THE 34TH - FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY

Regarding to my latest blog post about my latest shooting Instagram Diary (click on Instagram Diary) I wanted to talk a bit about fine art photography.

Fine art photography is photography (click on photography) created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.

Digital photography has changed the way people take photos, and how many are taking them. Anyone with a camera can be a photographer these days, and many of those want to be professional photographers or artists, though they can be the both. All over the internet there is a rise of those who are calling themselves Fine Art Photographers; so maybe it is time to look into what they are and how they are different to the usual photographers.

Recently I heard a photographer online saying that you could go wacky on an image, add a weird curving blur, then call it fine art. That doesn’t make an image artistic, that just makes it silly.
There doesn’t seem to be a definitive explanation or definition for what Fine Art Photography is, but there do appear to be things that help define what it is.

When I was doing my fine art degree, part of what was required was to take turns putting our work up on the wall for critique. During these sessions we talked about techniques, what was working, and what wasn’t. We would also discuss the ideas behind the work and where we wanted to go with it.

Artists Vision

Before work can become fine art the artist has to have a vision of what they think their work will look like.

An Idea

Fine art is about an idea, a message, or an emotion. The artist has something that they want to have conveyed in their work.
That idea or message may be something small, a single word such as abandon, or it may be a whole statement, like exploring the way the moon affects the tides. It is a start. It is like a hypothesis.

Technique

The work you create to demonstrate your vision and ideas has to have a consistency to it. When all the work is together it has to have similarities. Often artists will use the same medium and techniques for each idea.

Body of Work

In the end there has to be a body of work that shows your ideas, subjects and techniques. If you were to get your images into a gallery there would need to be a uniformity to them all.

Artist Statement

Finally you would most likely need an artist statement. A short explanation of what the work is about, why you created it and how.
When you go to a gallery you might look at the work and wonder what it is about, so you look for the artist statement. It will help you figure out what the artists intentions were, the reasons why, and how they created that work.

So you want to be a Fine Art Photographer?

You don’t need to have a degree in fine arts to be a fine art photographer, but you do need to think carefully about your work and what you want to achieve with it.

Deciding on your topic

Topics can be anything. They don’t have to be heavy topics like ones that are really political, or socially conscientious. I used consumerism, as I’ve had a couple of exhibitions that were based on that concept, and the idea that we were turning our homes into massive rubbish (garbage) bins.
Working out your message, or the motivation behind it, can be a little bit more difficult. Perhaps for something like consumerism you might want to explore the impact it has on the environment, or what is going to happen to all the goods that we keep buying.

Finding the subject for your photos

What is your subject matter going to be? Would you photograph rubbish piles? Maybe look directly at the different brands, and all the different products they come out with. What your images are going to be of, is just as important, and should link to your topic or message.

Working out your technique

The technique isn’t so important, it just has to be the same for all the images. You can experiment to start with, to help you work it out, but once you have what you want then your body of work has to all be similar. You are looking to create a cohesive portfolio that will look great, and connect together when on display.

Creating your body of work

You should make as much work as you can. If you are planning an exhibition, then you need to know now much work you will need for it. When it is all done there are going to be pieces that simply won’t work and you will be better off leaving them out. It is difficult to work out what is best for an exhibition, and just because you made it doesn’t mean it belongs.

Your Artist Statement

Finally you need to write that artist statement. It needs to be written in what they call artspeak, or language that fits in with the art world. It has to sound good. If you are applying to galleries then your artist statement is what they are going to take notice of, just as much as your work.
Here is an example of one written about work around the theme of abandon:
It is human nature to sculpture and contour the environment into shapes and forms that we find pleasing. We live in these buildings, work in them, and find entertainment and nourishment in them. We spend time in rooms designed to help us learn through many stages of our lives. When the buildings can no longer be maintained they fall into decay quickly. My work is looking at the rate of decay and how similar it is to the human condition. How easily we can fall into the same sort of decay when we are no longer being cared for. Through photographs of old, and recently abandoned buildings, I want to explore the metaphor of the human condition with the deserted buildings.
I just made this short statement up, but I hope it gives you an idea of what an artist statement is like. If you do a google search you will find many places that can help you write one. You will also be able to find examples of them to see what other artists are doing, and how they are creating their work.

Finally

The work should be about you, and what you are passionate about. Don’t worry about what other people think. If you know what your vision is, what your subject is, and how you want to create your work, then your statement should come easily and you will find yourself on a new path, an exciting one.
If you are just making lovely images without any of the above, then chances are you aren’t creating fine art photographs. However, if you have a vision or message, and have ideas that you want to convey through your work then you are more likely to be creating fine art. Perhaps you should think about what you want your work to be about. It is also fine to just take photos because you enjoy it. 

Since I am focusing on black and white photography in my studio I have my own artist statement about my work and my fine art photography:
There is nothing in the world as exciting to me as making a silver print. The magic of the image appearing in my presence has gripped me since I first experienced it at the age of 12. Since then I have spent countless nights in the amber glow of a darkroom light. I look forward to mixing up my next batch of fresh developer be it for a contact sheet from a roll taken thousands of miles away or an eight foot mural print.
In this gallery I will exhibit works that were not made as a part of a larger conceptual body but rather exhibit my personal relationship with black and white photography as an art form in itself. The image-making here is guided by light and situations that demand certain final rendition. I act as a medium in the translation and solidification of that moment in time. From the moment that the image is latent on film upon the closure of the shutter, eternity merges with art.
For me the final print is an entity in it’s own right and the 72dpi version in front of you is but a mere shadow of that vibrant being. Please feel free to contact me for a private viewing or to find out about upcoming shows.
I frequently wonder about the events that have taken place in and around the buildings I photograph. Elections, protests, grand parades after the wars, there have been incredible changes throughout the city and these buildings have survived them all. The classic architecture of the past has a strength that extends to the human spirit and sustains it. Many new buildings today are simply a reflection of our modern, and at times disposable world. The classics are a reminder of where we have been and who we really are.
Pre-dawn is a time when the city has a chance to breath. The streets are peppered with the remnants of the night before and there is a magical hush before the new day begins. I find inspiration in the city's early morning stillness with its endless ability to surprise and delight. Within architecture there is a silence and beauty that's usually hidden by the hustle of urban life. The elegance and grace found in pillars and stone are enhanced by the early morning light and I am drawn to this place in the absence of shadows to create, record and embrace the metropolis.

Develop yourself, feel the camera, feel the objects, and feel the love in each particular photo and second. This is what inspires me and what keeps me going on in what I am doing and what I love to do.

Be safe, be classy, be an artist - XOXO, Nici.

In Co-Operation with Digital Fine Art School Chicago