. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    The 'fine art' descriptor makes sense to me just to reinforce the notion that it doesn't include weddings, bar mitzvahs, car crashes and perp walks. I think it also suggests, perhaps pretentiously (though I like to think it doesn't) that there's a bit more to it than what would constitute mere 'decor' making, even if that's how it eventually ends up. It's also a bit more streamlined on one's business card than "Photographer of Images That Are Only Intended for Display, Contemplation and Aesthetic Stimulation Inc."
     
  26. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    To me, fine art is anything done without a computer. It is something that takes real human talent. It is a craft that is learned over time and perfected using your human skills and talents, not a programmers that has provided algorithms to give you the ability to reproduce within his constraints not through the expansion of your own progressive creativity.

    Kev