So, what are some true fine art photography Web sites where you may look, appreciate, and perhaps purchase pieces without fear of having them eventually fade?
And what different types of photography are there? Where might you browse and feel comfortable in the knowledge that the photographer is, in fact, a fine art photographer?
An absolutely wonderful Web site that’s chock full of information—not to mention some of the best photographs ever produced—is Art-Support (http://art-support.com). There’s a lot of information here for a novitiate or even a dyed-in-the-wool photography nut such as myself, so I’ll list just a few of the photographers and/or gallery sites. (Individual Web sites will be listed for each photographer even though you can get to their sites through these links.)
Areas of fine art photography include but are not limited to landscape, seascape, nude, and abstract. Further subcategories would include black-and-white photography, hand-colored (painted on) black and white, and a myriad of chemical processes such as cyanotype, platinum prints, and palladium prints. For the most part, I’ll treat this as a primer article, concentrating on black and white, color, and a few alternative processes as mentioned above.
Photography has been around since the mid-1800s. Mathew Brady’s documentation of the Civil War made him one of the first well-known American photographers. Brady had a portrait studio in New York in 1844 and another in Washington, D.C., in 1856. His portrait clients included 18 U.S. presidents. Go to http://www.multimedialibrary.com/FramesML/ml.html to see Brady’s work.
There are many links to the masters to choose from on this site. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, bypassing the articles and resources for artists, to get access to “Ansel Adams,” “Edward Weston,” and “Other Masters of Photography.”
It was Adams (http://anseladams.com) who taught us what a black-and-white print should look like. You’ll see his Moonrise over Hernandez, which generally fetches around $40,000 for an 8 x 10-inch original print. Other original photographic prints by Adams can range in price, depending on the image and size, from $15,000 to much higher. There are matted inkjet reproductions (8 x 10-inch and larger) also available beginning at $20, with a framing option beginning at $75. Two things that separated Adams from his contemporaries were his use of long (telephoto) lenses and his developing and printing techniques. He was simply the best.
You can also check out Edward Weston (http://www.westongallery.com): The link to his Web site resides next to Adams’. Known primarily for his work in the Southwest, particularly Dune and other works in the desert, most of his photography that is currently available has been printed by his sons, Brett and Cole Weston. An 8 x 10-inch original photograph by Weston without matting or framing generally begins at $9,000 and goes up in price from there, depending on the image. While true photographic prints are out of the affordable price range of most of us, extremely high quality and affordable poster prints are available from both of these photographers along with several softcover or hardcover books.
Current photographic artists whose works are also linked to this repository include Michael Kenna, Gary Auerbach, Christopher Burkett, and Freeman Patterson.
Michael Kenna (http://www.michaelkenna.net) works exclusively in black-and-white film, the choice of medium for Adams, Weston, and others. Much of Kenna’s landscape/seascape work is minimalist, clean, and simple in style while wonderfully printed. He does an outstanding job with architectural photography as well. Kenna does not limit himself to photography of the Southwest or, for that matter, the United States. His love of photography has led him to Russia, France, England (where he was born), Spain, Easter Island, and the Orient, among other places. These photographs, however, are not your typical travel or vacation snapshots. When viewing these photographs, you’re seeing through the eyes of a talented and well-established photographic artist.
A gifted photographer and writer with a philosophical bent who is also linked to this site is Freeman Patterson (http://www.freemanpatterson.com). While the previously mentioned photographers worked in primarily black and white, Patterson works in color. Much of his work is abstract; on first glance, you might think it has been digitally enhanced. In fact, Patterson works almost exclusively with color negative or positive (slide) film. Through the combination of intentional camera movement and multiple exposures on the same frame of 35mm film, Patterson creates abstract and impressionistic images of nature, not unlike some of the paintings of Monet. In Patterson’s most recent book, Odysseys, the surrealistic images of sand-filled houses of an abandoned diamond mining town located in a desert in South Africa gives pause to whether the Patterson has “gone digital.” Rest assured, photography traditionalists—he has not.
Christopher Burkett has photographic works of art on this fine site, and his personal Web site (http://www.christopherburkett.com) is also linked at Art-Support. Burkett’s work habits are a bit unusual in that he chooses to shoot with both a medium-format camera, resulting in a 2.25 x 2.25-inch frame, as well as a large format camera, resulting in an 8 x 10-inch frame. His shooting style is unusual because most photographers utilize one format.
On this site, you’ll see Burkett’s love of nature exemplified by his portrayal of landscapes and seascapes. His photographic travels have taken Burkett to many of the Western and Midwestern states of America. Currently shooting almost exclusively with an 8 x 10-inch view camera loaded with slide film, Burkett avoids digital printing, preferring the traditional color darkroom to produce an Ilfochrome print or a print directly from a slide.
Burkett’s photos begin at $750 and rise in price to $10,000, with most in the area of $2,000 to $3,000. These prices reflect the cost of the print only.
Gary Auerbach (http://www.garyauerbach.com), like Burkett, also chooses to work with a large camera, though the two photographers differ in their choice of size, medium, and subject matter. While Burkett uses 8 x 10-inch slide film (or transparencies, as large format slides are also called) and focuses his lens on nature, Auerbach utilizes an 8 x 10-inch camera as well as an 11 x 14-inch camera to photograph people and buildings. Think about that: 11 x 14 inches is the size of the negative. Imagine the size of the camera. That is also the size of the finished print, as no enlarger is used with the platinum printing process.
Following the link to Auerbach’s site, you’ll see some celebrity portraiture and Native American portraits as well. The celebrity portraits are diverse, ranging from Arnold Schwarzenegger (the actor and current governor of California) to blues man Taj Mahal to news anchor Walter Cronkite. If portraits of celebrities aren’t your idea of fine art, perhaps images of current day Native Americans will touch you.
One of the more striking images in this section is Eddie in His Cornfield. It seems strange to see corn growing almost 6 feet tall next to canyon walls. Auerbach also utilizes the Polaroid transfer process, placing the emulsion part of a color Polaroid on watercolor paper. This is an alternative process one may experiment with very inexpensively and yet achieve satisfactory, artistic results.
Due in part to the process used, Auerbach’s platinum photographs become special. Platinum printing is one of the oldest photographic processes and dates back to the 1850s. A piece of paper is chemically treated by hand to allow a photograph to be made on it. Platinum printing and its photographic sibling, palladium printing, are known to last from 500 to 1000 years because of the chemicals and paper used.
Auerbach’s original images are the most affordable of the photographers mentioned in this article; they range in price from $500 to $800.
The Test of Time
In the end, fine art photography is about the artistic creation of lasting images and lasting memories. And what has been proven to last are Ilfochrome/Cibachrome color prints as well as black and white, gelatin silver-based prints. Add to this mix the so-called alternative processes of platinum, palladium, carbro, and cyanotypes of days gone by and there is, in fact, truth in photography. All the photographers mentioned in this article use one or more of these processes.
When looking at or purchasing a print made by these processes, one need not ask, “How long will it last?” or “What printer did you use?” To borrow a phrase, “We hold these (photographic) truths to be self-evident.”
Ken Rubino is a freelance writer, photographer, and curator. He has hung group art exhibitions on the East End of Long Island for 17 years.