Guest Blog: What is “Art” and where do you fit in as a photographer?

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I’m proud to announce the first in what I hope to be many guest blogs on my site – people who know more about certain topics than me.

A debate that is often seen on photography forums, is the one of “what is art”. While I claim to have the heart of an artist, I do not claim to have the skill sets of one. In my entire career, I’ve taken maybe half a dozen pics that I’d call “art”.

It is very common for people to go for the lowest-common-denominator argument that “everything is art”, and that any form of honest self expression is by definition art. I do not buy that. I am of the opinion that when we start to call every-day clichéd crap “art”, we diminish that which truly is art. Art is not everything, it is very discriminatory and select. But to put a more nuanced approach on this, I’ve asked artist and art therapist Sonja Wentzel to answer me this question: What is art? This was her response.


What is “Art” and where do you fit in as a photographer?

When we talk about “Art” we refer to all the mediums that are viewed as Fine-Art whereby photography is one of the mediums of choice. The moment you choose a medium you are an artist!

According to Tom Jacobs, the confusing part in the world of photography is the following jargon, that’s divided by a fine line between each topic:

Fine-art Photography:

Established Photographic Artists are referred to as being “Fine-Art Photography”. In general this is not wrong, as “Fine-art” is “Fine-art” but in reality the artist who is advanced in his profession and established by name is called a Photographic Artist.

Photographic Artist/photographer:

Photographic Artists who are defined by their full time professions, formal representation by their advanced work that is collectible and is recognised in the main stream by their years of experience and status.

In some cases highly acclaimed Photographic Artists take on commercial projects and in other cases some Photographic Artists never undertook a commercial assignment in their entire life.

Commercial Photography/photographers:

Photographers who provide a need that a client requires, such as: Advertising, editorial, promotions, weddings etc. Commercial photographers will also have their own portfolios whereby they call it “Fine-Art” and sometimes they will sell it as standalone artworks. This does not make it Photographic Art. Fine-Art portfolios are generally more in the decorative arts category and it’s selling prices are well below established Photographic Artists.

Commercial Photographers who produces Fine-Art photography seem to be under the impression that it classifies them as Photographic Artists, which is rarely the case. 

In some cases certain Commercial Photographers’ work is very popular that has given them the status as a Photographic Artist. Keep in mind the degree of how advance their work has become and how they became established by name, with years of experience and hard work.

Full-time Professional Artists:

Full time professional artist’s work is represented in formal settings such as in art galleries, at dealers or by an agent. Those artists whose art is a secondary profession do not have formal representation market and sell their work directly to their clients. This could be called decorative art or sometimes craft works and kitsch.

Main-stream art galleries selling decorative art, will not sell collectible art. The same can be said of galleries that sells collectible art who will not sell decorative art, however both have their place in the market. Collectible art work is defined by serious art collectors who are both national and international investors and is affiliated with auction sales.

Lastly – These sections of Photography by titles do not judge and determine who is the best, but rather differentiate between an area that could be very confusing for photographers and non-photographers alike.

By: Sonja Wentzel (Sonja’s Fine Art)

Image Credits:
Photography: Gerry
Makeup:The Makeup Masters Academy
Model: Niki de Buin

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On Thursday January 28 2016
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