I hate the words fine art photography and I think the main reason I hate those words is because I have no idea what they mean. The words seem so pretentious and grand, and defy any real definition.

A Snapshot vs. Fine Art

Guggenheim Museum

Some would argue that those words come from the need to differentiate snapshots and commercial photography from the kind of photography intended for museums and gallery walls. Others would say the words are meant to designate photography as some vital form of art, as if calling something art invariably makes it true.

I guess what bothers me is the infinitely wide range of photography that is declared as fine art. All that work doesn’t fit neatly into a little box and why should it? Still there seems to be some irresistible need to define it.

But why can’t a photograph stand or fall on its own? Outside of its subject matter, why does it need to be labeled at all? After all can’t a snapshot be art? Can’t a fine art photograph be completely devoid of artistic merit? Lines are crossed and blurred all the time, so why have lines at all? Giving something a name doesn’t change its inherent value except to a small minded few.

Seeing with Your Own Eyes

So why is there so little faith in the viewer to allow them to make up their own mind? Why can’t they discover and interpret what’s in front of their own eyes as they see fit? If a photograph is any good, it will stand on its own, and people will recognize that fact. And it won’t matter if that photograph is labeled as a snapshot or something else entirely.

So hang a photograph on a wall and call it a portrait or a landscape or a still life if you must, just don’t be so bold as to call it art, let alone fine art. Let the photograph stand or fall as it is and leave that for the viewer to judge. Believe me, they’ll know.