I have always been very interested in photography. I have looked at far more photographs than I have paintings. Because their reality is stronger than reality itself.
— Francis Bacon
Fine-art photography is photography created in line with the vision of the photographer as artist, using photography as a medium for creative expression. The goal of fine-art photography is to express an idea, a message, or an emotion. This stands in contrast to representational photography (such as photojournalism), and commercial photography.
One photography historian claimed that "the earliest exponent of 'Fine Art' or composition photography was John Edwin Mayall, "who exhibited daguerreotypes illustrating the Lord's Prayer in 1851". Successful attempts to make fine art photography can be traced to Victorian era. In the U.S. F. Holland Day, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen were instrumental in making photography a fine art, and Stieglitz was especially notable in introducing it into museum collections.
Until the late 1970s several genres predominated, such as nudes, portraits, and natural landscapes (exemplified by Ansel Adams). Breakthrough 'star' artists in the 1970s and 80s, such as Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Farber and Cindy Sherman, still relied heavily on such genres, although seeing them with fresh eyes. Others investigated a snapshot aesthetic approach.
There is now a trend toward a careful staging and lighting of the picture, rather than hoping to "discover" it ready-made. Photographers such as Gregory Crewdson, and Jeff Wall are noted for the quality of their staged pictures. Additionally, new technological trends in digital photography have opened a new direction in full spectrum photography, where careful filtering choices across the ultraviolet, visible and infrared lead to new artistic visions.
In addition to the "digital movement" towards manipulation, filtering, or resolution changes, some fine artists deliberately seek a "naturalistic," including "natural lighting" as a value in itself. Sometimes the art work as in the case of Gerhard Richter consists of a photographic image that has been subsequently painted over with oil paints and/or contains some political or historical significance beyond the image itself. The existence of "photographically-projected painting" now blurs the line between painting and photography which traditionally was absolute.
Today, there is a thriving collectors' market for which the most sought-after art photographers will produce high quality archival prints in strictly limited editions.
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