Photography was not always considered art. And indeed, even today, we can easily conclude that not all photography is fine art. Looking at its history, the earliest photographs were just considered an experiment. They did not to carry any significance or threat to portraits and painted artwork. They were used as documentation of historical events, important meetings, children events and trips such as to Niagara Falls. Therefore, one has to be very clear when defining photography as a form of fine art.
To create photojournalism, there must be a journalist who carries a camera as a tool for the job. In the same manner, a photography artist must have the skills to use a camera. The artist should be able to use other mediums as well, for instance, frequent painting. They might use their skills and tools to make a living, for example, in commercial photography. However, artistic photography must first begin with passion in the field. There is no clear definition of beautiful art photography. But we can use work of art that is meant for display as artistic works and not for any other use. Some call it art photography, or creative photography, or fine art photography, but it makes no difference.
There is so much confusion around fine art photography. Consider scenarios such as different landscapes, nudes, and provocative storytelling. It is all different from everyday landscape snapshots, pornography, and crude photography of some unprofessional persons just playing with a camera. The fine art photographer pays attention to details. They will reveal the composition, focus, quality of lighting, and other factors that make their work artistic. And in the editing process, the artist may have hundreds of photos but to choose only a few to promote their art. In this case, every detail makes a difference before they can put everything together.
The final result of fine art photography is not a walk in the park either. The artist’s goal is not to get their picture on some magazine cover or scrapbook. They have a more profound function for their work, which mostly includes displaying in art galleries. They can sell the photo to appear as wall décor someone’s home after the visitor finds it attractive from the gallery walls. These photographs are often represented in larger sizes because they must show details and the quality of the print. You can easily notice their difference from normal photography printmaking processes.
Photography generated a revolutionary turn in the world of art, just like the printing press did in literature. Its effect can be likened to how the printing press impacted the distribution of ideas across the world, especially across social classes. Photography has completely altered the way people perceive the world. It has refined modern history with a single image carrying the ability to describe and event that thousands of words would. The realm of painting received the greats blow with the introduction of cameras. The medium was forced to move to new directions and invent new tools of operation.
There has been, and still is, a debate on whether photography should be considered as art. And for a long time, researchers have been looking for ways to fit this mechanical medium into the traditional forms of artistic expression. Many approaches were exhausted with different ideas coming up to prove wrongs and rights. The art objects productions, using a camera, as the center of the argument, was used as a key reference in this development. Photography was therefore appreciated as a way of making art accessible to the public.
Prior to this, realistic images could only be produced by skilled artists. In 1839 however, Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre invented the first two photographic processes for commercial production. This daguerreotype was boosted by William Henry Fox Talbot’s negative-positive process. These two were meant to present ways of producing practical records for the world. The daguerreotype became more prominent for several decades before improvements on Talbot’s process made it obsolete.
Early adoption of cameras was influenced by portraiture. People enjoyed posing with their family and friends, just like it is today. Only aristocrats and very wealthy members of society could afford portrait painting. But the 18th century came with cheaper alternatives like silhouette. It was slow and needed a lot of patience; nevertheless, decades of improvements gave birth to modern photography.
Older forms of portraiture were lost, and no one seems to regret this. As much as many people still appreciate the mystery and beauty of the old painting, they would instead take their mobile phones to take the photos automatically than take time to draw.
For many decades, there were debates on the role of photography in art. Heated reports and conflicting statements arose in France and England, leading to the emergence of three positions.
First view; that photography could not be art. The people who held this position argued that photographs were made by a machine, as opposed to human creativity. Many artists were dismissive of photography; they considered it a threat to art.
The second view; that photography could be used by real artists as a reference but is not equal to drawing or painting. For instance, Ingres, one of the early artists who did not support photography, was found to have used photographic reference in his works.
The third view group related photography to more prominent forms like etching and lithography. They argued that this could be just an art form as painting. They avidly explored its potential and presented a compelling report on why photography should be considered an art.
There is no denying that today, photography is considered fine art. Visit any large museum around the world, and you will not fail to notice a section solely dedicated to photographic art. And there are many museums dedicated to displaying photography only. The potential of photography has radically expanded in the past few decades. With advances and development of new technologies, one can never run short of ideas to create perfect portraits. The medium has been worldly accepted and expanded, resulting in a rich history of photography.
Feb 25, 2020