- "Isn't it amazing how photography has advanced without improving."
Typing in Fine Art Photography in to your search engine of choice will produce enough nebulous and conflicting definitions to confuse even th most rational thinker. Most of these less than empirical descriptions cite Fine Art Photography as being an endeavor to photograph for aesthetic purposes, and not to simply document an event, as in photojournalism or sports photography. Contemporary fine art photographers who work professionally, are typcially but an extreme minute fraction of those that use the camera for any reason whatsoever. In fact, the number of exposures that have been made by humans since the beginning of the medium is estimated to be 3.5 trillion, with Facebook (don't get me started on that) currently hosting over 140 billion of them. Spend an hour on Flickr and of all the photographs you devour (and in the digital world, unlike handling a Fine Art Print, we do seem to devour images), you will be challenged to find even .2% of your digital prints observed to likely earn the moniker of Fine Art. I have a patient who is a most talented acrlyic painter, who at the extreme, refuses to recognize photography as art in any sense. This of course is not a new debate, but from the inception of the medium, has created an ongoing diatribe. What is difficult to empirically define, can often, if it involves a right-brain function, benefit from an emotional analysis. Imagine looking at a turn of the century black and white print of my maternal grandmother,Viola Antoinette Morisette, a young French Canadian one year old, made as a contact print made in 1901 from a 5x7 view camera (here in the Western Upper Peninsula in Laurium on the Keweenaw Peninsula). Then ponder if she were alive today and the same age, looking at a "selfie" she had taken with her iPhone camera. While this is a somewhat obtuse analogy, I think it makes the point. The original contact print, which I own, is ethereal, has soft and inviting light, and produces an emotional response in viewers I have shown it to. The other perhaps less obvious (at least to the current generation of camera clickers) difference is the effort and diligence taken in making the photograph. In 1901, the use of glass plate negatives, development and printing, was a time consuming process. Additionally, getting your subject to sit still enough for exposures that cold last into minutes, required a set of social skills that produced calm and cooperation. There are positives concerning technology and the medium of photography that can help readers getting a better understanding of Fine Art Photography, and that is the readily available (online) works of the masters (Weston, Strand, etc.), in addtion to contemporary masters (Picker, Mapplethorpe, Caponigro, Plowden, and others). It used to require locating exhibits that traveled to galleries and museums (which is still preferable), but now digital images of these originals can be accessed via PC at home, or even your smart phone for that matter. We would make many trips to the Art Institute of Chicago to view original work coming through in traveling shows, which in my opinion, there is nothing comparable to. I remeber the Fall day in which I traveled a few miles from my home to the Porcupine Mountains to make the image above, in addition to about 12 others. In the time it took me to set up the tripod select my lens, plug in the cable release, bring the images on the LCD screen, magnify and focus, no less than 100 tourists descended on the ledge, most with cell phones, and left with an undetermined number of digital shots. If you are interested in saying something with your work, the first cardinal rule in this type of environment is to slow down, be mindful, and use your right brain.
Viola Antoinette Morisette (Dion)-1901 Rickland Studio, Laurium Michigan
June 17, 1901-May 16, 1985