Re-visiting stock versus fine art photography (does noise matter)?

I mentioned briefly in a post last week about a discussion that took place in the forums section of a prominent stock agency.  The question was raised (by me) about whether fine art photography can co-exist and sell as “stock” when the agency itself is marketed as a stock site rather than as fine art photography.  The question never had a clear resolution, but some common ideas did seem to bubble to the surface.

First, there is the idea that if a photo does not meet certain criteria in terms of noise, sharpness, chromatic aberations, etc, then it does not qualify as a “stock” photo.  The question of whether it qualifies as art really doesn’t matter in this context, because it would never get in the front door.

The other idea that emerged seems to suggest that the term “fine art” and even “art” is very subjective, and usually a function of the beliefs of either the artist and/or the viewer.  This portion of the discussion is what never was resolved., and likely never will be, since there are obviously so many dynamics of defining “art”.   The question then turned to one of excusing photographic imperfections such as noise, grain, sharpness and such under the guise of believing something is fine art.  After the fact, the shooter can always say “Yeah, I wanted it that way…it’s there by intent.”  While we can never second-guess the intent, it still leaves me wondering, do things like grain, noise and such have a place in a fine art community?

From the discussion, I found out about a site called Red Bubble.  It was intriguing enough that I decided to join and share a few of my images as a “test” of sorts.  All seem to have been received fairly well as I’ve heard cordial and pleasant remarks about them.  In perusing some of the other work on this site, it seems equally clear that the better quality images do tend to get more visibility, and are likely viewed, commented on, and as a consequence, sold more often.  There were very few images I found that had visible grain, noise or other clearly intentional imperfections.  So, while the “stock versus fine art” question may have been at least partially addressed, the lingering question of noise still lingers.  What do you think?  Please share your thoughts in the comments, as I’d be very interested in feedback on this subject.

So, that’s the “Thursday Thoughts” for this week.  Feel free to visit Red Bubble and enjoy the imagery that artists are offering there.  A link to the few shots I shared is also available on the side panel for Canon Blogger.  Happy shooting and watch your apertures!

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