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A guide to fine art photography

Man Ray once said he never thought about art when he was in the process of making it, adding that this type of thinking was ubiquitous among the old masters. To say “I am making art” is somewhat abstract and metaphorical perhaps.

For example, a writer will say he is penning a book, a musician will explain that he is singing a song and an actor describe his performance as drama. All are literal. Meanwhile, a sculptor, a painter and the like will perhaps illustrate their activity as art, when painting, sculpting perhaps best articulates the actuality of what it is they have done.

Yet, it is illogical to think of it that way. Art is not so insular a discipline, as many people perceive it to be. It is universal and applicable to everyone. Art is anything you want it to be.

Can a photograph be art? Yes, if the artist says so, and even then, if a viewer sees an image, reacts to it, thinks it to be “a work of art”, then, through criticism, that picture has grown to be more than just a snapshot of a particular time.

The best way to think about it is that a lot of art is dire, but it is art all the same. Context, as Marcel Duchamp revealed with Fountain, can make a functional apparatus a work of art (to the disdain of philistines).

While photography remains outside of the mainstream of fine art, especially in a commercial sense, it is a vibrant little industry in itself, especially for those who prefer the medium in an artistic sense.

Of course, artists in this field are all decidedly modern, postmodern and contemporary, as photography properly emerged in the twentieth century. As such, there is a certain freshness in the way they captured – and still are – the “spirit of their times”, as Ray once described the vocation.

Four names to names to look out for

Michael Kenna

The English black-and-white landscape photographer laces his images with such intensity that the unembellished pictures experience a sublime metamorphism. As a reader you cannot help but delve deep into another world of thought and feeling.

Thierry Le Goues

A fashion photographer, Thierry Le Goues’ rich pictures are provocative, lavish and in line with so much of the pop-art philosophy that he can potentially be seen as his medium’s equivalent to those seminal individuals which made consumerism high brow.

Oleg Dou

If you quickly walked by a portrait of one of Oleg Dou’s subjects, you may think nothing is amiss – just another porcelain doll juxtaposed against light backgrounds. But stop in front of a print and you will be transported to a surreal world of alien-like humans struggling to break free of their ironically-fragile masks.

Martin Stranka

A young artist, Martin Stranka’s efforts belie his age and already he is being posited as one to look out for over the next few years. His brooding, atmospheric photographs evoke a hyperrealist sensibility that touches upon the idea that if we dream hard enough, fantasy can become reality.

Things to take into consideration with photographs

The advantage of photographs from a purely practical point of view is that they tend to be more robust objects, in comparison to a work of art on a canvas. That’s not to say they are not perishable, nor immune to ageing or damage.

As such, the principles of fine art logistics apply when it comes to handling, transporting, storing and looking after seminal works of photography. Think of it commercially, so to speak. The fine art print is an investment, as sizeable one at that too, and do as you would any other object of worth – treat it with respect.

One of the best tips in the business when it comes to preserving photographs is to have the image framed behind solid non-glare glass. The frame should be aesthetically pleasing, and while you can never go wrong with a black border, personal tastes will no doubt dictate your choice in this area.

What non-glare glass does is protect the photograph against ultraviolet light, which brings us onto the subject of where to place the image. Keep it out of direct sunlight, and if you’re away on business, consider storing it in a warehouse that delivers tailor-made solutions. For more ideas about this, visit this specialist.

With particularly delicate photographs, especially those that are old, the advice is to “go professional”. This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a specialist, but adopting their principles.

So, for example, when handling these prints, ensure that your hands are clean, invest in 100 per cent cotton gloves, never mark the image – i.e. date it, even on the back – and keep it away from objects near it that can damage it.

 

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November 5, 2013