Reblog | 1 month ago | 312,989 notes ϟ posted on Sunday February 2
the saddest feeling ever is when you finish a show because you watched all of the episodes too quickly and you just want to stay inside that world for a little bit longer, but you can’t
Oh man. The problem here is not just needing to have two different bodies of work but you need to have two different brains. The way of the fine art photographer and the way of the portrait photographer is like trying to vote for Romney and Obama. It’s like being Catholic and Jewish. They can be THAT far apart from each other.
You are a fine art photographer because that is the core of your being. That’s who you are. It defines you. Being a portrait photographer is what you do more than it is who you are. I mean… I’m a portrait photographer. It defines me. It’s what I do. But there ain’t no way I’m ever going to try to pass myself off as a fine art photographer. Fine art photographers tend to take their work far more personally than portrait photographers.
Fine art. Ugh. There’s a lot of shit in that genre of photography and it’s sort of the catch all “you aren’t allowed to critique me” bin for bad photography. I joke all the time to take a crappy photo, make it B&W, and call it fine art. I sometimes look at work in fine art galleries and just say to myself… “You’ve got to be effing kidding me.”
But… there’s amazing work in that field as well. Really great fine art stands out. I think one big difference though is the mindset of the photographer. A fine art photographer thinks a lot differently than a portrait/commercial photographer.
I listened to a panel discussion once on commercial vs. fine art and how bridges are starting to form between the two genres. Fine art photographers are starting to be sought out to shoot campaigns and commercial shooters looking for a new outlet of personal work are looking to galleries to show this work. There’s a lot lost in translation as one crosses over to the other. Fine art folks don’t trust the commercial world. The commercial world doesn’t understand the fine art world.
You state you are starting from scratch in both so I’m going to bet you will easily fail at both of them.
Can it be done? Of course. Anything can happen. You might be brilliant at both. You may have multiple personalities and each one built a brand for each genre. I don’t know. Can’t say without seeing your work.
If you want to do both. And this is a big “IF’… but if you want to do both then first and foremost be a fine art photographer…. who can be commissioned for personal portraits. Then your portraits look like your fine art. You are commissioned to make a fine art piece of a portrait. Your client base will be very narrow but the good news is you can charge accordingly for it. A session with you might be $3,000 but what that family gets is something so unique no one else can touch it.
And oh dear please…. please. For the love of all that is good and holy about photography… please don’t be the “fine art” photographer that shoots flowers, and dead leaves, and macro shots of bark, and hang them in your local coffee house. You know what I’m talking about. Photo 101 assignments passed off as “fine art”. Ain’t nothing fine art about that stuff.
"Zack. You are such a jerk. Where do you get off saying that?"
Fine. Call me a jerk. You know what I’m talking about. Canoes on a lake. A bike leaning against a red door with a little green ivy sneaking in the corner. An old mailbox on a dusty road. A model mayhem beauty queen wearing a Victorian dress and a German gas mask… in a cemetery. A coffee cup on an old book. An HDR’ed lighthouse at sunset. An HDR’ed macro shot of your cat’s eye. Don’t get me started on naked chicks on train tracks or laying on rocks.
All the trappings of photo 101 art photography that can be had for $1 at iStock. I see folks shooting these elementary subjects and defining it as “fine art”. It ain’t fine art. It’s photo-101-I’m-learning-to-use-my-camera-and-getting-all-the-clichés-out-of-my-system-so-I-can-finally-get-on-to-making-real-photos. That’s what it is. Look. We’ve all shot some or all of this stuff. The goal is to move far beyond it. Far. Far. Far beyond it.
I say all of this just hoping to cut you off at the pass if that’s what you’re thinking of shooting and calling it fine art. Don’t do it. I mean, shoot whatever makes you happy and call it whatever you want but know that you’re not really establishing a personal voice in doing so.
So what is good fine art? Shite. I’m not sure. I know I love the work of Michael Sebastian. Check out his Incidental Findings project. We have one of his prints on our wall. It’s a shot of part of a parking lot with some snow flakes. Typical bullshit fine art subject material at first glance but Michael’s work transcends all of that. There’s real depth and thought in his work. I can see how deliberate he is. I can’t put a finger on it but I love his work. He can take a photo of the most mundane suburban thing in the world and make it inspiring. Not sure how he does that but he does.
So… I’ve blabbered on just a bit too much.
Not only are you having to have two different bodies of work and two different brains you also have to have two different marketing plans, web sites, etc. Unless you can sell yourself as a fine art portrait photographer. If you google “fine art portrait photographer” you find a lot of stuff that is neither “fine” nor is it “art”. It’s mediocre crappola portrait photography branded as “fine art”.
We aren’t redefining a genre folks. We ain’t curing cancer with a camera. When your “art” is barely distinguishable from a portrait session at the mall or from what 100 other photographers in your city are doing don’t call it fine art.
Holy cow I’m on a rant. I’m going to stop.
You can’t do it unless you have super powers. Your task is to either pick one and go for it… or prove my dumb ass wrong and find a way to do both. If you are competitive like me… you’ll go for the second option. You’ll most likely not really nail either one of them though. But you can try! :)
Lastly… you ask how do you choose.
Family / seniors / babies - Easier to shoot. More competition but easier audience to make happy. Easier to make a living. You can love it and make money. Shoot this one to pay bills. Work on your fine art for the next decade or two on the side.
Fine art - Harder to shoot. Less competition and far more discerning and picky client base. Harder to make a living. You can love it and most likely not make money for some time to come. Hope to create something so unique that you could be commissioned for portraits. Fewer sessions but for more money.
I feel like professors at my school need to freaking read this. Amen 100% man.