Fine art photography has become a commodity

Photography is a commodity. It lost its rarity value. It lost depth of thought. There was a time when a printed portrait of your family was placed at the center of a room. It was unique, expensive and something to admire. photography was something that was too complicated to comprehend technically and left to experts in chemistry to create. Images were not only appreciated for their beauty but also for their complexity. So it was scarce and difficult to make.  Few people could master the art and had someone marketing their work. I think more people knew fine art photographers then than anybody now.

photography commodity fine art

Photograph of my great grandfather. In his time this image was precious. They were cherished and framed. Placed in a special place in their home. We consider these images contrived these days.

I’m not musing like an old fart about the past. Times have changed and things are better. The first thing I did when digicams came out is to sell my old gear. Obviously I bought the wrong gear for my purpose at the time. But at least I rectified that situation with my latest purchase.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good thing. Photography has now become part of entertainment. Put it differently, it has entertainment value. It’s become a hobby for more people. For those that want to make a living out of it, it has become more difficult. Take a wedding for instance. On average people at the wedding get more enjoyment from Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr and Whatsapp than from those taken by the professional photographers.  People share their experience and it is viewed instantaneously.  In most cases, forgotten in the cloud. The moment it is shared, it’s old news. The fine art prints are displayed on walls for shoulders to look at.

For instance, I’m on Instagram and Twitter and follow a couple of people. The sheer volume of images that pass through your screen is incredible. There is so much, you hardly have time to pause and ‘study’ an image. Humans have a natural tendency to seek better or hop to the next amazing shot. We stop admiring the depth of an image but rather feed our serotonin hungry entertainment brains with better images. This is all fed even more by the cunning advertisers of equipment promising we can do the same. But we find ourselves sitting flicking our fingers more often over small screens and procrastinate our own creative photographic adventures.

The inverse is also true, I’m being judgmental. What we thought of as fine art was and is easily attainable. According to Wikipedia, fine art photography is Fine art photography is defined as:

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. – Wikipedia

I am not talking about Photo Journalism or Commercial photography. I am talking, or rather musing over the art of photography as an expression of your creativity. So in that definition, anyone having a vision and expresses it in a photo is a fine artist. As long as it is not a snapshot you may say. I don’t agree. Look at Richard Koci Hernandez on Instagram. As far as I know all his images are taken with a smartphone. In a sense, they are snapshots because there is little time to think and plan. If you watch his videos you will understand that he has incredible vision for each image. His unique style is amazing.

Does sheer volume of fine art images make it a commodity. Eventually it will. So far fine art distinguished itself by being in the minority. The driving force behind any fine artwork is vision and will always stay that way. Easy accessible knowledge does not mean vision is part of the process. It also does not mean quality will deteriorate. There will always be the top 1% of artists that are different and have better skills in presenting their vision in an art form.  This is a very good excuse of arguing against the volume theory I have. In what class would you place Koci then. If he is in a class of his own, he will never be a commodity. As an artist, that is the ideal place to be. That is the place you want to be. Unique. Not a commodity.

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