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Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created to fulfill the creative vision of the artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism and commercial photography. Photojournalism provides visual support for stories, mainly in the print media. Commercial photography's main focus is to sell a product or service.

The problem of definition

There are no universally-accepted definitions of the related terms "art photography," "artistic photography," and "fine art photography," as exemplified by definitions found in reference books, in scholarly articles, and on the Web.

Definitions in reference books

Among the definitions that can be found in reference books are:
  • "Art photography": "Euphemism for nude photography".
  • "Art photography": "photography that is done as a fine art -- that is, done to express the artist's perceptions and emotions and to share them with others".
  • "Art photography": a definition "is elusive," but "when photographers refer to it, they have in mind the photographs seen in magazines such as American Photo, Popular Photography, and Print, and in salons and exhibitions. Art (or artful) photography is salable.".
  • "Artistic photography": "A frequently used but somewhat vague term. The idea underlying it is that the producer of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression".
  • "Fine art photography": "a picture that is produced for sale or display rather than one that is produced in response to a commercial commission".
  • "Fine art photography": "the production of images to fulfill the creative vision of a photographer. ... Synonymous with art photography"Lynch-Johnt, Barbara, and Michelle Perkins. Illustrated dictionary of photography: the professional's guide to terms and techniques. Buffalo, NY: Amherst Media, 2008. ISBN 9781584282228.
  • "Fine art photography": also called "decor photography," "photo decor," or "wall decor," this "involves selling large photos... that can be used as wall art".


Definitions in scholarly articles

Among the definitions that can be found in scholarly articles are:
  • Two studies by Christopherson in 1974 defined "fine art photographers" as "those persons who create and distribute photographs specifically as 'art.'"
  • A 1986 ethnographic and historical study by Schwartz did not directly define "fine art photography" but did compare it with "camera club photography". It found that fine art photography "is tied to other media" such as painting; "responds to its own history and traditions" (as opposed to "aspir[ing] to the same achievements made by their predecessors"); "has its own vocabulary"; "conveys ideas" (e.g., "concern with form supersedes concern with subject matter"); "is innovative"; "is personal"; "is a lifestyle"; and "participates in the world of commerce."


Definitions on the Web

Among the definitions that can be found on the Web are:
  • The Library of Congressmarker authorities use "art photography" as "photography of art," and "artistic photography" (i.e., "Photography, artistic") as "photography as a fine art, including aesthetic theory".
  • The Art & Architecture Thesaurus states that "fine art photography" (preferred term) or "art photography" or "artistic photography" is "the movement in England and the United States, from around 1890 into the early 20th century, which promoted various aesthetic approaches. Historically, has sometimes been applied to any photography whose intention is aesthetic, as distinguished from scientific, commercial, or journalistic; for this meaning, use 'photography'".
  • Definitions of "fine art photography" on photographers' static Web pages vary from "the subset of fine art that is created with a camera" to "limited-reproduction photography, using materials and techniques that will outlive the artist".
  • Discussions of "fine art photography" in Usenet newsgroups, Internet forums, and blogs have not come to a consensus regarding the definition of the term.


History

One photography historian claimed that "the earliest exponent of 'Fine Art' or composition photography was John Edwin Mayall" who exhibited daguerrotypes illustrating the Lord's Prayer in 1851. Successful attempts to make fine art photography can be traced to Victorian era practitioners such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and Oscar Gustave Rejlander and others. In the U.S. F. Holland Day, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen were instrumental in making photography a fine art, and Steiglitz was especially notable in introducing it into museum collections.

Until the late 1970s several genres predominated, such as; nudes, portraits, natural landscapes (exemplified by Ansel Adams). Breakthrough 'star' artists in the 1970s and 80s, such as Sally Mann and Robert Mapplethorpe, still relied heavily on such genres, although seeing them with fresh eyes. Others investigated a snapshot aesthetic approach.

American organizations, such as the Aperture Foundation and the Museum of Modern Artmarker, have done much to keep photography at the forefront of the fine arts.

Framing and print size

Until the mid 1950s it was widely considered vulgar and pretentious to frame a photograph for a gallery exhibition. Prints were usually simply pasted onto blockboard or plywood, or given a white border in the darkroom and then pinned at the corners onto display boards. Prints were thus shown without any glass reflections obscuring them. Steichen's famous The Family of Manmarker exhibition was unframed, the pictures pasted to panels. Even as late as 1966 Bill Brandt's MoMA show was unframed, with simple prints pasted to thin plywood. Since about 2000 there has been a noticeable move toward once again showing contemporary gallery prints on boards and without glass.

Throughout the twentieth century, there was a noticeable increase in the size of prints.

Politics



Fine art photography is created primarily as an expression of the artist’s vision, but as a byproduct it has also been important in advancing certain causes. The work of Ansel Adams in Yosemite and Yellowstonemarker provides an example. Adams is one of the most widely recognized fine art photographers of the 20th century, and was an avid promoter of conservation. While his primary focus was on photography as art, some of his work raised public awareness of the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and helped to build political support for their protection.

Such photography has also had effects in the area of censorship law and free expression, due to its concern with the nude body.

Current trends

There is now a trend toward a careful staging and lighting of the picture, rather than hoping to "discover" it ready-made. Photographers such as Gregory Crewdson, and Jeff Wall are noted for the quality of their staged pictures. Additionally, new technological trends in digital photography has opened a new direction in full spectrum photography, where careful filtering choices across the ultraviolet, visible and infrared lead to new artistic visions.

As printing technologies have improved since around 1980, a photographer's art prints reproduced in a finely-printed limited-edition book have now become an area of strong interest to collectors. This is because books usually have high production values, a short print run, and their limited market means they are almost never reprinted. The collector's market in photography books by individual photographers is developing rapidly.

According to Art Market Trends 2004 (PDF link) 7,000 photographs were sold in auction rooms in 2004, and photographs averaged a 7.6 percent annual price rise from 1994 and 2004. Around 80 percent were sold in the USAmarker. Of course, auction sales only record a fraction of total private sales. There is now a thriving collectors' market for which the most sought-after art photographers will produce high quality archival prints in strictly limited editions. Attempts by online art retailers to sell fine photography to the general public alongside prints of paintings have had mixed results, with strong sales coming only from the traditional "big names" of photography such as Ansel Adams.

Overlaps with other genres of photography

Although fine art photography may overlap with many other genres of photography, the overlaps with fashion photography and photojournalism merit special attention.

In 1996 it was stated that there had been a "recent blurring of lines between commercial illustrative photography and fine art photography," especially in the area of fashion. Evidence for the overlap of fine art photography and fashion photography includes lectures, exhibitions, trade fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach, and books.

Photojournalism and fine art photography overlapped beginning in the "late 1960s and 1970s, when... news photographers struck up liaisons with art photography and painting". In 1974 the International Center of Photographymarker opened, with emphases on both "humanitarian photojournalism" and "art photography". By 1987, "pictures that were taken on assignments for magazines and newspapers now regularly reappear[ed] - in frames - on the walls of museums and galleries".

See also



References

Further reading

  • Thompson, Jerry L. Truth and photography: notes on looking and photographing. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003. ISBN 156663539X
  • Bright, Susan. Art photography now. New York: Aperture, 2005. ISBN 193178891X
  • Peres, Michael R. ed. The Focal encyclopedia of photography: digital imaging, theory and applications, history, and science. 4th edition. Amsterdam & Boston: Elsevier/Focal Press, 2007. ISBN 9780240807409
  • Rosenblum, Naomi. A world history of photography. 4th edition. New York: Abbeville Press, 2007. ISBN 9780789209375



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