"Artistic photography": "A frequently used but somewhat vague term. The idea underlying it is that the producer of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression"
Fine art photography emerged during the early decades of the 20th century.
Pictorialism of the 19th century had been highly popular right up until the establishment of sharp focus photography during the 1920s. Its popularity was starting to gain some recognition through landscape photography, this development helped create more intense atmospheres.
Alfredo Stieglitz 1924-1946
'The Pool Deal' – Alfredo Stieglitz (1910)
Alfredo Stieglitz was an important indictment into fine art photography, originally a pictorialist photographer, Stieglitz had a distinct style and he manages to capture the mood of a photo often involving the aesthetics of his surroundings or finding the central point of an image with ease. By 1924 Stieglitz was beginning to exhibit his work and share writings in order to support photography as an artistic medium. In this same year the Boston Museum of Fine Arts obtained a collection of 27 of his photographs. This was the first time a museum had included photographs into their permanent collection. He predominantly used a plate camera the 8x10 deardorff.
Ansel Adams 1902-1984
Ansel Adams was born in 1902; he was born into an upper middle-class family. His maternal grandfather owned a successful freight-hauling business but the investment of his hard work in this business was later wasted in failed real estate ventures in Nevada. Adams always pursued his hobbies and interests with great detail his first being the piano but after a love for photography Adams made this his primary hobby. His Father bought him his first camera a Kodak Brownie Box camera. The camera was basic and its film was inexpensive it introduced the concept of 'snapshot' photography. The first lines of photographs published from Adams were in the early 1920s. In the mid-1920s he started experimenting with soft focus etching and further pictorial photography techniques.
As a member of the Sierra Club, Adams travelled extensively in the 1920s and on one occasion he took a month long high-trip to practice capturing the landscape. From this he produced a portfolio entitled 'Parmelian Prints of The High Sierras' which were released in 1927. These photographs were one named "a landmark in twentieth-century photography".
In this period Adams used his Korona view camera using glass plates and a dark red filter during the 1930s Adams work started to flourish, he was able to stage his first solo exhibition in 1931 at the Smithsonian Institute. He took on many commercial assignments during this period and used most of it to fund the struggling Best's studio.
At the turn of the 1940s Adams was fronting workshops in Detroit and 1941 began teaching photography at Art Center School of Los Angeles. These opportunities afforded him better equipment and more resources for his following photography projects. In the coming years Adams work came to be celebrated, his imagery making its way into people's living rooms.
David Hockney (1937-Today)
David Hockney was born in Bradford, England in 1937 he studied at both Bradford College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Hockney’s work is multi-directional his early work touching on expressionism, he was also a popular and important figure of the ‘Pop Art’ movement of the 1960’s. He then went on to incorporate surrealist elements to his work, instead of painting using photography. He did this by using different perspectives after cutting up Polaroid photographs. Hockney created a point of view perspective which makes the viewer feel as if you’re in the room with him. His series of photomontages span throughout the 1970’s till the mid 1980’s he referred to these years as “The joiners” some also believe there is a cubist influence to this particular series of work.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946 – 1989)
Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Queens, New York. He came from a respectable suburban middle class background.
When Mapplethorpe was 17 he enrolled to Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, it was there he studied drawing, painting and sculpture, during this time Mapplethorpe was influenced by the work of Marcel Duchamp. Because of this he experimented with different multi-media techniques often favouring collages. In 1970 he started using film more frequently and by 1973 he favoured using a Polaroid camera, his interest in Polaroid film led to a solo exhibit entitled ‘Polaroid’s’ that same year. Thereafter he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera which he used to photograph close friends and associates which included an array of artists and composers. During the late 1970s Mapplethorpe involved himself in the S&M scene in New York. When this work came to exhibit some people described it as ‘shocking’ and ‘obscene’. His intention was to document this subject as he seen it was his obligation to photograph these people. He was always looking for something he hadn’t previously seen before. Throughout these years his work began to fluctuate and had even gained a reputation overseas, resulting in his collaboration with Documenta 6 in Kassel, West Germany. During 1978 Mapplethorpe’s work was chiefly dealt through the Robert Miller Gallery in New York. During the middle-period of his career his work did attract controversy, due to its blatant homoerotic imagery.
During the 1980s Mapplethorpe’s focus shifted from figure studies to figure studies with aesthetic value. This included stylized/sexualized male portraits and still life flower photography. His work was produced using 20”x24” Polaroid prints, platinum prints on linen, cibachrome and dye transfer colour prints. Just after the mid-1980s Mapplethorpe was diagnosed with AIDS however his work excelled, he continued difficult commissions and staged a solo exhibition just before his death entitled ‘The Perfect Moment’ during the summer of 1989, the exhibition was curated by Janet Kardon of the institute of Contemporary Art. It was this very exhibition that garnered controversy since it upset members of the U.S. Congress which prompted conservatives to question the tax dollars that commissioned this body of work. This is an argument that is still on-going with censorship, however one could believe it would restrict the academic mind when using Mapplethorpe’s work for educational purposes. Mapplethorpe’s use of aesthetic still life and formalities made for unique compositions that challenged authority and censorship on art photography.
Bill Brandt 1904-1983
Bill Brandt was a German-British photographer and photo journalist. He later disowned his German heritage due to the fact he grew up during World War I and lived throughout World War II. Brandt clearly felt some animosity towards the Germans this even lead to him claiming that he was born in London, England. Brandt spent most of his childhood in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, as he had contracted tuberculosis. He then travelled to Vienna where further psychoanalysis treatment began for Brandt. He was eventually pronounced cured and released thereafter. Brandt was something of a documenter, starting from 1933 once he moved to London; he started to document all classes, creed and manor of British Society. During this period he published two books showcasing his work ‘The English at Home’ and ‘A Night in London’. He was also published in several British Publications.
'Kamiokande’ – Andreas Gursky (2007)
‘May Day II’ - Andreas Gursky (1998)
Andreas Gursky is a fine art photographer and visual artist. He was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1955 coincidently a son of a commercial photographer. His bold, colorful and all-encompassing style is very distinctive; Gursky also holds the record for the most expensive price paid at an auction for a single photographic image. The image ‘Rhein II’ sold for a reported $4.3 million (£2.7m) making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. During his early 20s, Gursky studied photography at the Folkwang School (West Germany’s leading establishment for professional photographers). This had a huge impact on his early compositions this was mainly due to the curriculum’s focus on straight-shot techniques of photojournalism. During the early 1980’s, Gursky studied under the internationally recognized photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher at the State Art Academy. The Becher’s are best known for their industrial based concepts, depicting industrial builds and structures. This had a profound influence on him; when looking at his work I find rhythm, emphasized colour and wild imagination (in approach to composition). I also find the subject matter changes frequently portraying differing content. From the stock brokers of the financial sector found in the stock exchange, to the trance and drug ridden rave parties of Amsterdam. Andreas Gursky is a marvel of photography and not to be forgotten.
A definitive example...
Insomnia- Jeff Wall (1994)
This photograph taken by Jeff Wall in 1994 is a good example of fine art photoraphy as an artform. Wall fills the image from corner to corner with content, notice how the cupboard doors are slightly open, appliances and furniture all placed oddly, gives an unsettling feel. The subject laid on the kitchen floor appears to be suffering from his mental state. The colours are balanced well and the contrast from light to dark are very extreme, the shadows in the image appear to be blackened completely. Over Wall's career spanning from the late 1970s, he has referenced fine art and took influence from classical painting, in terms of composition you can see how he has been influenced byrecent and contemporary artists, Marcel Duchamp, Diane Arbus, Bill Brandt and more recently Adreas Gurksy.