Photographers can fall into many arrays of category as their hobby or profession would designate. As I work my way into the realm of Fine Art Photography it seems there is a buzz around the photo-blogosphere asking What is Fine Art Photography?
Defining myself as a Fine Art Photographer came with a deep look into many different aspects of this same question.
Was it the process?
The process of producing images takes on a whole different meaning than say “taking pictures”. Conceptualizing an image from the moment of capture to print should, perhaps, maintain an integrity consistent with evoking feeling. The particular feelings produced by an image, possibly deemed “Fine Art”, don’t themselves define the print as art. The photographer deems works of art as art, but who agrees?
Is it the viewer?
I think there could be an argument that the viewer of the print, or image as it were, might in fact be the best judge of what should or shouldn’t be deemed Fine Art Photography. So what if the viewer isn’t classically trained in the aspects of aesthetics, design, or composition? Shouldn’t the general public define what is Fine Art in general? Hasn’t it always been so?
Not necessarily. In the past there has always been a small group of people that have pushed the artist before the general public. Before the vast expanses of the Internet we, as a society, were told who was an artist and who was a hack. Now, anyone with an Internet connection and some insight into social media marketing could potentially label themselves a Fine Artist. And if they successfully sell enough of their work to the general mass would that qualify them as a Fine Art Photographer?
Is there a need for validation?
I tend to think there is. But I come from a classically trained background in the world of art itself. While I have found many wonderful photographers with great skill and stunning vision I don’t necessarily think of them as Fine Art Photographers (at times I struggle to label myself in such a way). I still believe in a consensus of validation from those in the industry of Fine Art.
I believe, however, that you can label yourself as a Fine Art Photographer or produce work that is Fine Art Photography if you are placing yourself at the mercy of those who may be more qualified to validate your work (call it Fine Art Photographer in practice if you must). As I am in the process of getting together all of my prints into portfolios (you know, the real tangible and physical portfolios that you can hold) and making contacts in the industry, I will be submitting my work to panels, reviews, critics…
Does that make me a Fine Art Photographer in practice?
I think it does. One of the hardest parts of truly studying art as a profession is placing your soul on the table and letting the critics do their worst. It truly takes thick skin, an appreciation for the practice, and the ability to actually learn from an art critic. They truly do hold power in this industry and, while you will never please them all, your goal should in fact be to gain both their praise and acceptance. It truly can be an archaic process, but the tormented soul of an artist should be able to overcome all obstacles.
The upper echelon of the Fine Art World is no less competitive than any other industry. It should be held, in fact, to higher standards than most any other profession, for it can not be taught, it can only be honed. It has to be in you from the beginning.
But these are just my thoughts and questions.
Some might argue that these are tired ways and the modern view would change the Art World, turning it on its head (nose in the air and all). Maybe it will. I think the age of the Internet will in fact bring us a whole new slew of artists (some Fine Artists some not) and the world will be better for it. For right now though, you still have to get your physical portfolio into the hands of those few who can truly “put you on the map”.
The funny thing is that after you have successfully been deemed, by those in the industry, as a tried and true “Fine Artist” every work you have done prior to the acclaimed label is now acceptable as “Fine Art”.
If you’re lucky you won’t already be dead when this happens.