What separates fine art photography from documentary or most other genres of photography?
Before addressing this question, let’s first consider the more general question of what makes a good photograph. Is it a particular brand of camera or an unusually fast lens? Perhaps it’s the subject, light, composition or background, or a combination of two or more of these elements. What I believe makes a good photograph is the emotional connection it creates with the viewer. Whether you’re making a portrait or photographing the landscape, a good photograph unveils the subject’s soul. The intent being to make photographs that resonate with the viewer on a deeper, more emotional level.
Fine art photography has more to do with the artist’s vision than it does with the actual subject or the technical elements of the camera and lens that were employed to capture it. Having a vision of how the final image will look allows space in the artistic process for the photographer’s imagination and creativity.
The camera is merely one tool in the fine art photographer’s arsenal used to express his personal view of the world. Unlike photorealism and documentary photography, fine art photography is not about capturing an objective image of reality, but instead a highly personal and imaginative vision that employs any number of digital darkroom editing tools and techniques.
Only when the fine art photographer moves beyond a subject’s reality is the viewer able to begin to fully grasp both the essence of the artist and his creative spirit. The more unique the final image, the better it portrays the fine art photographer’s vision and consequently, the closer the viewer comes to truly understanding the story being told by the artist.
Julia Anna Gospodarou, the talented fine art architectural photographer, beautifully summarized the intention of fine art photography, “It’s the expression of the imagination and will of the artist, who needs to create an object that will resemble his personal inner world, his vision and abstract representation of the material world, an object that has a meaning to him and that he releases into the world so others can understand him and learn his truth. This object is the fine art photograph.”