What is an artwork?
On ArtPhotoLimited, all the photographs available online are artworks selected by our team.
Several definitions exist for an artwork in the field of photography, each with a different prism. On ArtPhotoLimited, we consider that all these definitions are mutually reinforcing and we only select the photographs which fulfill all these definitions :
In the French legal system, there is a very precise legal definition regarding photography. As strange as it may seem, this definition is an extract from the tax code, probably because the taxation applied to artworks is specific.
More precisely, it is the article 98A of Annex III of the Tax Code :
« Are considered as artworks the photographs taken by the artist, printed by him/herself or under his/her control, signed and numbered in maximum thirty copies, including all sizes and mountings »
What you need to know
And on ArtPhotoLimited?
Since its invention in the 1830's, photography has been approaching different themes : portrait, landscapes, documentary, reportage…
Hence it would be useless to define the originality of a photograph through specific themes such as portrait or landscape. In fact, on what grounds a documentary or news photograph could not be considered as an artwork?
In this regard, it is interesting to observe that such questions were never raised for painting or sculpture, as if the simple fact of using an « artistic » medium (the painting for instance) could automatically give to the production the status of artwork.
Henceforth, which criteria should be used to define if a photograph is an artwork or not? Rather than using aesthetical criteria, the originality of the photograph seems to be the most relevant criteria for us, eventhough it is not always easy to define this concept.
The originality of a photograph resides in the fact that the photograph holds « the imprint of the author's personality » or at least « a personal touch » of the photographer (see the brilliant article released in Artpress issue 42 entitled «Photographic originality, mismatch between art and law »).
Hence, as Emile Zola formulates it, « the definition of an artwork should not be else than this one : an artwork is a piece of creation seen through a character ».
For a photographer, there are many ways to bring to light his/her « author personality » in a photograph. Here are a few examples far from being exhaustive :
The quality of the printing
Although being often shot digitally (even if some photographers continue to shoot in films), a photograph needs a mounting to exist as an artwork.
The printing techniques dedicated to artworks are very specific and thus some labs are specialized in the printing of artworks.
Regarding fine art prints, several printing techniques are possible : the silver printing and the pigment printing :
Once produced, the print must be inserted on a mounting allowing to hang it on the wall. There are 3 types of mountings for artworks :