Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peter Sekaer and Fine Art

On a recent trip to the High Museum of Art Atlanta, I received a rare glimpse of a body of work from Peter Sekaer, a Danish Born American Artist. Sekaer was born in Copenhagen Denmark in 1901, but at the end of the Great War he immigrated to the United States. In New York City, he was introduced to the art scene, eventually meeting Ben Shahn and Walker Evans. By 1934, Sekaer left his successful printing business, his painting, and solely focused on studying photography, where his contact through Walker Evans led him to work with various government projects established by Roosevelt's New Deal Project. Throughout the six years, Sekaer managed to capture the essence of culture and what it meant to be a citizen of America in the late 30's and early 40's. His training a photojournalist provided an objective view of the scene, but his inner human provided the subjective and often emotional response of what he saw while on these excursions.

But this introduction has been a way to introduce another important question. Can the work of a photojournalist be considered fine art?

If art is subjective, then how does Fine Art get defined? I have never doubted that photojournalism is Fine Art, but at some point my thoughts clashed together and repeatedly mentioned the Fine Art was exclusive to an aesthetically pleasing, and in modernist terms, concept driven work. It was work that did not appear on weekly covers of magazines, but hung in museums across the world. To overcome, I looked at works by Sekaer, Evans, Lange, Greenfield, Eddie Adams, Stearns and many other photojournalists, attempting to single out what it was that made their work come together. What was it about photojournalism that was so unique, but at the same time shared the most fundamental quality of Fine Art work? It took some time, but I did find an answer in the introduction of Sekaer's work, and soon realized that it was present across the board of all other photojournalistic work, as well as Fine Art work. In looking at it, the viewer has a "respond" mechanism activated, they are engulfed emotionally. That is in fact what all fields of art have in common, the emotional response to their work.

Is photojournalism considered Fine Art? I say absolutely yes!

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