Pretty Nature Photos and Art Galleries

I started shooting in 1986 and turned pro in 1991 but I have never had a print exhibition. Why not? Well, through most of my career I just took photos, turned them over to my stock agencies and collected cheques. Pretty simple  eh?

Frankly I am not a ‘fine art’ photographer, I make celebratory photos of nature and it seems like the gatekeepers of galleries want edgy, gritty images of strife and despair, they want social context and message. They want B+W and traditional processes, they want grain and soft-focus, in short they want emotion. Pretty, colourful  nature images are just so pedestrian, just so devoid of feeling. I guess the only emotions curators recognize are negative ones. For me, someone who pursues life like a lab chasing a stick, life is too short to look for wilted roses.

Curators accuse nature photographers of producing work that is formulaic, yet a quick  look through galleries that feature ‘fine art’ photography show the same old themes; the dead and dying, street people, Holga-esque landscapes, disaster coverage, essays on cigarette butts in an astray, the wilted flower still life, Siamese twins, circus freaks, toenail clippings, and abstract nudes.

Photographers I have talked with that shoot drama and beauty in nature have reported repeated rejection in fine art galleries. Curators tell them that “no one will be interested in this work”. Yet, these same photographers maintain on-line galleries on their websites and the general public eats up their work. I guess the general public do not count in the eyes of curators. The everyday disconnect of urban life leave many people longer for a connection with nature and pretty landscape and wildlife photos seems to be an offer a soothing antidote.

I am presenting my first print show this month, not in a fine-art gallery, but at the local public library (Nan Boothby Memorial Library) in Cochrane, Alberta. So far, the feedback to my ‘happy’ photos is very positive. Weird how positive photos bring positive emotions! What kind of photo would I want to grace the wall of my living room–a legless beggar in India, or a colourful meadow of alpine flowers set against a dramatic backdrop of mountain scenery? Hmmm… let me think about this for a moment?  Darwin


10 Responses to “Pretty Nature Photos and Art Galleries”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. When I think of art, I don’t think of museums. I think of what I want to have on my wall. What I want to look at and be inspired by.

    After hearing about Michael Gordon’s experience with Review Santa Fe, it appears that galleries are chasing collectors. People with a lot of money who are looking for “art investments”. I’d happily sell my images to them but I’m also happy to sell them to ordinary individuals who’s appreciation of them won’t just be financial.

  2. Eleanor Marsh Says:

    Yup! Gotta love those bums 🙂

  3. I totally agree with you on that subject….

  4. These same thoughts have crossed my mind before. The galleries I have visited didn’t really impress me at all. As I walked around, looking at photos for $6000 of things like a brick wall, I wondered “Who would buy something like this?”.

  5. Darwin,

    Yes, I got your name right this time.

    I think you are bang on the money. I have not figured out why people like the doom and gloom either.

    A fine nature photograph is I guess much more difficult to photograph then the poverty on the streets.

    Only special people find nature wonderful. We are the few and the proud.


  6. Lou Cragin Says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more. I fail to see the publics fasination with misery. I much prefer the beauty and joy that the outdoors brings and particularily the way you capture it. Keep up the inspiring work. Who knows there may be more of us than you might think. At least I’d like to think so.


  7. willypayet Says:

    That’s exactly what I think, Darwin!

    Let’s enjoy life and simple things…

  8. Royce Howland Says:

    It often seems to me that a big part of the traditional fine art / gallery scene equates “beautiful” (often trivialized as “pretty”) with “trite”. As if real art somehow has to involve something grim, or must derive only from suffering, to convey some kind of nobility. I also often hear landscape photography in particular criticized as an idealization that is basically false because of the increasing impact of humanity on the world… as if this work is some kind of naive, juvenile fantasy that isn’t worthy of mature consideration.

    I say bollocks to that. 🙂 I’m not a pro or critic to put forth a “real” definition, but my take on art is that at the least: a) it’s not about being exclusionary or elitist; b) it offers an interpretation of the world through the keen eye, mind and reflection of someone who creates with intent; and c) it aims to resonate with or evoke something in the viewer.

    Your work does all that for me, for whatever that’s worth…

  9. Amen Brother … Preach it!!!

  10. i really like to visit art galleries because i love every bit of art -:’

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