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File:The Steerage 1907 Stieglitz.jpg

Alfred Stieglitz's photograph The Steerage (1907) was one of the first works of artistic modernism. Steiglitz was notable for introducing fine art photography into museum collections.

Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer as artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism, which provides visual support for stories, mainly in the print media, and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to sell products or services.

The problem of definition[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

Among the definitions that can be found in reference books are:

  • "Art photography": "Euphemism for nude photography"[1].
  • "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"[2].
  • "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."[3].
  • "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"[4].
  • "Fine art photography": "a picture that is produced for sale or display rather than one that is produced in response to a commercial commission"[5].
  • "Fine art photography": "the production of images to fulfill the creative vision of a photographer. ... Synonymous with art photography"[6].
  • "Fine art photography": also called "decor photography," "photo decor," or "wall decor," this "involves selling large photos... that can be used as wall art"[3].

Definitions in scholarly articles[edit | edit source]

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.'"[7][8]
  • A 1986 ethnographic and historical study by Schwartz did not directly define "fine art photography" but did compare it with "camera club photography"[9]. 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."[9]
File:Adams The Tetons and the Snake River.jpg

Ansel Adams' The Tetons and the Snake River (1942).

Current trends[edit | edit source]

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.Template:Failed verification Around 80 percent were sold in the USA. 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.

Overlap with other genres[edit | edit source]

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[10]. Evidence for the overlap of fine art photography and fashion photography includes lectures[11], exhibitions[12][13][14], trade fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach[15], and books[10][16].

Photojournalism and fine art photography overlapped beginning in the "late 1960s and 1970s, when... news photographers struck up liaisons with art photography and painting"[17]. In 1974 the International Center of Photography opened, with emphases on both "humanitarian photojournalism" and "art photography"[17]. 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"[18].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Stroebel, Leslie D., and Hollis N. Todd. Dictionary of contemporary photography. Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan & Morgan, 1974. ISBN 0871000652
  2. McDarrah, Gloria S., et al. The photography encyclopedia. New York: Schirmer, 1999. ISBN 0028650255
  3. 3.0 3.1 Engh, Rohn. Sell & re-sell your photos, 5th ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 2003. ISBN 1582971765
  4. Jones, Bernard E. Cassell's cyclopaedia of photography. New York: Arno, 1973. ISBN 0405049226
  5. Hope, Terry. Fine art photography: creating beautiful images for sale and display. Mies, Switzerland: RotoVision, 2003. ISBN 2880467241
  6. 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
  7. Christopherson, Richard W. Making Art With Machines: Photography's Institutional Inadequacies. Urban Life and Culture, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 1974, pages 3-34.
  8. Christopherson, Richard W. From Folk Art To Fine Art: A Transformation in the Meaning of Photographic Work. Urban Life and Culture, Vol. 3, No. 2, July 1974, pages 123-157.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Schwartz, Dona. Camera clubs and fine art photography: the social construction of an elite code. Originally published in Urban Life, vol. 15, no. 2 (July 1986), pp.165-195.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bryant, Eric. Review of Fashion: Photography in the Nineties. Library Journal, February 15, 1997, p.131.
  11. Catherine Atherton: The fine art of fashion photography. From a talk given at the Museum of Modern Art by the senior lecturer in art, publishing and music at Oxford Brookes University. The Independent, June 12, 2001. Retrieved October 21, 2008.
  12. Fashioning fiction in photography since 1990. Museum of Modern Art, April 16 - June 28, 2004. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  13. Naves, Mario. Striking poses: is fashion photography art? Slate magazine, April 23, 2004. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  14. Click chic: the fine art of fashion photography. School of Visual Arts, September 6, 2007 - October 6, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  15. Trebay, Guy. Work with me, baby. New York Times, December 6, 2007. Retrieved August 6, 2008.
  16. The idealizing vision: the art of fashion photography. New York: Aperture Foundation, 1991. ISBN 0893814628
  17. 17.0 17.1 Goldberg, Vicki. Picture this - magazine photography, in just a few decades, has changed the way life itself is regarded. Life magazine, April 15, 1999.
  18. Grundberg, Andy. Art; photojournalism lays claim to the realm of esthetics. New York Times, April 12, 1987. Retrieved August 6, 2008.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • 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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