Your views may reflect parts of the Art photography market, and Art photography in academia. If so, they certainly don't do photography itself justice.
IMHO a print has much greater potential intrinsic value as both an object and an image, than a mere depiction of that image can ever have.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
My attempt was to provide an explanation of why the expression "fine art photography" is used so widely and why, in my opinion, it is a "legitimate" and non-pretentious expression for photography which is produced for merely aesthetic purposes. The degree of aesthetic merits stays away from this definition as it is entirely personal.
Originally Posted by semi-ambivalent
That said, I wanted to eschew the useless infinite question of "but is it art?" (or, "but is it Art?") but made this mistake of saying that photography for me it is not Art but craft + taste (I stress "taste" because certain higher forms of craft do always strive for beauty: think about cars, fashion etc) which originated this semi-ambivalent provocation at a direct answer. My mistake. Too late. I'll try to give an answer then, and flog this poor horse once again on this forum.
I'll be concise and imprecise. Don't take what follows as if they were my creed. It's a fast attempt at a difficult matter.
In my personal view of seeing the concept of "art", or of Art, several elements must be present.
To me, a sculpture or a painting or a poem or a roman can be Art because the artists starts with a white page, canvas, a block of marble, a shapeless amount of clay. Whatever is created out of those "emptiness" is entirely the work of the artist. An artist creates entirely from his own mind first, and only then executes employing a certain amount of craft. He literally gives birth to a work which did not exists beforehand not even in traces. Take this as an absolutization. I am extreme in the effort of being clear.
That said, photography, just like cooking or tailoring to make some other example, never starts from a blank page. When Ansel Adams takes his picture of a certain cemetery near a certain hamlet with certain mountains in the background under a certain moon, he did not start from a white page. He did not create cemetery, hamlet, mountains and moon. They existed there and he captured them.
I do not want to undermine the aesthetic value of the work, all the skill, all the personal taste and effort going into this. But I see that the contribution of the photographer to the work, albeit important, was in being there, possessing and applying the right skill, possessing and applying the right "taste", the aesthetic sensitivity so to speak, and again applying taste and skill maybe during the printing stage. But the hamlet was there of his own. The "matter" of which his work is done existed before the artist. He skillfully captured it.
Certain other kinds of photography work with a subject matter which is more "created" by the photographer. Think about a still life, or a memento mori, where the composition is entirely created by the artist in his mind first, and then arranged, and then captured, and is not merely "captured". There is a higher degree of Art in this picture because there is more of a "blank page" where the work started.
This, to me, is a big difference.
But in painting the entire realization does not stop at arranging the subject matter on the table (or imagining it, as the painter can, because he CREATES the subject), lighting it, choosing the point of view etc., the painter must then begin again from a white canvas. This again introduces this element of absolute creation. I repeat: the painter can actually merely imagine the scene, and most often actually he does just that. The photographer cannot.
When Caravaggio painted the dinner at Emmaus, or when Michelangelo sculpted the pietà, they started from a blank canvas, a block of marble. The work is entirely created, and I use this word really as in Genesis, by the artist. It's "absolute" creation, whereas with photography we have so to speak mere "capture", however well planned and thought out and however great the final result.
This creation from "blank" is not enough to define Art IMO. Crap is crap also when painted or sculpted. Besides being "creation", Art must give the shiver. The shiver is entirely subjective but it always is, in my way of seeing Art, entirely meta-rational. Being meta-rational it cannot be explained (nor defended, justified, etc.).
Any attempt to conceptualize, cathegorize, justify, explain, motivate, contextualize etc. any work of art is a negation of the word Art itself. If it's Art, it cannot be explained or demonstrated or justified or legitimized by any reasoning. The brain is not the organ where Art is perceived. If it's Art, you know it before any attempt at intellectual examination. All the mental masturbation over Art is nice or funny University activity but it's not what can give Art its value or reason to be.
I am perfectly aware that plenty of University courses, University teachers, Art galleries, Art merchants, Art editors etc. thrive on the opposite view of Art. It is this sad conception of art, entirely intellectual and academic, which make people think the work of Stockhausen or Nono or Berio, or Cage to name some composers, as deserving some attention and interest, or even make people think them as being "geniuses". In the realm of the mental masturbations that afflict certain music academies they certainly can be "geniuses". But no shiver. No shiver, no art. The brain is not the organ where Art is perceived.
I am aware that there is a certain amount of intellectualism in most forms of arts. Wagner being an immediate example coming to my mind. But ultimately Wagner is great (or is Great in my perception) because of the immediate, copious SHIVER it gives me, not for the tons of bull-stuff he wrote about his art
All this IMO.
I would like to make extremely clear that I do not intend to make the least attempt to "defend" what above. That is just what my gut defines Art*. There is no algorithm to define Art and there is no scientific way in which any definition can be "defended". If somebody looks for a scientifically "defensible" definition of Art, I think he is seriously artistically challenged .
*And in any case my gut would know much more than my brain about art so in case it's the brain which should give a gutly defence of his opinion and not the other way round
Last edited by Diapositivo; 10-21-2012 at 05:30 PM. Click to view previous post history.
The great landscape painters did not create the scenes in front of them. Imagination came in with their figurative depiction of the scene, but is that much different to a photographer using tilt, swing and finding a perspective/choosing lenses? What about Vermeer and the use of a camera obscura? Isn't his work just as dependent on perspective and distortions of perspective as a large format photographer in creating an altered impression of the scene?
Originally Posted by Diapositivo
There isn't any difference in the creative problem solving with the apparition in front of a painter and photographer, their ability to solve this problem is formed and applied through their perception of the known and the seen. With painters who 'make up' their scenes, the objects are still things we would recognise - appropriation more than imagination. The imagination is only in the arrangement. A figurative artist can only depict, whether his scenes are in front of him or not. Painters do not create forms or likenesses of things that they haven't seen in the world around them. Nothing starts from nothing.
We can't attribute value to a piece of art based on whether it is additive or reductive, the only difference is the thought processes adapted and the tools used (which are both physically applied to varying degrees). In modern art a blank canvas is only nothing until we decide it's something.
I agree that art must grab you from... the gut upwards. But it's like a little epiphany, a whole body experience. There is a great clarity of thinking involved in our response, a realisation, which is a big part of why we respond 'fully' the way we do to great works. It opens us up.
Last edited by batwister; 10-21-2012 at 06:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I guess what twisted my perception around on this point is that to me the title "fine art photography" feels exactly pretentious.
Originally Posted by Diapositivo
Your posts are thoughtful and worth following...
Why are photographers so worried about their work in relation to "fine art" ?, is it because it's always been the poor relation to drawing painting and sculpture in the public perception, because there are constant threads on this and other photographic forums by people who are concerned about it, to me the operative word in the original posters title is " status"?. Why aren't photographers just happy to be able to take fine photographs ?.
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What you must have in order to be an artist: an artist's statement.
I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.
its to pat themselves on the back
Originally Posted by benjiboy
just keep making photographs and don't care about fine art, cliché, lame, being a wannabe
just make and enjoy doing it ...
Last edited by jnanian; 10-24-2012 at 09:52 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: was too cranky before my coffee
Sometimes I wonder why humans feel a need to label everything. I like calling my pictures 'pictures'. It's really funny to talk to people and watch some of them cringe as they want to call them 'prints', 'plates', 'images', or worse yet 'captures' (I'm allergic to that word), but they just don't want to call them 'pictures' because it's somehow not good enough.
Originally Posted by jnanian
It's a very good idea, I think, to stop worrying about labels, and just get on with making more prints. Work the pictures until they are as good as you can make them, until you're proud of them.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
Me too. I think it has something to do with communication.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
But at the lower level, survival. Once it's labeled, a thing can be categorized as safe to ignore or dangerous and necessary to keep an eye on.
So we shouldn't want to have our work labeled, because then it might be ignored.
Quite the opposite effect of what we want! We want to be remembered for our photographs. So if calling them "fine art" gets my prints ignored, I'm not going to use that label.
As you mention a way of defining art work, I have always liked Emile Zola’s definition. I believe he use to hold dinner parties at his house in Paris every Thursday and many of the French impressionist painters of the time would attend. This included people such as Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, etc. I would imagine (but can’t prove it) that Zola’s own definition is derived from a conversation about this very point at one of these dinners. But then they were probably only thinking in terms of impressionist painting. However, it is as follows:-
Originally Posted by Diapositivo
A work of art is a corner of creation seen through a temperament.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”