Fine Art Photography

At our next meeting on May 2, Don Mendenhall will explore some of the understandings and meanings of fine art photography and how those apply to each individual photographer.   A self-taught award-winning photographer from the age of twelve, Don has used his photography in a teaching and consulting career. Presently he is involved in art shows throughout Wisconsin including the St. Croix Art Festival. He also coaches photography and is currently teaching two masterwork salons in the Madison, Wisconsin area. His photographic style is fine art contemplative. He has a unique way of seeing and feeling the uniqueness or essence of the subject matter.

The number of definitions of fine art photography may be the same number as there are photographers in the room. Fine art more than anything else is unique to the individual artist. In the case of fine art photography, it not the reality the camera sees it is the vision of the photographer that may well go beyond reality. Fine art photography is the vision, feeling, or concept the photographer wants to communicate.

The image below on the left is what was seen, and the camera recorded. The image on the right images the feeling or expression to be communicated. The play of light and the instruments of development (post-processing) were used to make this final image.

In photography there are at least five approaches to making an image:

  • Informational – I was there, and this is what the camera saw.
  • Documentary – I was there, and this is what I saw.
  • Pictorial – I was there, and this how I felt.
  • Equivalent – I was there, and this is a representation of what I saw and felt.
  • Fine Art – This is an interpretation of what I saw and felt through the play of light. (one individual definition)

As one approaches the camera work it is important to name one of these (or perhaps another) approaches before you begin. The fine art photography approach is one way to of communicating. You might even call it a second language. By naming an approach like fine art, you may be more likely to maintain a consistency throughout your total photographic workflow from visioning to presentation.

In preparation, Don has asked us to give some thought to these questions:

  • Do you know of a current or past photographer that exemplifies fine art photography for you?
  • Do you try to see yourself as a fine art photographer?
  • What definition do you use to define fine art photography?
  • Would you use the same definition for fine art photography as you would for other art forms? (ie. paintings/sculpture)

You can see more of his work at



This entry was posted in Club Meeting Info, Creative/Artistic, Educational.

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