... blog post:
Fine art prints are made with premium archival inks on acid free fine art papers using large format, high resolution, calibrated printers to produce images with rich colours and smooth tones that will last many decades without fading, yellowing or cracking. But is 'fine art photography' truly an art or just a con?
So far, so good. There is 'but' coming isn't there? Yes indeed; but, there is out there a bunch of people who call themselves "Fine Art Photographers" a term which lends itself to a little deconstruction.
Let us start with the definition of Fine Art. After consulting numerous sources, a composite, consensus classic definition runs along the lines of "Paintings, sculptures, architecture, music, and poetry which are engendered using creative prowess for aesthetic or intellectual value rather than useful or practical purposes, can be referred to as fine art".
But as one commentator put it the definition is 'slippery'. In recent time people have added an additional category called The Performing Arts, hence Theatre and Dance plus more latterly a Visual Arts category to include film, video, photography (ah there it is!) and graphics has been added. The trouble with many of these latter categories is they mostly exist only for one utilitarian purpose which is to make money.
Which brings us nicely to Fine Arts Photography which has been defined as "Photography created in line with the vision of the photographer as an artist, using photography as a medium for creative expression. The goal of a fine art photographer is to express an idea, a message, or an emotion". Sadly, for the professional 'Fine Arts Photographers set', who are mostly landscape photographers of some sort or other, that is no longer their primary goal, they need to eat.
So their main goal is to sell Fine Art Prints - that is prints that are made with premium archival inks on premium acid free fine art papers that will last for many decades without fading, at premium prices. If it has a nice picture on it, that isn't some old cliché, that's a bonus. Note, they are not selling prints of fine art, though it will typically be a quality decorative image, but a fine art print (that is one that is printed well) so they can't be had under the trades descriptions act. 'Slippery' as the man said.
Which l leaves us with the age old question Is photography a form of lens based art? To quote visual-arts-cork:
"Critics consider that a photograph is produced by the application of a scientific technique rather than by genuinely creative work. After all, a very unartistic amateur photographer, armed with a good digital camera, is capable of producing perfectly acceptable images. By contrast, a person who had no idea how to paint, sculpt or carve, would have far greater difficulty creating an acceptable painting or statue. Because of this, they state that photography cannot compare with the creative quality of painting, or sculpture.
In this digital age with computational photography being built into cameras more and more plus with all of us carrying and using the camera in our smart phones, photographs are being seen as shrink wrapped social commodities with a one day shelf life, thus I am inclined to agree that photography is not an art. At some point, in early times, photography may have been an art perhaps when in took really deep scientific knowledge and opto-mechanical skill to operate a camera and produce an image, but no longer, as in the digital world the process has been deskilled and any of us can now do it.
In all of this, the real Artistic Photographers I relate to are the ones that still practice the traditional art, who go out with their old large format Land Cameras and 10x8" plates, lug them on heavy tripods for miles and miles to find new locations and the perfect light, scopes out the perfect view, get under their hoods to compose and focus their images upside down and back to font, use their rising front rack and pinion focusing, using their slow brass mounted lenses and long exposures with their hand held meters and zone metering calculations in their heads, then take their negative back and hand develop them in chemical soup and contact print them and then hand print Fine Art Prints as a one off for sale, sold through a gallery, so they can continue to do what they love.
Then some oik, who surreptitiously followed them, rolls up with the latest hand held mega-pixel digital wonder, presses a button to grab a shot in the same general direction, nips back to their computer, does a quick upload, post process through their favourite software with a bought-in pre-set and then advertises the image on social and their website as a limited edition exclusive (er what?). Then if an order comes in does a quick down-load to a Fine Art Prints printshop with a same day direct dispatch from the print shop to the punter. Limited edition? Limited to the number of orders received, exclusive just like all the others sent to those who clicked the 'purchase' button or I am I being just too cynical?
Yeah, the Fine Art Print.
There again, maybe I'm wrong? There are a lot of museums, art galleries and private collectors around the world who have paid large sums of money for their Fine Art Photograph collections. They can't all be wrong, can they? Some of it must great art. After all it is a matter of aesthetics and cultural taste. Ask the Tate Modern. I did say it was a slippery subject.