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Art Of The Snapshot

Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 06/10/2013 - 4:50 PM

Are snapshots folk art? I think so. Fine Art Photography is beautiful of course. I myself love creating “works of art.” But I also like to indulge myself in the Art of the Snapshop.

With the advent of George Eastman's Kodak camera and roll film in 1888, photography became an everyday aspect of modern life. My dad took many many snapshots of me as his first born some 70 years ago. His camera was a Kodak Brownie Junior.

What are your opinions on snapshots? Like them? Believe it or not collectors pay big money for some snapshots.

Here is one such snapshot of mine....
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Oldest Reply

Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 06/10/2013 - 4:55 PM

John Foster....."In between helping to brand arts and cultural organisations with TOKY Branding + Design, Foster spends hours and hours a week seeking our the best of these everyday photos. His writing and photo collection has been featured in Harper’s, and Newsweek Online. He has been named one of the “Top 100 Collectors” in the U.S. His collection has toured US museums, and his blog posts - both on his own Accidental Mysteries site and on Design Observer, where he’s a weekly contributor - have a huge international readership.

"Foster’s collection of snapshots has been recognised for it’s extraordinary quality. “It is the rare snapshot that makes it into my collection,” he tells us. “I look for images that, in my mind, connect to works by the masters of photography. Whether the image was accidental or intentional doesn’t really matter to me. What I care deeply about is the quality of the image.”

"For the last 25 years or so of John’s adult life, his collecting habits have taken on a more focused connoisseurship in two key areas: collecting works by self-taught artists and vernacular photography, more commonly known as snapshots."


Posted by: David Bishop on 06/10/2013 - 5:04 PM

Most shots are carefully planned and looked at every which way till you see what you want and the there are the moments you happen on and maybe lucky enough to have your camera

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Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/10/2013 - 5:07 PM

you can call it art if you want, but if you want to turn away buyers this is a pretty good method. i don't think the buyers would really consider it art though.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 06/10/2013 - 5:21 PM

There exists a select group of collectors who do seek out and buy snapshots. I doubt if any such can be found looking at the images we present here on FAA as we submit "Fine Art" photographs (or so we hope)....

Here is a snapshot of the wife and me. I have long arms and extended the camera at arm's length. This snapshop may be collected by purchasing it from FAA...

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Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/10/2013 - 5:28 PM

if your just trying to follow trends, it won't work. most of those shots look set up, and a few look tossed in like the blurry shots. to be discovered you need someone to make it cool. but to post snap shots when your pushing art - i can't tell you it probably won't work. you can try, but i can see this backfiring big time.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/10/2013 - 5:35 PM

Robert, your Forest Flasher idea would work as a series with a good STORY.

ie "For 22 days every summer, Chicago women make their way to a secret location deep in the Piney Woods to be photographed by RFG, and to sign his guest book. As collectors flip through his elaborate coffee table books, it is clear that each snapshot, together with the subject's comment, reveals more about each woman than just bare breasts."

Now that's a project! And it would sell, too!

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
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Posted by: Rebecca Sherman on 06/10/2013 - 5:36 PM


Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 06/10/2013 - 5:38 PM

God bless you....I am contacting all my lady friends now.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/10/2013 - 5:42 PM

nothing is impossible, and with the right building and story it could work, but it would be just as hard as selling anything else. and with the advent of instagram, anyone can do it. it's a fad, it's hard to pick up on a fad.

sometimes what works is to bring a strange object to many common locations. i think there was a book with this guys dog - in different countries. or a weird hand shaped chair, in odd places. a series like that, even done as a snap shot would create a theme and might work. but it's a lot of work to do.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Rosemary Williams on 06/10/2013 - 6:07 PM

I try to keep anything too snapshotish off of my page from which I sell from and would leave them for Facebook or Flickr on on my harddrive. I have been known to post a "for documentation purpose only" photo on Facebook that I would never consider including on a page from which I was trying to sell photos. I probably have some photos some of you might consider snapshots on here now but I personally try to keep them off to keep up the quality of what I'm showing. And I have a couple I might add sometime. Also, to offer snapshots of people for sale, don't you need model releases?


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/10/2013 - 6:14 PM

if a person is in public you don't need a release, but that depends on country. if you sell it for advertisement, then yes

snap shots are only interesting if a place no longer exists. like a roadside attraction. or something taken in front of an old car or location that's recognizable.

but selling snapshots of yourself, is like trying to establish yourself as a painter, while at the same time trying to sell your 2 year olds finder paintings. because you read in a magazine how someone was able to cash in on that too.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/10/2013 - 6:44 PM

"snap shots are only interesting if a place no longer exists."

I hope no one takes Mile's statement seriously. Great marketing sells a LOT of snapshots, while beautiful, unmarketed works of art languish undiscovered.

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
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Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/10/2013 - 6:58 PM

Snapshot can be used as a deliberate aesthetic. Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank were/are masters at it and have made photographs that are far superior and visually much more complex than most other forms of fine art photography.


Posted by: Phyllis Wolf on 06/10/2013 - 7:02 PM

Everyone who has a camera anymore, already seem to think they are great photographers. Now you are going to tell people their old family pic's and such are marketable??? If FAA starts getting inundated with tons of them, it's all your fault! : P

If folks groan audibly or you catch them in midst eye roll when they've come over to your house and you've pulled out your photo albums or old slide projector...well, I think you will get the same response here .....the honest response I had when I opened this thread.....UGH! lol!

On the other hand, Davids photo of the old couple on skates holding hands is wonderful. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words...that picture illustrates it amazingly well. Great capture, David!


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/10/2013 - 7:15 PM

if snap shots really did sell well - they would all be on the sales page. but you don't see that.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Will Gunadi on 06/11/2013 - 5:48 AM

What Robert calls "snapshot" is an attempt to document interesting things that happens in real time.
As said above, some of the most visually and emotionally -captivating photographs are taken this way.

In a sense it is more real because it is un-posed, un-rehearsed.
An example:

I took this photo because I it is so interesting and heart-warming to see this young couple, still holding-hands, in all their glorious dolled-up make up, and a 35mm lens is wide enough to show where they are at, a fair.

But you won't see this for sale here at FAA because I have no illusion that buyers here would have the same interest as I do.


Posted by: Vivian ANDERSON on 06/11/2013 - 6:28 AM


Great shot ....

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Posted by: Andrew Pacheco on 06/11/2013 - 6:39 AM

I try to makes sure every photo I add to my portfolio lives up to the prices I charge. I see FAA as a place where buyers want unique wall art, and are willing to pay a good sum of money for it. I wouldn't want to insult my customer's taste and intelligence.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/11/2013 - 7:06 AM

there is a difference between snap shot and street photography. a snap shot is random, and street photography usually shows a story, like that carnival above. as a snap shot, it would be them in front of a sign or something.

@will - that copyright you have on it though, they might not print it because they are fussy about things like that. and i think it may actually sell btw

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Will Gunadi on 06/11/2013 - 2:52 PM

@Vivian, thank you kindly!

@Andrew, couldn't agree more. Every time I see a recent purchase which I could tell that the photographer didn't spend quite enough time realizing the true potential of the image, my heart sank.

@Mike, thank you for the vote of confidence. I put copyright watermark on the photos on flickr because some people tried to steal my images. None of my images in FAA has it.


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/11/2013 - 4:31 PM

The term "snapshot" is mostly used here in place of the term "bad art." It is meant to be a veiled insult.

But as we have seen, snapshots *can* be very good art.

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
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Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 06/11/2013 - 6:33 PM

Anything can be aether art or not.

So snapshots can be also art. Like these ones that are very artistic snapshots:

Sell Art Online Sell Art Online Sell Art Online Art Prints Art Prints Photography Prints Art Prints

Tell me if it is not art.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/11/2013 - 6:36 PM

like i said, snapshots are usual images that never had the intention to be art or to be sold. they are more than typically vacation shots gone rogue. street or candid photography can be art if that's what the intention was. i have a number of pieces that can fit that. things i found when shooting other things. however a snap shot (vacation type), can do well depending on the venue. like i have shots of when my father was a kid and they went to roadside attractions. i looked up that place and it's a ghost town now, with things all rotting away. but it shows a time when it was there, and can be interesting to the right collector.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/11/2013 - 6:39 PM

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these are all candid street type shots. it could be considered a snap shot, but they aren't. maybe it's because i don't know these people. or it was destined to be art.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Dan Turner on 06/11/2013 - 6:52 PM

Mike, are you saying your "Americana" work is merely snapshots that have been tweaked in photoshop?

Dan Turner
Dan Turner Fine Art
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Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/11/2013 - 7:21 PM

no. i never said my images are snap shots, the people ones are candid, but were all designed as art. snap shots would be just everywhere.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Gregory Scott on 06/11/2013 - 7:29 PM

Think of candid street photography. It is an art form, to be sure, but it is the art of the hunter, rather than the gardener.
You don't pose, you don't contrive, you're alert to the moment's expression of human nature, the universe, or whatever is meaningful.
If it has meaning, it can be art. The snapshot may be a lucky shot, but luck is merely determination with persistence, feet, and eyes.
As the southern proverb states: even a blind hog can find an acorn once in a while.


Posted by: John Ayo on 06/12/2013 - 12:55 AM

I think one thing that might distinguish snapshots is a lack of concern for setting or composition. Often the picture is taken with the photographer's whole focus on simply taking a picture of the subject from wherever they happen to be standing. "Hey, look, there's a blossoming cherry tree!" Click! With no mind paid to the 8-lane highway and power lines in the background.

The subject may itself be absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, but composition matters.

One of the reasons I haven't produced much in recent years is that with a toddler in tow it's really rare that I can have the time to even think much about composition. What shots I have taken are often rushed, just a quick best-effort under the circumstances, taken in hopes I'll luck into a well-composed shot.


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 06/12/2013 - 1:00 AM


If one thinks of his own work as "Folk Art", it's no longer "Folk Art"


Posted by: Will Gunadi on 06/12/2013 - 9:51 AM

@Marcio, A good set of street photography.

@Mike, interesting processing on those images. Not sure whether I like it or not, yet.

@Gergory, @John those are some good descriptions of what snapshots are and are not. Composition absolutely matters. A good street photograph never sacrifices the visual elements that make up a great image. The fact that the photographer were able to capture it in real time using subjects, background, and light that he didn't have a lot of control of, is what makes this particular style fascinating and different than the other styles.

I get more out of a great street/candid photograph than a carefully posed shot of a beautiful model.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/12/2013 - 10:03 AM

the images above are all old done in an older style.

Art Prints Art Prints Photography Prints Photography Prints Sell Art Online Photography Prints Sell Art Online Sell Art Online Sell Art Online

these are more up to date, within the last year or two.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Peter Piatt on 06/12/2013 - 2:02 PM

These photos were taken merely as snapshots as I was driving down the road with camera in hand (yes I did say driving). But I did intend to apply an artistic technique to capture what life around the town looks like from a drunken state of mind. So would these still be considered snapshots?

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Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/12/2013 - 2:42 PM

Check out Drive By Shootings. Photographs of NYC taken by a New York taxidriver while driving his cab. I have the book and it contains many serendipitous synchronistic photographs of NYC, in that beautiful raw and pure way that only a "snapshot" can express. It's like being there.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 06/12/2013 - 2:50 PM

i still consider it street photography. snap shots are often family related.

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this picture my grandfather took, the boy on the right with the tshirt on is my father. i adopted the pictures when i converted everything to digital. this is a snap shot, it's a shot taken on vacation on some roadside place. i cleaned it heavily to make it sales worthy. but this would be totally classified as a snap shot, because it was designed as a memory of a family event. and not as art - such as shooting out a window.

while in traffic and i had my camera handy, i shot these (As the passenger)

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these images wouldn't be meant for a family album even if they were family.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Karen Harris on 06/12/2013 - 3:10 PM

Hiya - my 2 cents worth...

I think a snapshot can be defined as folk or whatever based on the subject matter, application and quality of the snap (in your case) in general. If you take a bunch of my old Polaroids from family outings, school trips and and life events, as a collection they (to me) represent a photo journal, where some individual shots I would consider art worthy. Folk photo art though? I hate putting definitions on things in spite of what the teachers and more experienced experts (both artists and critics) but to me folk art is about the POV the artist gives to that moment and subject in tandem. To me folk art is not always Americana (i.e., retrospective with a clear regional/nationality aspect) or even badly produced snapshots, but more their application as individual or collections and how they relate to tell a story from the photographers point of view. I know most folk art in general also contains people as primary subjects, but I don't think it has to either...

Anyway, just my thoughts today.



Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/12/2013 - 3:23 PM

Yes, snapshots - in the traditional meaning of the word - are often family related and only meant for the family album. But even then, there are photographers / artists who use or pierce through the snapshot veneer to communicate something broader and beyond something that's only meant for the family album. Like Richard Billingham in 'Ray's a Laugh', or Nan Goldin.

The interesting thing is, 'snapshot' has a connotation of something not well thought out and taken rather carelessly, but the quintessential classic family snapshot meant for the family album is often of the most intentionally posed and composed genre of photography ( The Family Album Of Lucybelle Crater by Ralph Eugene Meatyard is a dark and surrealistic take on it ) while the street or documentary snapshot made from an artistic point of view goes for something more true to life, even though those photographs too may be set up as to look like a snapshot.


Posted by: Peter Piatt on 06/12/2013 - 4:21 PM

Thanks Philip for the "Drive By Shootings" link wonderful photos, I'm amazed with many of the compositions, being that they were handheld while driving.


Posted by: Philip Sweeck on 06/12/2013 - 5:50 PM

Yes, they are really atmospheric. There's an effortless seeming fluency to them. Of course what we're seeing is the edit. I'm sure for every good one that captures something essential there were maybe hundreds of other rejected frames that didn't.

William Klein, one of the pioneers of street and a stream of consciousness style photography.


Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/13/2013 - 10:25 AM

Why do we love snapshots? Cause most are some kind of family shot, a city scene, hillside, animals in the field or whatever strikes our fancy. Often they are quickly taken so not necessarily all that much thought is given to composure and exposure. They are fun mostly and meant for our family album and record keeping. However the fancy for vintage has become prime to some and we see an interest in vintage photos. My question is: for those small photos how would or why would you want to show them on this art? And how do you make the photo large enough so that it is You are not supposed to increase size and those 'ole photos may be really small. I have some less than a couple inches in size. Maybe group them and scan ....together. Just think, hee, hee, among those hundreds, thousands, or more of snapshots we may find enough nostalgia plus a piece of history to make them worth showing.


Posted by: Theresa Tahara on 06/13/2013 - 11:30 AM

These two won't qualify as real "snapshots". I deliberately made them look like old found snapshots mostly for fun and not because I think they will sell but they bring back memories of when I was younger. I also think they are good enough to put on FAA. I sold a canvas wrap of “Gina on The Day Al Left” to a relative who told me she didn’t buy it because of who is in the picture but because it was nostalgic for her.
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Posted by: Mary Armstrong on 06/13/2013 - 3:16 PM

Nice....... Theresa you have accomplished that nostalgic at a larger than snapshot photo size. Good Luck!


This discussion is closed.