In the last couple of days we have been photographing some new paintings by artist Sam Hewitt for Dynamite Gallery, a local independent contemporary art gallery. The finished images will be used to create a limited run of prints. It's an exacting process, requiring perfect precision with lens, lighting and colour correction. It sparked some interesting discussion in the studio about the nature of art and it's relationship to photography over the years.
Photography As Art
It is generally accepted that commercial photography arrived in 1839 with the public release of instructions for the Daguerreotype process in Paris. For almost the next 100 years, despite or possibly because of it's huge popularity, photography was seen as nothing more than a process or craft at best. That's not to say there weren't photographers who viewed themselves as artists in that time, but none were afforded any recognition as such. It wasn't until the twentieth century that Alfred Stieglitz and the like pushed the boundaries enough to make the art world sit up and take note.
Art As Commerce
With this new status came a greater recognition of the worth and value of good photography. By the end of the twentieth century it was big business. Top names were earning thousands for a single day’s shoot, fine art photographers were rebranding as artists and their prints selling for astronomical sums. In 1999 Andreas Gursky’s Rhein II sold at Christie’s in New York for $4.3 million, still the most expensive photograph ever sold.
Commerce As Populism
Through the 70s, 80s and 90s retailer Athena made a fortune selling their more populist range of artistic photography to the world. Images such as Tennis Girl by Martin Elliott and L’Enfant by Spencer Rowell were sold in their millions. Classic art also became familiar daily viewing for the masses as posters of works by modern masters like Van Gogh, Klimt and Monet flooded onto the market. Fine art and photography had become affordable to the masses, no longer just the purview of a privileged few in society. However such mass-produced availability and affordability has had an effect on the value of creativity in our society and as technology developed in the new millennium photography experienced a new evolution.
Populism As Photography
Nowadays, with the advent of the digital image, smart phones and social media, everyone has a camera and space to exhibit immediately. Does that make everyone a photographer? There's an argument to be made on both sides perhaps. Plenty of awards for mobile photography have sprung up recently, but as a well known anonymous quote goes: "Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner."
Commercial photographers are often asked why anyone should pay for photography when it's so easy to do it yourself nowadays. Shooting artwork illustrates exactly why. You need expertise and diligence to create the very best image of a subject every time, set up the lighting correctly and adjust the image in post-production to ensure as accurate a likeness of the origin as possible. Images sell products, more so than ever before, and the very best images are going to sell the most as long as they are an accurate represantation.
Below is a selection of the fantastic artwork we've had the pleasure of shooting recently for international street artist SNUB23, multi award-winning illustrator Kevin Hauff and Brighton-based contemporary artist Sam Hewitt.
We'll leave the discussion about prints vs. original artwork for another time.
Greg & Justin