What is "Fine Art Photography?" It's a good question, and one that often doesn't receive a solid answer.
In my view, fine art photography stands in direct opposition to purely representational photography or photojournalism. The purpose of a fine art photograph is not to directly represent a scene as a random person walking by would have seen it at that specific place and time. Rather, the job of a fine art photograph is to convey the internal creative vision and emotion of the artist to the viewer through the photograph. Because of this differing purpose, fine art photograph may (and indeed should) take many liberties that a representational photograph simply cannot. For instance, a fine art photograph will often use carefully altered colors, contrast, or focus to bring to attention the elements of a composition that the artist feels are most emotionally significant or impactful. If an element stood out to the artist, that same element should stand out to the viewer, even if this means that the element must be emphasized by some creative means. This is by no means to be viewed as "cheating," because without these tools of expression, the photograph would fall on his face and utterly fail to be a form of artistic expression at all! Rather, it would be relegated to a meaningless robotic representation by a machine of a scene - an image that could have been made with no human intervention at all. Many photographers do nothing to help this perception of photography, as they themselves serve merely as technical operators of machinery, rather than as artists. This is often heavily (if inadvertently) encouraged in online photography communities, where things like technical image quality, megapixels, camera specification sheets, and lens MTF charts are endlessly discussed, all the while leaving things like emotional purpose, genuine connection with the subject, or artistic vision undiscussed, underemphasized, or entirely ignored.
It is my feeling that this overemphasis on the purely technical is a dumbing down of photography and the reduction (or holding back) of photography from a medium of higher artistic expression to nothing more than a basic mechanical skill that can be taught in a classroom. It is no wonder then, that the average person has lost much of their respect for photography as a medium for serious artistic expression. In an age where everyone has a camera in their pocket (in the form of an iPhone), any fine art photographer must consistently create works which stand appreciably above and apart from the masses of half hazard snapshots and cheesy "filtered" rubbish out there on the internet. They must aspire to and ultimately attain a much higher standard of aesthetic quality and photographic craftsmanship than the masses, and then must sustain that quality and aggressively improve it over time to remain relevant. Indeed, the level of skill and talent required to be a successful artistic photographer in today's world is not only higher than it was in the past, but is constantly increasing. Furthermore, images created to be fine art must not only be well-conceived and well-crafted, but they must also reach beyond mere pixels or ink and into the soul. They must touch the viewer emotionally in a powerful way that other photographs fail to. For the purpose of a fine art photograph is not merely to be beautiful, but rather to invoke deeper thoughts, and meaningful, lasting changes in the viewer. You should leave viewing a fine art photograph a slightly better person than you were before.
The scientific community has even done studies that have proven that when a person simply looks at a photograph of a natural scene for a few seconds, it consistently produces a measurable decrease in stress hormones and neural responses in the brain associated with stress. We were designed to be surrounded by the natural world we were created to inhabit, not to squander away our lives buried alive in dark, man-made boxes devoid of virtually all of the positive and meaningful elements of the natural world. There is a reason we respond so well to smell of a spruce forest, the sound of waves crashing on the sea shore, the smell of rain, the sight of a majestic waterfall, or the sound of a precious little songbird. They were intended to be the backdrops for our entire lives.
I view the entire purpose of my photography to be the creation of fine art that expresses the deep emotional connection I feel with natural landscapes – masterpieces deliberately designed by our Creator. The purpose of my art is to give the glory and honor back to the One who designed this incredible universe, and not to some camera manufacturer, short-lived human being or series of ancient random cosmic accidents. The most powerful expression of art and design can only be found in the intricate, delicate beauty of creation, in its inherent order and balance, in the golden ratio, in the rule of thirds, in the rules of visual harmony and color harmony. Any living cell or microorganism is exponentially more complex and beautiful in its amazingly intricate design than even the most immaculately designed luxury sports car or modern skyscraper. Creation is just crying out to be appreciated for what it truly is - the most beautiful masterpiece ever conceived of. There is profound order to be found in this profound chaos that surrounds us. It's my job to point it out and show it to others. If I can get one person to just realize the order and beauty of creation and to look up in immense gratitude and inner peace instead of around with greed, fear or discontentment, I will have succeeded in my lifetime of artistic creation.
While I do not expect to convince any viewer, reader, other photographer or artist to adapt my specific views in any area by simply writing them here, and certainly do not intend to force them on anyone else, it is my hope that perhaps I can provoke just a little thought in you about the natural world around us and its true reasons for existence. If you leave with just a bit more appreciation for the natural world than you arrived with, then I have done well. We live in a truly magnificent universe.
Last but far from least, how could I talk about all this magnificent creation without introducing its Creator to you as I know him? Jesus Christ is everything to me and has formed and transformed my life. I owe everything I am, have, and ever will be to him and am infinitely grateful. Due to the overwhelmingly positive impact the gospel has had in every area of my own life, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least share Him with you. Here are just a few verses from scripture that tell a simple but infinitely beautiful and transformative story: