I use the term ‘fine art’ to describe my work primarily to help explain my style of photography and to avoid being labelled as a photographer working in a specific subject.
Many years ago whilst showing my work in Glasgow alongside some of my landscape work I included a photo of a friends baby I had taken with a caption telling folk that I was available for portrait commissions. A few years later I received a phone call from a lady wanting some photos of her children, she had kept my card as in her mind I was a baby and kids photographer. Never gave myself that label.
I believe that there is no agreed definition for fine art photography but one description is that it’s work produced more for visual appeal than for record and that it’s created in the eye of a photographic artist.
What I love about fine art work is that it can cover just about any subject from a landscape, still life, portrait and art nude, one could say that it’s the meaning or concept of the image as much or more than the main featured subject. What does the image inspire in the viewer, does it leave them happy, joyfull, reflective, empowered, even saddened or depressed. What it should do more than anything is offer an insight to the creator of the image, this assumes of course that the artist is being true to themselves and not doing the ‘I can do that too..’ thing by copying others that appear to be successful. It’s all too easy to follow fashions, be a Lenon or a Bowie and become you.
I have been heard many times describing my hate for the ‘hmmm’ factor, if folk view my work and become lifted in some way that’s fantastic, or they find the image uncomfortable or struggle to live with then that’s ok by me, at least I have in some way provoked a reaction and maybe made them think. But if my work fails to attract attention or receives the ‘hmmm… ‘ comment then that’s a real shame, rather defuses the creative spirit.
So, my work doesn’t need to tell a deep and meaningful story or change people’s lives, make them want to sell their house to buy cameras or go viral on social media, but it does in some way need to connect with people. Often it can be no more than an expression of something within me or exhibiting a part of me that folk would not see in normal life but more often it’s just me sharing in the things in life that inspire me or just help me get through life.
The challenge for fine art photography is that the more personal the work whilst attracting more attention is also less likely to be commercially profitable. An emotive portrait will struggle to generate a print sale in favour of a glourious sunset or woodlands on a bright spring morning, but we have to ask ourselves what work do we want to produce… and why ?
There is no right or wrong answer, we just do what we do and hope that we find an audience that feeds our sole, or our bank account. Wouldn’t it be great if they did both.