The Characteristics of Fine Art Photography
Just what exactly is fine art photography and would you know it if you saw it?
This subject of what constitutes Fine Art Photography has no shortage of opinions and is extremely subjective. So, what I offer here is my own opinion after years of doing fine art landscape photography.
A search on the internet today shows Fine Art defined as “creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content.”
A Little History
Historically, the term Fine Art goes back long before photography and was applied to all types of paintings and sculptures. Who could possibly say that the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are not Fine Art?
It is easy to see how this would apply to the countless number of famous artworks throughout history. This brings us to “How do we apply the term Fine Art to photography”?
The first major photography exhibition was hosted in 1858 at London’s South Kensington Museum, now the V & A Museum. However, these works were viewed mostly as representations than art. It was the early 20th century that saw Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen make photography an important part of the New York art world.
I would guess most anyone interested in landscape photography is familiar with Ansel Adam’s photograph of the Snake River with the Grand Tetons or his work in Yosemite National Park.
Modern-day photographers, like Peter Lik, have pioneered the presentation of dramatic and colorful panoramic photographic prints using the very latest in photographic papers and face-mounted acrylic options. His galleries, equipped with special lighting to show off his artwork, have helped to popularize landscape photography as fine art. His photographs are among the most expensive offered and I am pleased to be able to offer an alternative.
Fine Art Photography
Fine art photography is about what the artist is feeling from what they are seeing and how to convey that feeling. It is not an editorial capture of a moment in time. The camera, and the processing software of today, are tools to present what the artist is seeing and feeling. The photographer may use a variety of methods such as long exposures, different depths of field, color, black and white, or other techniques to draw the viewer’s eye to a specific area of the photograph.
I do feel that the photograph has to be done technically correctly with proper exposure and focus. No matter how creative or imaginative, a poorly exposed or accidentally out-of-focus photograph is not going to be considered fine art.
So, a fine art photograph must go beyond the literal representation of a scene or subject. It must deeply express the feelings of the photographer and clearly reveal that it was created by an artist and not by just the camera. It must be clear that it involved an original, deliberate creation and that every aspect of making the photograph in the field and in the photographer’s post-processing digital studio, including the printing, are an individual expression from within the artist. This could mean Abstract Nature Photography or Panoramic Landscape Photography, two common examples of what is in fine art galleries.
Fine Art Museum Quality Photographic Prints
The photograph must also be printed using the very best printing methods and materials that are available. An enlargement done at the local drug store just isn’t going to cut it and be considered fine art. Fine art photographers, like myself, use only a handful of fine art printers in the United States that are capable of delivering a quality piece of art.
What may be the two best printing surfaces available today are Fujiflex Crystal Archive Pearl Paper and Lumachrome® HD Acrylic Print using TruLife® Acrylic that uses a proprietary paper and process. Both of these produce an almost three-dimensional image with the highest possible quality. High-volume photo sites such as Fine Art America and Art.com do not use the same level of prints.
Any photographic prints using the face mounting to acrylic process can either be prepared for frameless hanging with high quality, ready for framing back frame or be prepared with a linen mat and wood frame. I use a Roma Moulding back, paired with French cleats for the frameless option and Roma Moulding wood frames for the framed option.
Any Fine Art Photography print should be offered on a Limited Edition basis, which can protect its long-term value. While others may use a much larger number of editions, I limit all of my prints to editions of 100 regardless of size or material it’s printed on.
My Own Vision
It is easy to press the shutter button, but that is the last thing on my mind when I am at a location to create a landscape or abstract photograph. I want to feel the scene. I want to feel compelled that I need to create an image that is going to make someone think “Gosh, I wish I had been standing there with you”. I want there to be a connection between what I create and the individual that purchases it to display in their home.
I will continue to use the best equipment, processes, and printing materials available, and above all, I will follow my own vision. I hope you will look at my portfolio of Fine Art Nature Photography.