What Constitutes Original Art? / Artist Discrimination

The Vulgar Photographer
Chase Jarvis wrote a very informative blog post in December of 2012 entitled “the Vulgar Photographer – Trespasser on the Sacred Ground of Fine Art”.  Read the article and you’ll get my point when it comes to what people consider fine art.  I consider my photographs from the JCFA collection fine art.  There are those backwards minded art critics, artists and general uninformed people that do not classify photography as a medium for fine art.   This has been a point of debate since the very first photograph and will continue to be a debate long after I’m dead.  I’m not here to discuss this topic.

What is Original Art?
What this blog post is about is the term original art.  For the sake of keeping things civil I will leave out any specific names, websites or organizations in this post.  Today I discovered a wonderful fundraising initiative.  My province of Alberta had been hit with the worst flooding in history and to help raise funds there is a call out to “all” Calgary and area working “visual” artists.

The references to “all” and “visual” artists includes photographers and photographic works right?  Wrong….   But wait, there’s more.  The word “original” pops up throughout the site.  Why?  Well because it has been decided to exclude all photographic prints from this wonderful cause.  Yes, some people may think I’m making a big deal out of nothing.  But that’s OK.

Artist Discrimination
Upon bringing all this to their attention I was sent a reply to review the Q&A section of the website.  I already read it prior but I will fill you in just to show you what I mean…

Q I’m a professional photographer, can I submit a photograph?
A This is a tricky one. I’m a photographer too (website URL removed), and some photography can absolutely be classified as fine art. I’m just not sure how we’d separate the Fine Art Photographers from the I-have-a-camera-so-I’m-a-photographer! photographers. Let’s say this… if you can incorporate your photo into a more “traditional” art medium (such as an acrylic image transfer, or a photo-encaustic), that would likely be accepted as an art piece for this project. Otherwise, as a rule, photos won’t be included in the finished art collection pieces. Sorry!”

Is it really that difficult to determine who is a fine art photographer and who is someone that “has a camera”?  I don’t see painters going out and saying they can’t tell between a fine art painter and someone that just owns paintbrushes.  And the term original… I consider whatever I sign original art.  If it’s a photographic print that has 100 editions… each edition is original and unique because it’s numbered and each one has my original signature.  If a painter creates a painting from a photograph is that considered original?  An original because there is only one of it, sure.  But not an original inspiration in my opinion.

Photographers Fight Back
If you’re a photographer and have had the same struggles I have I say, “fight back.”  I don’t condone physical violence or bullying but I do suggest you stand up for your rights as a fine artist that produces original work.  Voice your opinion.

Just Because
I recently showed my work at the Western Showcase at the Calgary Stampede.  During one of my artist talks an older lady came up to me and started chatting with me.  I asked if she was exhibiting as well (since she acted like she knew what she was talking about).  She said, “no, but if I was exhibiting I would be over by the artists,” as she pointed to where the painters were exhibiting.  I’ll let you use your imagination as to what I said to her next… :)

Antelope Waves - Jeff Cruz

Antelope Waves – Jeff Cruz (so if someone paints this photograph does that make it original?)


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One Response to “What Constitutes Original Art? / Artist Discrimination”

  1. […]  Being a photographer that does both commercial and fine art I am fighting an uphill battle to get photography recognized as an original art form.  I won’t get into that here, you’ll just have to read the post if you want to know […]

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