Fine art photography rant

I want to be very clear that this post is not to put down any other photographers or artists. It’s just my personal taste and opinion. My philosophy regarding fine art photography or really fine arts in general has been “I like what I like”. And what I like in art (usually) is that the subject has to be something recognizable, symmetrical, original, and/or something that attacks the senses and guides my eyes. I don’t really care for general randomness or things that make the average person think “pfft, I could do that shit”. I know that the general rebuttal to that is “well maybe you could do that shit, but you didn’t.”; but my point is that I want to see a certain skill level involved in the work and not simply accept that artwork is good because the artist has name recognition.

It could be that I just don’t understand art. Maybe I don’t. I readily admit that I feel commercial photographers, portrait photographers, journalists, concert photographers, wedding photographers, or any other photographer who is under pressure to create a picture (or albums) face a more challenging scenario because unlike fine art photographers they have to create a picture given circumstances that are beyond their control. What I mean by that is that they don’t have the luxury to pick the time, location, and the subject of their pictures and have to adapt to the situation whereas in at fine art photographer is not under that sort of pressure. If a wedding photographer delivers pictures that are not in focus, have bad lighting, etc. they have no excuse. Sadly, even if they produce the most beautiful picture during that hectic session, they are often snubbed by the art community and told their work is not art.

On the other hand the fine art photographer has that luxury to call any imperfections and a picture as art. After all, who can argue with art? How dare would anyone criticize the artists work? They meant to add grain to their picture or have motion blur, etc. etc. etc. I myself have known some artsy photographers who don’t really know basic photography and exposure, have never used studio lights, and usually use the basic kit camera with a kit lens and only care about the composition. What they know very well however is postprocessing. After they are done with that picture in Photoshop it resembles nothing of the reality and pretty much enters the realm of fantasy. There lies the difference between the two worlds. Most photographers do their best to capture the picture at the time they take the picture and only tweak minor things like color and white balance afterwards, but art photographers don’t care about the reality.

Tonight I decided to visit Fotofest. There were some very good pictures, but some of the pictures there were not that impressive either technically or using my definition of what I like (see above). In fact many were either random snapshots, or journalistic type of pictures which seem out of place in an art show. Again, I don’t claim to know art, but if I were a judge I know which ones I would have rated higher. Certainly this one photography show is not indicative of all fine art photographers, but whether it’s wrong or right it made me respect the other photographers that I had met over the years and little did more.

The conclusion that I came up with is that all photography has an artistic component to it whether the arts community excepts it or not. I remember one particular studio open house that I went to where we had to work some models that were sent to us after hair and makeup was done and met a local photographer who was setting up his lights and was making the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen anybody make by before my eyes. He probably wouldn’t be considered the finer art photographer but make no mistake he is an artist. Every little like that he put on the picture had a purpose whether it was gelled, on a grid, strip box, soft box, or otherwise. You don’t need to sip on wine and wear out of style clothing to be considered an artist.

I will try to make pictures that are at least interesting to me and hopefully interesting to some other people and if someone wants to call them art, they are more than welcome to. If by chance one of the my pictures does not focus very well on not very technically sound I still reserve the right to say I meant to do that as an artist.

I took this picture earlier while at Foto Fest from a book I was sitting on the table. What does it mean? Is it artistic? I bet for most people if they see this book their eyes would focus on the same spot that my f1.8 lens focused on.


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