Artistic photography pertains to photographs that are made in accordance to a creative vision. They are meant to display a feeling, state or message instead of calling attention to a recent event or a product like popular counterparts do. This style of photography is all about presenting ordinary objects in extraordinary ways and pointing out different perspectives on a reality. What makes it very engaging is the fact that it can be perceived uniquely by different people, like they would paintings and music, and make them question what the subject is or what the undertones are.
Historical records would show that the earliest expression of “fine art” photography dates back in 1851 with John Edwin Mayall’s daguerreotypes illustrating the Lord’s Prayer. In the Victorian era, the craft was further explored by photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. In the U.S., this style of photography was advocated by the likes of Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz, making their way into museum and gallery displays around the country.
By the 1970s, several artistic photography genres began to emerge, namely portraits, natural landscapes and nudes. It was during this time that artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Sally Mann made their mark, paying homage to femininity and the human body. Today, majority of the fine-art photography that can be found as stock photos are staged with careful lighting and setting. Instead of taking organic shots, photographers today who are into this type of media expression provoke the circumstance and even alter their takes with digital technology to make it fuller, stronger and more expressive. In terms of popularity, artistic photos are now becoming more widely accepted and applied outside of museums and galleries – either as decorative pieces or keepsakes. They are even sold in the U.S. as much as paintings, both in auctions rooms and online, with a gradual increase in prices every year. Some of the more notable art photographers of the 21st century are Carleton Watkins, Albert Sands and Timothy O’Sullivan.
One remarkable evolution in fine art photography is the fact that it has transcended from a conservative, classic approach to one that embraces commercialism and journalism. More than just expressing an emotion, art photography now aspires to tell a story and beckon viewers to believe or act on something, rather than just appreciate. If you look around the internet, majority of the art stock photos now have glamour, commercial, travel, action, documentary and journalistic element to them. It is this overlapping of genres that has made current photography styles more appealing and inspiring – so much so that hundreds of people have taken the liberty to attend short courses and buy expensive equipment to try things out themselves.
Currently, universities are also offering artistic photography as a part of their fine arts curriculum and even as a stand-alone program, having established its relevance in modern culture and society. And with this, the employment opportunities have also risen, due to the versatility this expression has displayed over the years.