Is there really such a thing as, fine art photographic prints?
I believe it is important to open up a bit on this subject. Unlike others who boast about their “fine art prints” to be honest I’m not completely comfortable with the whole idea. It is such a subjective area that it feels more made up than any kind of proof of superlative art. In my opinion it in the same category as the misleading and out right make believe “limited edition” print. Though I still feel the use of the phrase “limited edition” in today’s age is a down right lie to prospective customers. You can read my thoughts about limited editions here.
When the “fine art print” is refereed to it is typically done by the artist/photographer to sound important or “professional”. If I am going to remain honest here I indeed have to plead guilty of this myself. To put any amount of credibility behind this the creator must be willing to put some money where their mouth is. If there is no detailed information about their process than it is fair to suspect they are simply playing off the phrase with little or no credibility. This does not mean their work is not good and possibly even desirable, but it very well mean their work has no defined process good or bad. They would just be playing off the phrase for notoriety. What I can tell you with complete honesty are the standards I have and employ in the work I produce.
Is there really specific criteria for “fine art photographic prints”? This is and always has been a subjective subject. As with art in general interpretations vary. The best or at least the most personally satisfying definition comes from Nick Raines Master Photographer of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. In Nicks article “What Is A Fine Art Print?”, he states:
“Fine Art – The term ‘fine art’ is of course highly subjective. It comes from Aristotle’s concept of Final Cause i.e. the purpose or end point of the work. In Latin Fine means ‘end’ (In fine – at the end) and so in Fine Art the work is an end in itself, its very existence is its purpose.
It thus follows that a Fine Art Print is a print of an image made with the prior intention of creating a print as the final form of the image. An image originally made to be published as a poster or in a magazine therefore cannot be, strictly speaking, called a Fine Art Print.
This all sounds very purist, the implication being that there is no commercial aspect to all this, that the photographer is making prints to hang on walls with no need to make a living out of it. This is considered by many to be the only genuine ‘art’ – creativity entirely removed from commercial realities.
Throughout history, artists usually painted to commission and the work was considered a craft. The ultimate situation for an artist was to find a ‘patron’ who paid a stipend to keep you in oils and wine, but you could paint what you liked, freed from the need to make a living. This ‘patronage of the arts’ was very popular in the 19th Century and would be called ‘sponsorship’ these days.
These days it is very hard to be able to pursue photography as an art form without some commercial realities intruding. Prints must be sold to make a living or photography must be done on commission to put bread on the table. The continuing tension between Fine Art and Business is a big question for all art photographers”.
Many Devils Are In The Details
I don’t simply take pictures have them printed and consider them fine art. Over the years very specific criteria has been established in hopes of producing something of personal meaning. This in turn may or may not have meaning to others. The fact remains it must live up to standards of the highest quality. This is always done with the end goal in mind. To produce a physical print employing the processes and materials of the highest standards available.
For me it all begins with the exploration of nature and myself. A desire to not only learn more, but an opportunity to understand our place (my place) among all other life. Nature just happens to be what I gravitate to. From a small wildflower blooming on the prairie, to how the weather can effect the look of a sunrise. Continuing experiences help shape how I choose to proceed. This is why a great deal of time is dedicated to exploring, experiencing, and learning, not about photography, but about myself, my world, and my place within it.
Each captured image is scrutinized down to the smallest of detail. Many times this is down to a single blade of grass in a sea of grasses. This typically is the “make or break” point. Depending of course on the subject and desired outcome. At times it is the overall look of an image, such as with a more abstract image. I have come to be able to determine this “make or break” point very early in the process. Many times at first glance. Only then do I feel confident I can continue and possible develop a worthy print.
Once a decision is made to continue some images can be completed in an hour or so while others may stretch into an unknown amount of hours. With each revisiting of the image helping to develop more of what I envision it to become. There are many technical aspects that go in to this which would bore you to death if I began to describe them.
With post processing work complete it is saved as a master file from which all future prints can be made. But this still is not the end. When a print is to be made the master file needs to be further developed according to the type and size of print desired. Be that a small print on paper or a very large print on canvas or for face mounted to acrylic. Integrity of the master file must be maintained. This is why it is critical to produce each print one at a time and to order depending on the desired final appearance. I never employ the “one size fits all” method.
Having said all this there is still a critical step left and maybe the most critical. Printing. It has taken years to seek out the best available methods to do this. The best available material, techniques, and equipment. Tests must be ongoing comparing many different methods and materials. Only then can the best be determined.
This is a very brief look at how and why the prints I produce I honestly consider to be the very highest quality available. Made with the intention of producing a physical print of the highest quality. Things are always changing and I am sure this will effect how I do things in the future. But you can rest assured changes will always be for maintaining and improving the standards of quality I have set.
The Luxury Part
Luxury, simply defined is; a state of great comfort. This is the basis of the work I produce. It is not only a desire it is has become a requirement. That said, comfort is my goal for you. The process of decision making, getting answers to questions, and the purchasing process needs to be as easy and comfortable for you as possible. The truth is, art of any kind is not a necessity. It is not necessary for day to day survival in the physical sense. It is something that is meant to enhance our daily life. To bring comfort to each moment experiencing it. It is something that we desire but for various reasons may not be able to obtain. Most do not buy art on an ongoing basis. They find what they like and if wanted strongly enough find the means to acquire it. It only makes sense that if someone feels strongly enough to want to own a piece of art, the artist should feel strongly enough to provide the very best possible. Thus allowing for a lifetime even generations of enjoyment.