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A Brief History of Fine Art Photography

Art has always been difficult to define, on account of the fact that it is more about evoking a feeling than it is about meeting any fixed set of criteria. Some crafts, like painting and sculpture have long been considered appropriate avenues for artistic expression. However, artists exploring new mediums have historically faced challenges being recognized as legitimate.

Over the last two centuries, fine art photographers have been working hard to carve themselves a niche in the wide world of visual arts.

Following its invention in the early 19th century, photography was generally considered to be a craft completely devoid of creativity. It was a means of capturing and recording reality, nothing more. Influential art critics like the poet, Charles Baudelair, scoffed at the notion that photography could be anything more than trivial and tedious.

Despite the derision of cultural gatekeepers, many enterprising creative-types continued to gravitate towards photography as a medium, experimenting with the new technology and pushing the boundaries of the concept of art.

Throughout the mid and late 19th century, these early fine art photographers found each other, and formed photography societies, launched publications, and held exhibitions to share and showcase their work.

It was during the 20th century that photography really gained its footing in the art world. This was thanks in no small part to Alfred Stieglitz, an influential photographer, art gallery manager, and promoter who happened to be married to the mother of American modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe.

Stieglitz spent much of his career championing fine art photography, and working to elevate it to the level of more traditional forms of visual art. From 1896 until his death in 1946, Stieglitz worked with his contemporaries to establish galleries and curate exhibitions dedicated to the art of photography.

By the mid 20th century, fine art photographers had more or less secured their place in the art world. Photographers like Dorthea Lange and Ansel Adams had gained recognition and respect for their contributions to the visual arts, and portrait artists like Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz were bursting onto the scene to further redefine the boundaries of fine art.

Now, you would be hard pressed to find someone willing to argue against the inclusion of photography in the field of visual arts. Photography collections reside in many of the world’s most esteemed art museums, and fine art photographers enjoy the appreciation of art enthusiasts and critics alike.

If you are interested in fine art photography, consider checking out fine art photographer Michael Grecco’s work. You just may find a new favorite piece to add to your collection.