Photographic Fine Art Association

"People must be conditioned to recognizing photography as Fine Art. That is what I am trying to establish"

"Nowhere, to my knowledge, has there ever been an exhibition showing photography as a Fine Art in this country"

Dr. S.D.Jouhar - 1961

 "Photography as a Fine Art"-- Exhibition held at The Royal Festival Hall - November 1961
"Photography as a Fine Art"-- Exhibition held at The Royal Festival Hall - November 1961

Today, you will undoubtedly agree that some Photography can be considered to be Fine Art – but this has not always been the case, and Dr. Jouhar played an important role in changing attitudes in this regard. Over a period of many years Dr Jouhar argued, often forcefully, that photography was a 'Fine Art'. No classic artist agreed, and there was significant resistance to change amongst the "establishment" at the Royal Photographic Society.. However, as time passed, sufficient support was gathered and he formed (in August 1961) the Photographic Fine Art Association, and he was its Chairman

Appointed as Secretary was Louis Demolin and as Treasurer W M Marynowicz FIBP FRPS. The Advisory Committee included: Hubert Davey MA FIBP, Dennis Gasser FRSA ARPS, S K Matthews FIBP FRPS FRSA and Bertram Sinkinson OBE FIBP HonFRPS FRSA

The Association was defined as non-profit making, with the objective :

.... to promote the permanent recognition of Photography as a Fine Art and further to encourage all to acquire such works as contemporary culture-symbols for aesthetic appreciation and display.

The Association had, as its definition of Fine Art:

Creating images that evoke emotion by a photographic process in which one's mind and imagination are freely but competently exercised. From a technical point of view, therefore, personally controlled, disciplined interpretation and technical execution, showing fine perception and skill in the making shall be necessary requirements of such work in colour or monochrome.

The Association presented its First Exhibition, entitled 'Photography as a Fine Art' in the Concert Suite at the Royal Festival Hall, London from November 1st to 26th, 1961.

The Exhibition was opened by the Rt Hon The Earl of Listowel GCMG PhD - Lord Listowel had authored two fine books: 'The Values of Life' and 'A Critical History of Modern Aesthetics' and his involvement was seen as support for the concept that creative photography should be permanently recognized in its own right in the categories of Art and Aesthetics.

Works of art were provided by Geoffrey Ashbourne FRPS, J Bell FRPS (Trichrome-Gum Process), H Cartwright, R H Cherry (Trichrome-Gum Process), Louis Demolin, Eric Freeborn FIBP FRPS, Miss Jeanette Klute, the late George Halford and, of course DR Jouhar, (all of whose works for this Exhibition were Ektacolor Prints).

A Second Exhibition was mounted and held at Ealing Technical College, based entirely on Dr Jouhar's works. No less than 12,000 people visited it during a two-week period.

The first meeting of the Association was held on February 14th, 1962 - the discussion was led by Mr Robert Doty, Assistant Curator of the George Eastman House in New York who also had authored a book titled 'Photography as a Fine Art'.

In his talk, Doty pointed out that many had felt that the Royal Photographic Society had focused too much attention on showing scientific aspects of photography and that some had taken an initiative in establishing the London Salon. These events mirrored earlier ones in the USA in which Paul Strand and others were involved in exhibitions in the Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh Museums and some shows in New York.

In Doty's view, the first major breakthrough came when the Curator of Prints of the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts became involved with photography and when, during the twenties and thirties, the Director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts brought some photographs into their collection. Moreover, the Museum of Modern Art in New York (founded in 1932) established in 1938 a department of photography which in the early sixties was flourishing under the direction of Edward Steichen.

Doty told the meeting that The Eastman House had been formed in 1949 under the chairmanship of Mr Newhall and had been pursuing a programme in which both the art and science of photography was demonstrated. At that time it was the only Museum in the World devoted entirely to the history of photography.

Interestingly, in 1958 the Museum of Chicago had launched a full-fledged programme on this subject and had in the past mounted several exhibitions devoted exclusively to the art of photography. Other exhibitions had been organized around that time by various American Universities such as Indiana and Kalamazoo

During the ensuing discussion Dr Jouhar made several interesting points:

Posterity is the final judge. Artists are often not recognized at the time, but their work may gradually come to be appreciated by an increasing number. Therefore, if only a small percentage are moved by a work in the first instance, it may later be recognized by more

He went on to say that his aim in sponsoring photography as a Fine Art was twofold:

1. At the moment (1962) photography is not generally recognized as anything more than a craft. In the USA photography has been openly accepted as Fine Art in certain official quarters. It is shown in galleries and exhibitions as an Art. There is not corresponding recognition in this country. The London Salon shows pictorial photography, but it is not generally understood as an art. Whether a work shows aesthetic qualities or not it is designated 'Pictorial Photography' which is a very ambiguous term. The photographer himself must have confidence in his work and in its dignity and aesthetic value, to force recognition as an Art rather than a Craft.

2. People must be conditioned to recognizing photography as Fine Art. That is what I am trying to establish. Nowhere, to my knowledge, has there ever been an exhibition showing photography as a Fine Art in this country.

It (the problem) started in 1851, when cameras were shown together with scientific instruments. Photographs were shown as scientific phenomena rather than Works of Art

At a later stage in the discussion, he made several additional points of interest:

The Royal Photographic Society's terms of reference stipulate (1962) 'Advancement of the Science, etc. Nowhere is the word 'Art' used. I want the recognition of aesthetic photography as a Fine Art in so many words.

The more imaginative and aesthetic the treatment, the more the claim it will have to the title of 'Fine Art'.

The dictionary definition of Art is 'employment of means to a desired end, so the act of 'pressing the trigger' in that sense is an art but not a Fine Art. Picking pockets might, in this sense, be called an art.

Photo-journalistic art picks out compromising or sordid situations sometimes and photographs them, often without the subject's knowledge - in the 'Family of Men' exhibition for example. At the time of the Coronation (1953), not one photograph depicted the beauty, the pageantry or the historic splendour of the occasion. The seamy side should be shown, but not to the exclusion of beauty and dignity.

We want to raise the status of photography. The public must be conditioned. For instance, if the public sees a smock, canvas and brushes in Hyde Park it says 'Artist', but smock, beret and camera - the public says 'Photographer'. We must persist!’

Although the Association was able to hold its Second meeting on May 30th 1962 when Louis Demolin - a professional photo-journalist - gave a talk titled 'The Language of Photography (Photo-Communication)', the subsequent meetings for 1962 were canceled due to the unavailability of Dr Jouhar due to progressive disease and, by the beginning of 1963 it was clear that he had only a short while left to live.

Dr Jouhar died in April 1963.

The Association presented a Memorial Exhibition of Creative Photography between August 6th and 24th 1963 at the Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Thames, following Dr Jouhar's death in April. One hundred and sixteen examples of his work were shown, ranging in style, content and presentation.

The Association disappeared without trace thereafter.

More than 25 years later, the fruit from his, and others', efforts was seen by the occasion of the exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London between September 22nd and December 23rd 1989 which bore the title: 'The Art of Photography'. The Exhibition marked the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography; most notable was a comment to be found in the Gallery Guide:

Just as the gift of speech in no way guarantees that we are all poets, so the gift of photography does not make artists of us all. This exhibition hopes to demonstrate that in the hands of an artist, the camera can be no less powerful a tool that the paint-brush

These words almost plagiarize those from Dr Jouhar's foreword to the Catalogue for the First Exhibition of the Photographic Fine Art Association in 1961:

"Thoughts and ideas may be expressed either by wielding a charged brush on canvas or by the process of writing. Some write badly and almost illegibly, and not all are fine pen-men. A minority, by self-discipline and practice, may become calligraphers. Anybody can write, but only a few gifted ones can write well; and fewer still who may write poetry well. There are hardly any to-day that write poetry calligraphically!

The pictorial examples shown in this Exhibition are attempts at 'calligraphically written poetry' in form and colour expressive of imaginative ideas evocative of thought and emotion, only the instrument used to create these is neither pen nor brush but a camera"