Today’s post is actually based on a short note I wrote to myself while doing a workout. Here’s what the note says:
A fine art photo should be interesting even without lots and lots of detail.
There are many fine art photos in the art world that were taken with large or medium format film cameras of sometimes banal subject matter that are really only interesting because of the details you can see when it’s printed or displayed very large. This has set up the expectation that fine art photos necessarily have to be taken with large or medium format film cameras or else they’re not truly “fine art” photography.
There has been some backlash to this trend with the iPhone photo exhibits and books that have come out (iPhones take small 3 megapixel and 5 megapixel digital photos). But I think this is a novelty and still not generally accepted in the fine art photography world.
My own position on this is that a photo should be interesting even without lots of excruciating detail or else it’s not really that interesting from an art standpoint. However, I concede that some level of fine detail may be necessary to accurately see and appreciate what makes a captured image interesting–e.g., the details of a facial expression, intricate plant life, or a some manufactured artifact. Sometimes, though, a blurred image with very little fine detail can be quite powerful and engaging.
The main point I’m making is that it’s not necessary that a photograph be taken with a large or medium format film camera to be a fine art photograph worthy of collecting or hanging on a wall. A powerful or engaging image speaks for itself and can be the object of fine art appreciation regardless of what type of camera (or other type of image recording device for that matter!) was used to capture it.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea in any way, but I think it needs to be said and reinforced from time to time because there are forces out there that keep trying to make fine art photography somewhat “exclusive” by pushing for the large film requirement in order for photos to be “legitimate” collectible fine art photography.
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