Photography is a democratic medium, everyone can take photographs. They may not be great photographs but the process of taking pictures has become exceedingly easy. This is both good and bad. It is good because it allows anyone with a creative mind to express her or his ideas without being bogged down with technique, like learning how to paint. This will present a great opportunity to those creative individuals. On the other hand, everyone snapping another picture, to clutter the closet, or more recently, the computer storage, takes a little wind out of the photographic sail. This apparent ease of making pictures erroneously creates the impression that photographic art is easy. Quite the contrary.
So, what makes a photograph a “fine art photograph?” This is not an easy question to answer. Many have tried to explain it in a roundabout way, a road that may be wise to follow. I would like to suggest some attributes that puts a photograph in the domain of fine art. Before presenting my ideas I should point out that they will reflect my biases, so please take them for what they are: an attempt to understand the concept of fine art photography and make you, the reader, think about these matters consciously. Upon evaluating my position you may decide that this is nonsense, which is perfectly fine. The challenge, then is for you to think about a way of describing the phenomenon. I would love to hear your thoughts.
First, and foremost, a fine art photograph begins with a message, an idea. With this, I do not mean a social commentary, something extraordinarily profound, but a meaning encoded into the photograph is essential. Many people have ideas, many people can produce photographs, and those who can bring these attributes together produce memorable fine art photographs.
The next thing I look for is intentionality. By this, I mean the intentional execution of the photograph should come across with reasonable force. The choices the photographer has made will be clearly visible in the photograph, and be so consistently. This separates the accidental snap shots from artistic expressions, at least that’s the way I see it.