What Makes a Photograph 'Fine Art'

After a discussion with a fellow flickrite some weeks ago, I've been thinking on and off about what makes a photograph 'fine art'. And it has not been an easy task. So far, my thoughts are gravitating towards the idea that if it has the following three things it's well on it's way, in NO order of importance.

  • It [the photograph] operates at a Cerebral level
  • It [the photograph] operates on an Emotional level
  • It [the photograph] operates on a Spiritual level

As an object some level of 'presence' helps too, be it size or subtle nuances or perhaps totally in your face in some way.

If these traits can be combined to subtly form a cohesive set of the above ideas then it's well on it's way as well.

A thorough understanding and ability to manipulate the process to suit your intentions, whatever they are, is in my opinion an integral and equally important part of 'fine art photography'. Appreciating and understanding the history of ideas surrounding photography helps to place yourself within the broader context of the medium. This in turn helps you stand out from the crowd and be seen to have something different to offer. After all there a millions of photographs being produced in the western world at an outstanding rate now with digital technologies something needs to somehow give an image a universal yet unique appeal to make it "special".

Hiding your light under your own Bushel is not a good idea if you want to be found, so a healthy dose of marketing and promotion helps for you to be found as well.


eyecatcher said...

All these definitions of fine art is very interesting. I can think of many fine art photograghs that fit these three criterias and yet I can easily find some pics that don't quite fit these descriptions.

Your definitions raise more questions than it answers. What exactly is cerebral\emotional\spritual? All these are intangibles and highly subjective and makes identifying a fine print all the more difficult.

I have almost giving up finding a definition for it. As a rough rule of thumb, when I see a picture I don't understand (I mean in layman terms and not as a critic or a art curator), I classify it as fine art. The more abstruse the message of the picture, the more 'fine' art it is.

Donina said...

As far as I'm concerned, art doesn't necessarily require defining. It's simply a creation by the "artist": an expression of emotional or physical or psychological being.

You're right eyecatcher: all these things that S2art has mentioned are intangible and subjective. One man's graffiti is the next man's Mona Lisa.

To that end, I'm not even certain about the need for a further destinction between "Art" and "Fine Art". If it's all intangible and subjective, how can some art be "finer" than others? And what is the definition of "fine" here? Is it more beautiful? Or better? More clear? More easily identifiable? And who is authorised to proclaim it "fine"?

Tomorrow I may take the quintessential photo. Technically, visually and in every way perfect. Alternatively, I could spit in a glass, turn it upside down on a spider and have it exhibited. Either way, it's going to be art because it's my self-expression. And either way, I couldn't give a rat's arse whether it's "fine" or not.