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Art photography

Parent categories: art - photography

Pessimistic view of the artistic possibilities of photography: "If photography is allowed to stand in for art in some of its functions it will soon supplant or corrupt it completely thanks to the natural support it will find in the stupidity of the multitude. It must return to its real task, which is to be the servant of the sciences and the arts, but the very humble servant, like printing and shorthand which have neither created nor supplanted literature. " --Charles Baudelaire, 1859

Subgenres: photomontage

People: Diane Arbus - Alva Bernadine - Nobuyoshi Araki - Man Ray - Bettina Rheims - Thomas Ruff - Joel Peter Witkin


Fine art photography, sometimes simply called art photography, refers to high-quality archival photographic prints of pictures that are created to fulfill the creative vision of an individual professional. Such prints are reproduced, usually in limited editions, in order to be sold to dealers, collectors or curators, rather than mass reproduced in advertising or magazines. Prints will sometimes, but not always, be exhibited in an art gallery. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_art_photography [Jan 2006]

During the twentieth century, both fine art photography and documentary photography became accepted by the English-speaking art world and the gallery system. In the United States, a small handful of curators spent their lives advocating to put photography in such a system, with Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, John Szarkowski, and Hugh Edwards the most prominent among them.

Yet the aesthetics of photography is a matter that continues to be discussed regularly, especially in artistic circles. Many artists argued that photography was the mechanical reproduction of an image. If photography is authentically art, then photography in the context of art would need redefinition, such as determining what component of a photograph makes it beautiful to the viewer.

The controversy began with the earliest images "written with light": Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre, and others among the very earliest photographers were met with acclaimed, but some questioned if it met the definitions and purposes of art.

Clive Bell in his classic essay "Art" states that only one thing can distinguish art from what is not art: "significant form." Bell wrote: "There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless. What is this quality? What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? What quality is common to Sta. Sophia and the windows at Chartres, Mexican sculpture, a Persian bowl, Chinese carpets, Giotto's frescoes at Padua, and the masterpieces of Poussin, Piero della Francesca, and Cezanne? Only one answer seems possible - significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions." [2]. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography#Photography_as_an_art_form [Feb 2006]

Dorothy True (1919) - Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz helped fine art photography and documentary photography to become accepted in the art world and the gallery system. He was the first to recognize the photographic potential of isolated parts of the human body.

Dorothy True (1919) - Alfred Stieglitz
Image sourced here.

Alfred Stieglitz (January 1, 1864 – July 13, 1946) was an American-born photographer who was instrumental over his fifty-year career in making photography an acceptable art form alongside painting and sculpture. Many of his photographs are known for appearing like those other art forms, and he is also known for his marriage to painter Georgia O'Keeffe.

[...] Throughout his life, Stieglitz was infatuated with younger women. He married Emmeline Obermeyer in 1893, after he returned to New York, and they had one child, Kitty, in 1898. Allowances from Emmeline's father and his own enabled Stieglitz to not have to work for a living.

[...] From 1905 to 1917, Stieglitz managed the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue (which came to be known as the 291). In 1910, Stieglitz was invited to organize a show at Buffalo's Albright-Knox Art Gallery that set attendance records. He was insistent that "photographs look like photographs," so that their realism would allow painting to become more abstract. This shift to abstract art mystified Camera Work subscribers and the viewing public.

Stieglitz divorced his wife Emmeline in 1918, soon after she threw him out of their house when she came home and found him photographing Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he moved in with shortly thereafter. They married in 1924 and were both successful, he in photography (he would take hundreds of pictures of her throughout his life), she as an artist who had received notoriety from Stieglitz at the 291 years before. However, their marriage became strained as she had to care more for Stieglitz's health due to a prevailing heart condition and his hypochondria. By the 1930s, she would spend six months out of the year away from him in New Mexico.

Dorothy Norman () - Alfred Stieglitz
Photography sourced here.

In the 1930s, Stieglitz took a series of photographs, some nude, of heiress Dorothy Norman, who became in O'Keeffe's mind a serious rival for Stieglitz's affections. Both these photos and those of O'Keeffe are often recognized as the first photographs to recognize the potential of isolated parts of the human body. In these years, he also presided over two non-commercial New York City galleries, The Intimate Gallery and An American Place.

Stieglitz's camera work ended in 1937 due to heart disease. Over the last ten years of his life, he summered at Lake George, New York and worked in a shed he had converted into a darkroom and wintered with O'Keeffe in Manhattan's Shelton, the first skyscraper hotel in that city. He died in 1946 at 82, still a staunch supporter of O'Keeffe, and she of him. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred Stieglitz [Feb 2006]

See also: 1919 - photography - art photography - USA

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