The history of art photography by expert Ali Elai at Camerarts

by leslierankowfinearts

Ali Elai, Camerarts

Ali Elai, Camerarts

THE IMAGE OF A WORK OF ART IS OFTEN THE FIRST INTRODUCTION TO  A COLLECTOR, GALLERIST OR ART DEALER OF THE ACTUAL WORK.   ALMOST ALL GALLERIES LOOK AT DIGITAL IMAGES AND NOT AT ACTUAL ARTWORK AND SO, FOR THE ARTIST,  IT IS CRUCIAL THAT THE IMAGES REFLECT THE SPIRIT AS WELL AS THE TECHNIQUE OF THE ART.  MUSEUM CURATORS INITIALLY REVIEW AUCTION AND EXHIBITION RECORDS IN THE PROCESS OF SEEKING LOANS FOR FUTURE EXHIBITIONS. CERTAINLY, AS AN ADVISOR, I AM CONSTANTLY SEEKING OUT   A WORK OF QUALITY EITHER  BY A SPECIFIC ARTIST OR OF A PARTICULAR PERIOD TO ENRICH AN EXISTING COLLECTION. ON A REGULAR BASIS,   AUCTION SPECIALISTS, GALLERIES AND OTHER PRIVATE DEALERS SEND ME DIGITAL IMAGES FOR CONSIDERATION. EVEN WHEN I VIEW ACTUAL WORKS AT FAIRS OR IN EXHIBITIONS, IF I HAVE A CLIENT IN MIND,  I REQUEST A DIGITAL IMAGE TO FORWARD TO THE POTENTIAL BUYER.

THUS, THE QUALITY  AND ACCURACY OF THE DIGITAL IMAGE IS A INTEGRAL COMPONENT IN VIRTUALLY EVERY ACTIVITY IN THE WORLD OF ART. SOME CONSIDERATIONS INCLUDE THE CORRECT COLOR, EXPOSURE AND SCALE. THESE ARE NEVER WORRIES OR CONCERNS WHEN ALI ELAI, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL OF CAMERARTS, IS BEHIND THE CAMERA.  THE WORKS ARE BEAUTIFULLY REPRODUCED FOR WHATEVER THE PURPOSE. CAMERARTS,  Tel: (212) 517-3982  Fax:(212) 249-9295,  camerarts@gmail.com

IN TODAY’S LRFA BLOG, ALI WILL INFORM US OF THE HISTORY OF ART PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE REMARKABLE WAYS IN WHICH TECHNOLOGY HAS ADVANCED AND IMPROVED THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHING ART.

ALI, WHAT WAS THE FORM THAT DOCUMENTATION OF ART WORKS TOOK WHEN YOU FIRST OPENED?

Transparencies, of course! Reputable and established artists, art dealers and scholars didn’t consider any other media to be a true representation of the work. Some even rejected paper color prints, which, because they derive from a negative, were considered to be second generation reproductions. Transparencies, being a direct copy of the artwork straight from the camera, were considered the first generation. Of course, today, every “smart phone” has become a replacement for these types of conventional photos. 

HOW HAS IT EVOLVED?

Technology has no boundaries, so the ways we create and view images will continue to evolve. Print media is on the verge of extinction and is being replaced by electronic media. In the old days, I’d work hours on end in the darkroom just to recreate shadows and highlights on a photograph so that they were accurate enough to truly represent the artwork itself. Sometimes I’d make half a dozen prints before finding one that was good enough to meet the standards I was striving for. Nowadays, there’s a lot less fuss. For better or worse, the market has prioritized speed and convenience over fidelity and artistry when it comes to evaluating photographic reproductions. Because of that, actual photographic expertise is no longer the prerequisite it used to be. If you have a camera, you can make a picture. For my money, though, even the best camera is no substitute for a trained eye.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING AND SIGNIFICANT WORKS THAT YOU HAVE PHOTOGRAPHED?

In my youth, my relationship to art was very different.  As an art student, I used to enjoy visiting museums and I wrote many term papers on different works and artists. Years later, when I became a professional photographer I was asked by an auction house to photograph a painting on-site where the artwork was placed. On the way there I couldn’t understand why everybody involved was so discreet as to the location and owner of the painting. As it turned out, the piece was a Picasso. Still, I wasn’t convinced that it was as big a deal as the hush-hush nature of the show suggested. Then, a few days later, I saw that my photograph had been printed in the art section of the New York Times. Apparently that Picasso was most expensive painting (at more than $84M) ever purchased at auction at the time. Even I had to admit it was a bit of a big deal! That being said, such numbers really have no bearing on the nuts and bolts of my work.  

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST DIFFICULT AND PROBLEMATIC EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD IN THE COURSE OF PHOTOGRAPHING WORKS OF ART?

As I mentioned earlier, the gradual shift from film to digital has caused a number of ripples, not all of which are welcome to someone in my position. For one thing, more and more people are attempting to do their photography themselves with a simple digital camera. Not only does that cut into the work that would otherwise go to studios like Camerarts, it tangibly hurts the work product. Digital images taken by pocket cameras may be cheap and quick, but they tend to lose highlight definition and other details. There really isn’t any question that film provides a better picture quality. 

IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, ALI ELAI, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL OF CAMERARTS, WILL DETAIL THE DIFFERENT AND CONSISTENT DEMANDS OF PROVIDING DIGITAL IMAGES  FOR THE PRIVATE COLLECTOR,  GALLERY AND AUCTION SECTOR, AND FOR THE INSTITUTIONAL CLIENT.

UNTIL THEN.

THANKS FOR READING!