There's a bit of an unanswered question here: What is the *point* of fine art photography (whatever the term may encompass)? Consider your own answer before reading further.
I think the traditional answer is the gallery wall---a "fine art" photo in any other setting is kind of out of its habitat, and private displays thereof are sort of expected to conform to the gallery aesthetic. When a fine-art print REALLY makes the big time, it ends up in a museum. Hence the emphasis on archival materials: the intended audience is posterity, and as much of it as possible, with ideally no shift at all from the original state of the image.
But I'm not sure that model really resonates with as many people as it used to, especially young adults who are accustomed to the internet as a conduit of (largely undifferentiated) media. In that sense, maybe the aspirants you're seeing aren't "fine-art photographer wannabes" at all, but photographers who wannabe...what? Something different. It might be interesting to interrogate them about their ambitions, and see how much those ambitions really comport with the "fine art" model.
San Diego, CA, USA
The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
-The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_
Originally Posted by Greg Davis
“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”
I was recently at a museum in San Diego that had an exhibition of fine art black-and-white prints. Many were done with silver; many were done digitally.
I intentionally decided whether I liked the prints or not before I read the information card that discussed the image. In particular, I didn't want to know if the images were traditional or digital until I'd decided whether I thought they were good or not. Even though I now own a digital camera, I have a very strong pro-film bias.
Of the seven photos that I really enjoyed: four were silver prints from silver negatives; one was a palladium print from a silver negative; one was a digital print from a silver negative; and one was a fully digital image.
Frankly, I don't care how you do your capture - my capture is the only capture that really concerns me - but this validated, to me, that I prefer the character of film-based capture. The reasons for my preference might be interesting to learn, but I'll save that for another day. (I have theories, but really don't know for certain.)
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
Interesting personal observation... And, it helps to point out why I think looking at excellent work (both technically and aesthetically) is important. While I have seen some superb digital BW prints (there are many taking the time to understand, study, use the proper tools, and master the technique), far more often I see digital BW prints which are lacking. When I've talked to the creators of the lacking work, it becomes quickly apparent that they've never seen well produced silver gelatin work (to say nothing of alternative processes). They have no framework to assess quality. They're creating work without a baseline standard- a superbly printed SG image.
Originally Posted by PhotoJim
I went through every last post on the thread before I posted. From what I've been reading, I think I can summarize it like this:
Originally Posted by jglass
1. David runs a gallery.
2. People come to David.
3. David tells them no.
4. David comes here to bemoan his fate.
I haven't read too much sympathy for David. There has been some, but not much.
Thing about "art history" is that we are post-Dada. Since most of it has come down to pretentious BS, I can really understand why people don't bother reading about every last photographer out there. When there is an admonishment to stand upon the shoulders of giants, how many giants are lauded? I have seen many people here castigate Adams and others. Why? So everyone gets reduced to the stature of a pygmy. Now, where are the giants whose shoulders will give us new sights?
Non-photographers might have heard of Ansel Adams, and they certainly haven't heard of anybody else. If a person fits the "I have an expensive camera and therefore I'm a photographer" category, of course they will go, photograph babies and brown dogs, and then go to a gallery and expect to be lauded.
Hmmm, come to think of it...
Hey, David, what's your take on William Wegmam and Anne Geddes?
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The very best way I know of helping people improve the technical quality of their prints is to give them an opportunity to actually see high quality work.
I don't think it is any different with artistic quality of photographs.
Photography is essentially a very unnatural two dimensional medium (mostly). While there are probably a few people out there who are born geniuses, the vast majority of talented people need to have some sort of reference before they can create something of high quality in photography.
So I will agree with the OP - a familiarity with some sort of body of photographic work is necessary in order to create something artistically valuable. An artist needs to say something with their work, and the language of expression depends on history.
Note however that I don't believe that a photograph need be artistically successful in order to have value - pretty pictures have value too.
“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
We all agree.
Originally Posted by cliveh
David, regrettably I have seen this very thing here on APUG over the last few months. I am attacked (frequently personally) for my "classical" technique views when I have offered them. It is the reason I rarely contribute here anymore. I presumed, now it seems with some evidence, that there was a new cadre of vocal contributors who don't share the same history as I, and simply aren't willing to tolerate old rules of commitment to once was a necessary state for the creation of fine art photographic prints.
Originally Posted by davidkachel
i think part of the problem is that there are purists
and people who want to not be so rigid with the "rules"
the purists insist they are right, and often times they are the only ones who are right
and the no-so purists say they want to play too,
but they are looked upon as being "hacks" or "wannabes"
they don't use a certain type of camera
or process the film in a certain magical concoction, or print
on a special paper, or tone with a special toner, or they don't use some
arcane process, or hold the same photographers in high regard &c ...
people fail to realize that its all photography. too many haters, too many snobs
not enough art ...