by Mike McNamee Published 01/10/2011
Mike McNamee explores the world of fine art from two perspectives creation and reproduction
For the photographer, 'Fine Art' falls into two categories, making it and reproducing it (for other people). The debate and definitions surrounding fine art are boundless. We saved Sergio Muscat's thoughtful article from a little time back since it fitted so well into the theme of this issue and he makes a compelling case, with particular reference to the limited edition print. The limited edition theme is wrapped in the tongue in cheek heading photograph - limited edition yoghurt, what's that all about? The adoption of fine art terminology on a food product shows that the ad-men at least think that 'limited edition' implies exclusivity even if the edition size will be in hundreds of thousands, if not millions - this is one limited edition you should not buy as an investment!
Everybody has their own take on what constitutes art*. Some say it needs to come from the heart and be made without monetary considerations. This is often not the reason that the art hanging in our public galleries and museums was made. This type of art was frequently made by impoverished, journeyman artists at the behest of rich benefactors. They in their turn were seeking to glorify God (with a sub-plot of gaining points on their way to the pearly gates!) or to glorify themselves. They alone had the financial clout to engage the services of a painter for the long-winded creation of an oil painting or fresco. In later times, 'art for art's sake' became more popular but was still frequently associated with the poverty of a struggling artist.
*Looking at the entries we receive in the Fine Art and Digital Art categories of the monthly competition gives a clue as to what the Societies' members consider fine art. The results are interesting! The only single characteristic is that all of the pictures are manipulated in some way, be it by interpretation, filtration or montage. The only images that are seemingly 'straight from camera' are the nude figure studies. Many images have an allegorical content either implied or explicit, some have little photographic content. All of the 100 images we reviewed were accepted by the judges (ie the images came from the 'golds' of last year) so they convinced at least one person that they were eligible as either Fine Art or Digital Art. All the nude figure studies were in the Fine Art category but other than that there was considerable overlap of content.
Photography was supposed to kill painting off (in 1839 Paul Delaroche declared, "From today painting is dead."). It did not quite do so, although it democratised 'having a likeliness made', bringing it within reach of lower income, working people. Prior to that only the wealthy could afford to commission a painting of themselves. Perversely, of course, those painting for painting's sake tended to use prostitutes and actresses as the cheapest form of model available, a sad fact of exploitation considering the eventual value placed upon the likenesses made of them!
There are 242 days to get ready for The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
which starts on Wednesday 22nd January 2020