Is Your Photography Art?


posted on 21st of may, 2008

There is a continuing dust up between those who claim that commercial photography isn’t art and that the photos in museums and galleries shouldn’t be sullied by appearing in promotions or ads. Not withstanding the fact that most photographers that fall into the ‘collectible’ category of fine artists have at one time done commercial work.



The popular blog from commercial art buyer Heather Morton has taken on this conversation over the past few weeks. Look for the Art/Commerce blogs. She and her readers offer smart definitions of what does or does not distinguish art from commerce.Heather’s final word is the adage: “I don’t know what is art; I know what I like”. Liking an image is a perfect justification for hanging it on the wall. Whether or not the art world will follow suit depends a great deal on relationships built between the photographer and the movers and shakers in the art world. These are the taste-makers who are largely responsible for giving photographic artists the credibility they need to attract collectors.




There is no magic formula to forming those relationships. Enter contests and get your work in front of gallery owners that like to find new artists. Sign up for portfolio reviews whenever you hear of one. There are even consultants to help you find your way in the fine art world. Mary Virginia Swanson is the best. Her blog is here She often lists US and international conferences and shows where portfolio reviews will be available.
Renowned art has been used in advertising almost since the beginning of the industry to add prestige or other messages to promotions and ads. Robert Sobieszek, the former curator of photography at both Eastman House and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, wrote a wonderful book on the interaction between art and advertising photography. Find it here Older art is often in the public domain. Famous works like the Mona Lisa appear everywhere. The licensing rights to fine art or photography that is still under copyright are separately negotiated by the end user with the right’s holder or his/her agent or gallery.


© Tomd (Help)


I have suggested some Dreamstime images on this page that remind me of some well known photographs that are considered fine art.Just for fun: can you make the connection between the famous “art” photograph or style of a renowned photographer whose work is in museums and the images here. The winner gets bragging rights. Hints: some of the photographer names might be Adams, Burke-white, Kertesz, Weston, Cunningham and others. Maybe....tell me your choices in the comments.


Next week I’ll write about certain themes to follow that are popular with publishers of online framed art and posters.


Comments (50)

Posted by Litifeta on June 24, 2008
Bill Henson in Australia has stirred the pot over the line that exists between art and photography. He has also stirred the pot between what is art and what is pornography.

I think the line between what is art and what is a catalogue of commercial images was crossed decades ago by Andy Warhol. If an image of can of soup is art, then anything is in my humble opinion.

Images of Mona Lisa are in advertising. Art, except for the snobs, is anything you find it to be.
Posted by Cleaper on May 28, 2008
Thanks Ellen! I enjoyed it! x
Posted by Maigi on May 28, 2008
Ok contest is over. ... Thanks for all the participation especially by Cleaper and Maigi. You two have an awesome knowledge of classic photography.
Thank you, it was a lot of fun! :) I wouldn't know nothing, if I couldn't look them up on the Internet. That's why I love the Internet. If you know, how to perform searches, you can find virtually everything possible about every subject. I have never seen those masters art on print and I'm pretty sure I won't ever have a chance to see them. But I'm happy about opportunity to watch them electronically. It was a great adventure through some historical moments of photography. Thanks!
Posted by Taragolden on May 27, 2008
hi, i wasnt sure where else to write you but i wanted to thank you for taking the time to read my tarantula blog and comment. i appreciate your feedback on working with animals.. i have a second snake/tarantula shoot planned tommorrow.. if you would be so kind, id love your feedback on the tarantula on face shot,, i dont mind if you delete this comment as its not in the appropriate place.
peace
tara
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 27, 2008
Ok contest is over. I apologize as I think I missed someone guessing Berenice Abbott for the Ansontsui image. I pulled most of these relationship images out of my head and wanted to go back to research the NY at night image. Sorry I didn't get around to it until just now. The first image reminds me of the Japanese photographer Hamaya's images of patterns in stone. The composition also is similar to his, in my opinion. Again Cracked earth by Laroach. I believe it was guessed as Brett Weston and it is as in his image "Mud Cracks" 1977. Finally the Taos image by Gdbrekke was really a trick question. I found the image in a book called the MacMillian Biographical Encyclopedia of Photographic Artists and Innovators by Turner Browne and Elaine Partnow. It is by a photographer that I wasn't familiar with named Bernard Plossu. His work is at the Center for Creative Photography at the Univ of Arizona. Thanks for all the participation especially by Cleaper and Maigi. You two have an awesome knowledge...(More)
Posted by Emicristea on May 27, 2008
The first picture impressed me. Nature can be the best artist of the world, if you know where to look.
Posted by Cleaper on May 27, 2008
Cheers Maigi...still a long way to go to catch up with your bragging rights! :)
Posted by Maigi on May 26, 2008
Hi there, in a few of my posts below I mentioned that the bridge looked like Kortesz ...
Hey, Cleaper, did you heard it?! :) You were right about Kertész!!

But, Ellen, what about Ruth Bernhard, like Cleaper suggested, and VikaValter's hand?
And maybe Tryder's Aspens have some similarity with Ansel Adams' Aspens, New Mexico?
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 26, 2008
My Bad Maigi. You were always correct Kertesz and now you have the correct title of the image that I wasn't able to locate. It's Overhead Crosswalk with Clock.
Posted by Maigi on May 26, 2008
Hi there, in a few of my posts below I mentioned that the bridge looked like Kortesz and that Vikavalters hand is Ruth Bernhard - just wondering if I was correct as a few others have since guessed the same??
Oh, I didn't notice... Then Kertész can't be right. Then it should be also Ansel Adams, who took many photos about New York bridges. Couldn't find any about Manhattan Bridge. But maybe?
Posted by Cleaper on May 26, 2008
Hi there, in a few of my posts below I mentioned that the bridge looked like Kortesz and that Vikavalters hand is Ruth Bernhard - just wondering if I was correct as a few others have since guessed the same??
Posted by Maigi on May 25, 2008
New Hint: Dbpellegrino's image of Manhattan Bridge was taken from the opposite side of the bridge ... the date of the photo is 1947.
OK, I give up... is it André Kertész' Overhead Crosswalk with Clock?

And what about Gdbrekke's Church at Rancho de Taos? Does it reminds Ansel Adams' or Paul Strand's work?
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 24, 2008
New Hint: Dbpellegrino's image of Manhattan Bridge was taken from the opposite side of the bridge by a photographer who has already been identified below as the photographer of one of the other images. This is a difficult one as I couldn't remember who took it, myself. I finally found it in a catalog of a one man show in Tokyo but since its in Japanese, I can't read the caption...the date of the photo is 1947.
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 24, 2008
New Hint: Dbpellegrino's image of Manhattan Bridge was taken from the opposite side of the bridge by a photographer who has already been identified below as the photographer of one of the other images. This is a difficult one as I couldn't remember who took it, myself. I finally found it in a catalog of a one man show in Tokyo but since i's in Japanese, I can't read the caption...the date of the photo is 1947.
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 24, 2008
Yes Maigi...Tomd's Unmade Bed reminds me Imogen Cunningham's The Unmade Bed. Just after she died, her estate authorized the printing of some of her work using instructions she left behind. The images were advertised in a magazine. I had always loved her work but couldn't afford it, so I snapped up one of the estate images. It remains one of my favorite photos.
Posted by Maigi on May 24, 2008
This American photographer should be Ruth Bernhard, who left us two years ago.
Some Nikitu's photos remind me her work... :)

And what about Dbpellegrino's Manhattan Bridge and Margaret Bourke-White's George Washington Bridge?
And Tomd's Unmade Bed and Imogen Cunningham's The Unmade Bed?
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 24, 2008
New hint. You only have until Tuesday to figure them out. Who is the smartest fine art quesser? VikaValter's image again reminds me of a photographer whose last name begins with a B. First initial R and SHE"S an American
Posted by Maigi on May 23, 2008
Maigi definitely deserves bragging rights!! :)
hehe... let's better try to guess other photos too. :)
Posted by Cleaper on May 23, 2008
Great story to have Ellen, he was an amazing photographer. Maigi definitely deserves bragging rights!! :)
Posted by Maigi on May 23, 2008
He lived a long life - 91 years... I love his Melancholy Tulip. Bocskay-tér, Budapest is also great!
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 23, 2008
Maigi wins again! Yes Simfan's image reminded me of Andre Kertesz's Washington Square Day. Interesting story. I was the third person in the world to learn of Andre Kertesz's death. A friend of mine from Japan was staying at my place in Los Angeles, when he had a call from one of his employees who had an appointment with Kertesz in New York City that morning. When he arrived, the door to the Kerstesz apartment was slightly open and so he went in. He didn't know what to do when he found the body so he called my friend and his boss on my phone in LA.
Posted by Cleaper on May 23, 2008
"The photographer whose work reminded me of Simfan's image was born in Europe and lived in New York City. He was well known for taking photos from his window"...is this Frank Horvat???
Posted by Maigi on May 23, 2008
Now for a new hint: The photographer whose work reminded me of Simfan's image was born in Europe and lived in New York City. He was well known for taking photos from his window.
Is it Reiner Leist?
EDITED: no, he's later generation...
Boy, how many people like to take photos from his windows in New York...
Is it André Kertész, isn't he?! Washington Square Day?
Posted by Cleaper on May 23, 2008
Well done Maigi again! Did I get the bridge right in the end? I don't think I got the Forgiss right but let me know if you get a chance :)
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 23, 2008
Maigi is RIGHT again. Garydyson's poppies do remind me of Karl Blossfeldt's images http://images.google.ee/images?q=Karl+Blossfeldt. Blossfeldt died in the 1930's but his work continues to fascinate.
Now for a new hint: The photographer whose work reminded me of Simfan's image was born in Europe and lived in New York City. He was well known for taking photos from his window.
Posted by Maigi on May 23, 2008
New HINT: Garydyson's poppies remind me of a German photographer whose name also begins with a B has 10 letters and ends in a t.
I like this game. :) Is it Karl Blossfeldt, who was dedicated on photographing sections of plants? His work is amazing! Karl Blossfeldt photos
Hmm, maybe he has nothing to do with Garydyson's poppies, but he is a great artist! I haven't ever seen his work before. Wow, I like it!
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 22, 2008
Tan510jomast: It may be difficult to believe but one of Ansel Adams' most famous photos was used on a Hills Brother Coffee can and he also worked for Paul Masson Wine in addition to other advertising work. And the coffee can was most certainly a 'stock' photo. Cartier-Bresson's work, being at Magnum was and still isprobably sent on on advertising requests for the right money and if releases are available. But Henri C-B was really a street photojouralist (of the highest caliber) and Karsh a portrait photographer (also of the highest caliber).
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 22, 2008
Sorinus. You are correct in that for the most part images that we think of as being more on the artistic side of the scale between the two points of purely commerical...and purely artistic, more artistic images do not do as well in a collection that is aimed at designers and others for commercial use. But those who chase dollars without clicking their shutters to get the images that speak to their creative brains run the risk of having photography turn into pure manufacturing. And they miss out on a lot of fun!
Posted by Ellenboughn on May 22, 2008
Congratulations to Maigi for identifying Kasia's beautiful Nautilus shell as a reminder of the b&w image by Edward Weston. I rather prefer Kasia's shot as the color is so beautiful. New HINT: Garydyson's poppies remind me of a German photographer whose name also begins with a B has 10 letters and ends in a t.
Posted by Kelpfish on May 22, 2008
What is the definition of art? The way I see it is that art is in the eyes of the photographer. I don't think there is a clear "YES" or "NO" as to whether an image is art or not.

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This article has been read 4481 times. 4 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Anson Tsui, Darren Pellegrino, Enrique Gomez, Sean Nel, Gary Dyson, Gregg Brekke, Kasia Biel, Louise Roach, Yury Asotov, Tomd, Terry Ryder, Victoria Alexandrova.

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