Agora Gallery Celebrates the Success of Fine Art Photography. Agora Gallery reviews hundreds of portfolios every year, and it is notable that in our time, photographers have no hesitation about classing their work as fine art, just like artists who work in oils or watercolors or sculpture. In fact, Agora Gallery devotes two exhibitions a year exclusively to fine art photography. The shows are entitled ‘Altered States of Reality,’ a testament to the power of photography to enable the viewer to see the world differently through the image, and then afterwards in daily life. Exhibitions of photography, or the work of famous photographers, are held in the world’s most prestigious art museums.
In the Chelsea International Fine Art Competition, which is an annual contest sponsored by Agora Gallery, photographers enter their work as a matter of course. When the juror has made their selection, we get a sneak preview, and when the staff at Agora Gallery reviews the results it’s very rare for there to be a year when photographers are not among the selected artists. In fact, the results of the 2011 competition are in, and more than a quarter of the selected entries were photography. More than 25%! It’s a wonderful example of the power and popularity of fine art photography.
All this makes it hard to remember that it was not always this way, but in fact the acceptance of photography as fine art is a relatively new phenomenon. When photography was first developed, it was an immensely exciting sign of the progress of the times, in an age that was in many ways remarkable for its leaps in invention. Yet despite the interest which photography evoked, even very early in its history, it was thought of not as an art form – not as something beautiful in itself — but rather something functional, and valuable in that sense.
It was an ideal way to record a moment or an event, and it quickly became popular to employ photography in personal and public life for that purpose. New immigrants to America used some of their hard earned dollars to have a photo taken of themselves to send to the family they had left behind, workers gathered for a group photograph at the beginning or end of an important project, and families united three generations at a time in a single image, to be preserved for posterity. Yet no one considered these pictures to be ‘art’ and even when this began to change, for many decades photography struggled to find acceptance as fine art. It is worth taking a step back from time to time, to remember this — if only to appreciate, on another level, how far photography has come, and how much we have to celebrate.