When photographic images are referred to as “fine art”, it raises questions—perhaps because it gives an impression that fine art images are somehow superior, more artistic, even gallery-worthy. Still, there is a history and an established meaning of “fine art images” in the world of photography.
Advocates such as S.D. Jouhar, founder and Chairman of the Photographic Fine Art Association in 1961, strove to establish a new classification of photography created as art, defining “fine art” as “creating images that evoke emotion by a photographic process in which one’s mind and imagination are freely but competently exercised (Jouhar).”
Along those lines, fine art photography was distinguished from commercial photography. Jouhar strove to classify photography as an art rather than a craft, one of the prevailing perceptions at the time. The new definition also encompassed the “technical” perspective from which the photograph was created, emphasizing “fine perception” and “technical execution”.
Clearly, characterizing photography as fine art was intended to promote it in a new and positive way that would benefit all photographers. Even so, common misperceptions exist about the use of this term, suggesting it may be a means to elevate a photographer’s status.
Investigating present day photographers for the meaning of “fine art photography”, Alain Briton provides a note-worthy analysis of the term in his essay, “Fine Art Photography Top 16” (Briot, 2010), excerpted below:
- “Become an expert in light
- Compose your images carefully
- Study colors and contrast
- Create images that represent what you felt, not just what you saw
- Focus on quality not quantity
- Master both art and technique
- Master all the aspects of fine art photography (composition, conversion, optimization, printing, curating, and exhibiting)
- Optimize your photographs using layers in Photoshop
- Make the final print your goal
- Mat and present your work in a professional manner
- Focus your work and effort on projects
- Share your work with others and build an audience
- Do not try to recreate the wheel
- Create a personal style
- Do not expect success overnight
- Do not overestimate talent”
Briot, A. (2010, June 5). Fine Art Photography Top 16. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from Nature Photographers – Online Magazine: www.naturephotographers.net
Jouhar, D. S. (n.d.). Dr. S.D. Jouhar (1901-1963) – A Retrospective. Retrieved February 15, 2013, from www.sdjouhar.com