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​Fine Art Photography v Creative Photography

I am a firm believer that everyone is creative, and that we all have moments of creativity.  For some it is essential part of their job - the fashion designer, the interior designer, careers that blend perfectly with a passion for creativity and training.  But there are others, who believe categorically that they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies “I’m not creative, I can’t paint.” These people lean towards the analytical but at the extreme end, most scientists, engineers, are acutely aware of their creativity because this is how they solve problems.  Often these solutions, these creations, come out of the ether, between synapses of thought. This is the creative process and it is wonderful.

So, what is fine art photography? And how does it differ from creative photography?  Are the two terms interchangeable? Can you be one without the other?  This question niggled me as I googled ‘fine art photography’ looking for inspiration and ideas for compositing my images.  During my search I was both amazed by the skill of other compositors and at the same time confused by them because although their images were beautifully executed I felt no compulsion to hang any of them on my wall.  They were clever, creative, and beautiful but I couldn’t define what made them fine art.

Having found no definitive answer in the photographic environment, I turned to painters. I found most historic old paintings, old masters were defined as fine art.  But, it seemed to me that the term was loosely applied here as well.

Then by mere chance I came across a French photographer, compositor called Gilbert Garcin.  He was a self-taught photographer and took up compositing after retiring from running his own manufacturing company.  He photographed himself and at times his wife then physically cut out their own images, placed them in scenes and photographed again. All are black and white, overly simplistic and very often humorous.  But they all have a clear message, a story, or a dominant unmistakable meaning. This was what I was looking for.

In closing I have concluded that you can call a fine art image creative, but you can’t call a creative image fine art. A fine art image, has a definite meaning, feeling or idea that the artist wanted to demonstrate.  I am not talking of just compositing here, if you took the time to ask yourself before pressing the shutter, what am I feeling, what is the scene before me telling me, and am I capturing it, then you are indeed making fine art.


RIP Gilbert Garcin died 17th April 2020. ​​

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