I’ve got an acquaintance who claims to be a “fine art photographer”. He’s no better photographer than I am so I say (quietly) to myself: “There is no way that I would advertise myself as the producer of fine art photography. Who does he think he is?”
Fine art has always meant to me “…art that is better than normal” or “…better than good”. It is FINE, after all. It is a word that implies excellence or superiority.
So, if you say that you produce fine art photography people might think you are bragging. For example if you say “I write fine books”, you would being saying that you’re a very good author. Braggart.
One would look at a very good painting and say that it is fine art. But one would look at a very good photograph and say that it is…well…a very good photograph.
OK, so I did a little research.
Turns out that “fine art” is a left over from the days (seventeenth century) when the five fine arts were painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry. The visual portion — painting — has evolved to include photography. And here is where it gets interesting: Photography can be either objective (photojournalism), commercial (to sell something), or subjective. It is the subjective branch that fits into the “fine art” category.
Now pay attention here. A photograph becomes subjective (thus fine art) when something of the photographer is put into it. Emotion, for example. This would apply even to modifications made after the shutter is released. Yes, Photoshop.
I modified the image of the little church. The sky wasn’t really black but I felt (as I was setting up the photograph) that the startling shapes against the sky spoke to me. When I processed the image I converted to black and white and darkened the sky to put my feelings into it. Bottom line: If I produce an image that has some of me in it, it is fine art. If I modify an image in post production, I have shaded the image toward fine art.
Do you agree?