Why Fine Art Photography?

Matthew White, a talented news and sports photographer from Houston, and I just spent some of the Labor Day weekend shooting, both cameras and firearms. He is quite skilled with both. One thing we discussed, and not for the first time, is why I am interested in fine art photography. He is not, yet I sense in him a great curiosity about why we who shoot fine art images are interested in it and why we like it.

Animated and energetic, Matt talks about his recent photographic adventures Saturday night.
Animated and energetic, Matt talks about his recent photographic adventures Saturday night.

My answer is, ultimately, I don’t know.

I will say that there is something inside every artist that drives us to explore our craft. I know that’s true for Matthew too, but in a different direction. He shoots a lot of technically challenging subjects, and honing his skills at that is driven by the desire, like all of us who truly believe in our crafts, toward perfection.

Maybe inside the fine art photographer is a desire to shoot an ever-widening cadre of subjects and the way we render those subjects. It’s an exciting moment to see something we’ve seen a hundred times and then see it for the first time, in a way that we can make it into a compelling image. I experienced that this morning as I was making breakfast from the lovely home-grown hen’s eggs Abby’s co-worker sends home for me. I have eaten dozens of these eggs, and while I photographed them on several occasions, it hadn’t occurred to me until this morning as I cracked the first one how beautiful and complex the shells looked after I poured the contents into a mixing bowl. I literally ran into the other room and grabbed a camera with my 100mm macro lens on it, while my onions were sautéing, to shoot these shells. I set them on the windowsill and the light was just right.

In the middle of our conversation Friday night, Matt told me that he and Michelle passed several handsome old barns on their drive here from Houston, but that he just “didn’t get” why anyone would stop to photograph them. I smiled to myself when he said that because earlier in the week I had done exactly that, though with disappointing results (the sky was too bright and wasn’t yielding to my efforts to get some tone in it, so I put it on my “go back” list.)

In the end, the pursuit of any endeavor is, of course, a very personal one, particularly if we are emotionally invested in that endeavor. For me as the years have passed, I have tried to expand my photographic vision and the way I communicate that to my audience, and it has borne results both tangible and intangible.

The fine lines of the cracks in these broken egg shells form a visual puzzle a bit like a map, something that was new in my photographic pantheon.
The fine lines of the cracks in these broken egg shells form a visual puzzle a bit like a map, something that was new in my photographic pantheon.
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1 Comment

  1. Sadly, I believe many of today’s self-title “fine art photographers” do it for the age-old reason: so they can show someone else and say: “Look what I did!”

    I tend to do most things because I’m generally interested in things and curious about stuff, and I enjoy the learning process itself — in fact, I often enjoy learning about something more than I enjoy doing it. So once I feel I’ve gained adequate knowledge and skill, I’ll quit doing it. This is one reason I rarely master anything yet have a medium degree of knowledge about many things.

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