When you start trotting out Adams and Weston as examples of "fine art" photography, you're dating your standard to the first half of the 20th century, really the first quarter. They're about as artistically relevant (note I did not say MEANINGFUL - very different animal...) as the Pictorialists or the first wave photographers like Daguerre, Fox-Talbot, Morse, and Bayard are to modern photography as a movement. They may be relevant AND meaningful to a few individual artists working today, but they're outside the mainstream (and there's nothing wrong with that, but do acknowledge that they're outsiders). Today's art in general and photography in particular is all about the "conceptual", about mixed-media, and very much a reaction to the advent of the digital age. That can take the form of embracing the digital medium and using its strengths, weaknesses and characteristics to produce images that respond to and speak about the changes in society as a whole wrought by the digital age, or they can be constituted as a reaction against and a critique of that same phenomenon.
Originally Posted by davidkachel
Wishing for a return to "archival" materials and f-64 aesthetics is trying to put the genie back in the bottle. The same issue has arisen in other media, and been dealt with by the art world, not always with success. David Hockney, when he was a young painter still struggling to make ends meet, did some large canvasses with house-paint because it was cheap. Some of them have faded and even flaked off the canvas because housepaint is not made to be durable the same way fine art oil paints are. If I recall correctly, Hockney was forced to reimburse a museum for one of his lost paintings to the tune of several million pounds (although he could afford to do it now, given what his work sells for today). But the paintings still hang in major museums. Robert Rauschenberg went out and made his pieces out of found objects. There's nothing per-se archival about rusty soda cans, broken doll heads and tattered flag fragments - if anything, their non-archival quality and therefore impermanence is a designed-in quality of the piece. The work is designed to change over time.
I think part of the problem you're experiencing is that young photographers/artists, if they have these notions in their head about their work (specifically related to permanence vs. impermanence, virtual vs. real, tangible vs. intangible, 'craftsmanship' vs. mass-production, quality vs. kitsch), either haven't or can't articulate them to you, and so you reject their work as being slip-shod. And in their ignorance, you may be correct in assuming that they're just slapping some crap together and don't know how to present it or why they're presenting it that way, and it is in fact 'bad' art. But as a gallerist who should know better than the artist, it's your job to see the kernel of genius hidden inside the popcorn fluff, nurture and cultivate that, and articulate to the buying audience those ideas the artist can't articulate (one reason why artists paint/photograph/draw/sculpt is that they can't articulate ideas well in words - otherwise they'd be writers).