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What Is Fine Art Photography?

By Stephen G. Beck

What is Fine Art?
It is art that is created for purely aesthetic expression, communication, or contemplation. It is art that is created for its own aesthetic purpose rather than for a practical, utility purpose. It is a type of art primarily created for the purpose of providing beauty and enjoyment rather than for commercial use. It is often intended to be uplifting, thought provoking, and life-enhancing.

Fine art doesn’t have to follow the rules—it just has to be enjoyed by its viewers. It doesn’t necessarily need to be judged by the theories of art. Furthermore, not everyone will enjoy every piece of fine art. Indeed, many contemporary artists create works that may be considered terrible as far as the rules of art are concerned; and yet, these same works receive rave reviews by the so-called art critics. Fine art may even include works that are disturbing to look at. However, the success in these pieces is in the emotional response they evoke from the viewer.

My personal preference is in artwork that is pleasing to look upon. A drawing, a painting, or a photograph does not necessarily need to be a window to a moment in time. On the contrary, I believe it should reflect the emotions, feelings, and beauty of that moment in time. This brings me to the next question:

What is Fine Art Photography?
Having established what fine art is we can define fine art photography as the subset of fine art that is created with a camera. There is a major difference between a snapshot and a photograph. A snapshot captures a moment in time; a photograph captures the emotions, feelings, and beauty from that moment in time. Although my personal preference is to create photographs that are thought to beautiful, it isn’t necessary that a photograph be beautiful in order to be considered as fine art photography.

A photograph does not need to represent reality. There are some who would argue that a fine art photograph actually allows others to see the world as though we were looking through the mind of the photographer. What we see with our eyes is not necessarily the same as what we see with our mind. I have frequently composed an image, snapped the shutter, and found that the result is not what I was “seeing” at the time. A photograph will look the same on paper as it did in the viewfinder.