Before the invention of the photograph, fine art consisted mainly of painting, drawing, and sculpture. However, photography is now considered to be in the same class as these fine arts. Just like paintings, photographs rely on composition and perspective.
Fine art photography is a kind of photography that is created with the intent of producing gallery-quality and museum-quality work. Furthermore, it is meant to be viewed as an expression of the artist's vision. Fine art photography is distinct from photojournalism in that it is not created in order to support another piece of work, such as a piece of journalistic writing. It is also distinct from commercial photography and fashion photography in that it is not intended to be used to sell a product. Despite the distinction between these forms of photography, there are some interesting overlaps.
Photography was not fully accepted as a fine art until after the middle of the 20th century. In fact, it was not until the 1950's that it became acceptable to frame a photograph for a museum or gallery exhibition. Before this time, prints of photographs were simply pasted onto a board and hung. Alternatively, they were printed with a white border and pinned to walls instead of hung.
Since the middle of the 20th century, fine art photography has gone from a barely accepted medium that was only afforded the crudest of frames, to a well-respected modern art that is often displayed with great respect. From the 1970's to the 1990's it became more and more accepted and popular to print photographs on a large scale, give them a glossy finish, and hang them in frames just as if they were paintings.
The increased scale and improved framing of fine art photography speaks directly to the increased popularity and acceptance of the medium. There are two American organizations that have done a great deal of work to promote fine art photography. The first is the Aperture Foundation. The Aperture Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to fine art photography. The organization publishes a quarterly magazine called Aperture. The organization also publishes books of fine art photography.t
The second major force that has supported fine art photography is the New York Museum of Modern Art, commonly referred to as the MoMA. Even in the 1960's, when fine art photography was first getting some recognition, the Museum of Modern Art presented shows that promoted this genre.