Analog, Digital, and the Sublime (Edward Burtynsky)

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by bjorke, Aug 6, 2005.

  1. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    It's reasonable to analyze these works in a context of the romantic sublime — much like one would do with Ansel Adams. Unlike Adams's trancendant aspirations, however, these wrangle with the presence and actions of man, the self, and their inevitable demise and disolution:

    http://burtynsky.stanford.edu/

    These photographs could not be realized without the use of both analog and digital means.

    "In the experience of sublimity the self 'shrinks' and suffers 'annihilation' in the face of what exceeds it. The passion of the sublime is the passion of being submitted, vanquished — to a point of (near) disintegration."
    — Giuseppe Sertoli writing on Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, 1757​
     
  2. jjstafford

    jjstafford Inactive

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    I don't understand why you say it could not be done without some digital. Anything shown on the 'web has to be digitized. Where do the two pictures in particular use digital other than the Zoomify thing which is just a method of web presentation?
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    So are the Burtynsky prints supposed to be good because they are big? I dont see anything else extraordinary about them. Tell me what is it that could not be done without digital other than size? Would these prints have been considered "good" if they had been 8x10 instead of 40x60?

    Furthermore, even if they could not be done without digital, why should we care? what is the point of your post? Why post it in APUG, arent you tired of the digital vs traditional flame wars? This post should be moved to soap box or closed. Enough is enough.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    One might argue that the political agenda is at odds with the aspiration toward the sublime in the Romantic sense, but perhaps not in the postmodern sense.

    I don't see anything inherently digital about these photographs. In one review I've read, he says he shoots 8x10" color neg and prints digitally, I'm guessing to Lambda/LightJet/Chromira, since they're C-prints, but that seems like just a convenience to me. There's no reason he couldn't make good 40x60's from 8x10" negs with a traditional enlarger. Here's what he says about it in an interview from the _SF Chronicle_--

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/06/DDGMIDI5AI1.DTL&type=art
     
  5. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I could not find any reference to digital on his web site or at 3 of the galleries that represent him , so I don't know if they are actually cibachromes, or lightjets on crystal archive from scanned transparencies or totally digital output.

    Be that as it may, I like the images. I have always been fascinated with the works of man on a grand scale and our ability to reshape the world to fit our desires. you can agree or disagree, but nature or God created man to be as much a force of change as meteorological or geological processes.

    Of course anything man builds or alters in nature will be wiped clean by the imminent ice age (not caused by man but natural cycle) or the over due eruption of the Yellowstone caldera system or the long over due impact of an asteroid. Nature will always get the last laugh.

    For myself, a dam, oil refinery, factory, bridge is just as impressive as any work of nature. At a huge scrap yard near here I visited I was in awe of a mountain (close to 100 feet high) of huge machines. Giant milling machines, presses, metal shears, etc. All being recycled. For me, that mountain of cast iron and steel representing hundreds of years of technology and ingenuity was just as intriguing and beautiful as any mountain or meadow.

    I don't really see any kind of a editorial viewpoint in Burtynsky's images. I see a simple and elegant rendering of man's interaction with his environment.
     
  6. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    He makes ink jet prints David, not chromira or lambdas. Even so a C print of this size would require a digital negative, I dont know of anybody who is doing traditional color enlargement this size anymore. But in the end, who cares? Does this mean that I have to go digital now because Burtynsky does his prints this way? No at all, as a matter of fact there is a guy in Europe making b&w enlargements from 12x20 negatives that will blow anything an ink jet print can do out of the water. Does it mean that those doing b&w ink jet prints should throw away their Epson 9600 and use this guy?....not in the least, so what is the purpose of this post? What is this sublime BS?

    Sometimes I feel there is more people in APUG trying to advance the digital agenda than there is people trying to keep the traditional work alive! Havent we had enough? :mad:
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    All the images in the show are described as "Dye-coupler prints." A dye coupler print is a C-print, not an inkjet. He says he prints digitally, and the output is a C-print, so it would stand to reason that they are LightJet, Chromira, or Lambda. If you go to the site for the lab he founded, Toronto Image Works, they do indeed provide 48x60 Lambda prints, so I'm assuming that's what these are.
     
  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Folks

    Ed is from Toronto and his lab is a competitor of mine. Toronto Image Works.
    I have seen all the work on this site , live, at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Over 100 large murals , except for 3 or 4 all were traditional dye coupler prints.
    What I admire about Ed is that after graduating from Photo School over 20years he decided to photograph the work you see on the site, to have control over the process he built Toronto Image Works.
    Every print that you see , I can assure you Ed colour corrected and made suggestions to his printer(staff) to follow. All prints were done in his lab and on a Horizontal enlarger. Imperfections were hand retouched, In fact I use the same retoucher for bleach retouching of black and whites.
    I look up to Ed as he is 1. a very nice man , who will freely share his knowlege and supports the photographic community here in Toronto. 2. and he is a dedicated photographic craftsman that I respect.

    He may be starting to print with Lambdas or LightJets, but I can assure you what you see on the web site is all Analoge of the highest quality.
     
  9. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Ok, so they are ( I cant imagine what is so difficult about saying color print) in any case, so what? A print this size could have been made with an 8x10 enlarger as well as with the digital printers. Once again I ask, what is the purpose of this post? What do those if us who prefer traiditional work, be it color or b&W, care if this guy is using an 8x10 and making digital files for printing?

    Why is it that someone would want to come to APUG and sing praises to a pixelographer? Do you really think there is even one member who is not aware of the all the possible hybrid methods? This thread would have been right at home at the lenswork forum, where the advancement of digital is the hidden agenda, too bad they dont do color work.
     
  10. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Well then I am confused, where is the digital part as it was expressed in the original post? From what I understood Burtynsky has been doing digital printing for a while, as a matter of fact he has spawned a big following doing a lot of the same thing, industrial landscape in color.

    So is bjorke wrong? Did he think he was going to show us what can be done with digital and it turns out it is all analog?.....now that is funny!
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Jorge

    I believe Ed only makes traditional colour prints, *no digital* he may of changed but all the work I have seen from Ed is done traditionally, which is amazing as TIW is one of Canadas largest digital Labs.
     
  12. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    LOL....the irony is hilarious. The owner of one of Canadas largest digital lab refuses to use digital and the one praising his work as digital turns out to be wrong....
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Here's a long feature article on Burtynsky from _Toronto Life_ (Feb 2004), with a fine description of his conventional printing process--

    http://www.torontolife.com/magazine/index.cfm?listing_id=13

     
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  15. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Thanks David

    Though I have made thousands of murals in my life, I would surley love someone describing the process as elequently.

    All I remember from my long days on the horizontal enlarger, is taking the paper off the magnetic wall , gracefully yet skillfully walking in the dark passage to the processors entry port, only to walk into a fr>>> post some idiot put in the middle of the darkhall. Picking myself off the floor ,dazed and confused, to finish my chore.
    Maybe this is why Ed has made millions and I have not, he has protected his head in that most crucial part of printmaking ,*the long dark walk to the processor*
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Does not Gursky and Struth both produce there large CIBA prints with traditional enalrging methods?

    Anyway, since we seem to have established a provenance of sorts regarding printing, I am curious as to what others think of the images themselves?
     
  17. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Well I am off to see these prints up close in the next hour or so.

    Thanks Jim for being at least one person on APUG who bothers to write about the pictures.
     
  18. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    I really like his work. The work doesn't require a digital step to succeed. Although, I can see where machine like precision would enhance the message. I can see why scale is important for the work. To meet the artists grand goal, size can only help or even be needed.

    I could be all wet but…
    I can also see where the message it isn't as grand as the artist states. Sometimes the last person you want to talk to when understanding a peice of art is the artist.

    I may be soaked to the bone, but..
    These are images of mankind's impact or works. There is really a simple truth in these images and they are both beautiful and horrible(?), cold(?), inhuman(?), or godlike(?). I don't know. It is like tasting wine -- one person's hint of pepper may be another’s hint of nut.

    When told you can understand mankind's historical place. I don’t feel the images actually infer this on their own.

    I could be downright pickled but…
    I'm not sure I would consider it "romantically Sublime." My understanding of the term is to mean something is real to the point of terrible (or terribly real) and yet beautiful. Romantic in the classic sense being tragic and or transcendental and sublime being true, perfect and or grand. Winged Victory comes to mind as a classic example.

    In any event, Bjorke thanks for posting. It certainly is interesting work.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 6, 2005
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Let us know what you think of them, for those of us who have only seen the web versions. One can hardly write about the sublime experience of a storm when looking at a snow globe.
     
  20. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    Excellent point!
     
  21. gr82bart

    gr82bart Member

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    I really like the pictures. That all.

    Art.
     
  22. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Solely based on their representation on the web, I think they look like safe eye candy. They have an easy magnificence through their simplicity: they appear to be part of the spectacle. They are well cooked for effortless consumption.

    How's that then?

    Best,
    Helen
     
  23. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    I would say that it is pretty gosh darn good, but you weren't asking me.

    I feel compelled to ask if there isn't a bit of trolling in Bjorke's original post. Why mention digital and why get upset when that portion of the post is addressed?
     
  24. pelerin

    pelerin Member

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    Hey,
    I worked in a place designed by the same guy... a long, pitch black hall connecting three rooms and a Walzberg camera with a the processor. Directly in the path to the processor was a 10" square concrete column. I never hit the the column... but I did murder my hip on the paper cutter as I jogged left to avoid the column.
    Celac.
     
  25. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    As expected, the prints were large. And nary a one was inked -- all were made on an enlarger. I'm still trying to find the copy of last year's fine-arts PDN annual that spoke about digital printing in the context of Burtynsky's work. Perhaps he just does the digi to pay the bills, I do know he has long said he started his lab simply because he couldn't find anyone who could print what he needed (and could he have been printing this way practically if he didn't own the lab? An open question).
    [​IMG]
    Despite assertions made here to the contrary, the prints are worth viewing at this size. They carry tremendous detail, actively-filling his 8x10 negative — and sometimes more, as in the diptych "Shipbreaking #9" — viewing the print not only reveals far more detail than the bogus "zoomify" on the Stanford Shipbreaking #9a page, but more too than the large and well-printed "Manufactured Landscapes" book. Consider the group of figures circled in this detail view:
    [​IMG]
    Their presence is an important element of the grand and ambiguous narrative of this work, and amazingly there are even some smaller, more faint clusters of organized figures in the same print.

    In an adjoining gallery, I noticed this painting by Guardi:
    [​IMG]
    I point it out not only for the superficially-similar subject matter but also the formal compositional strategies used -- not only the large-scale ones, obvious in this crappy little celphone capture, but the Guardi, like the Burtynsky, unfolds increasingly as the viewer gazes at layers of unwasted detail. This is top-notch stuff.
    You need to recognize the difference between being provocative and trolling. Trolls are either one-sided absolutists or start arguments in which they don't bother to participate, choosing instead to simply lean back and observe the fireworks. Provocation in the hope of reasoned dialogue is never trolling— even when the responses border on histrionic.

    (Tangential: my pal Chris Jordan definitely does use an 8x10+PS, and is enjoying much fine-arts success at the moment)

    I also ran across a painting at the Cantor with which I was unfamiliar, in the same room as the Guardi. It's packed with figures, reminding me of some modernist Chinese history paintings, and it's big big big. Here's a tiny detail, maybe 1/10th of the frame — tons of specificity in the figures, with the figures themselves creating frames and action lines for one another. Paintings made with this sort of level of intention really remind me how impoverished and lazy most photography tends to be, leaning as it does so much on quick but thorough detail in place of deliberate content.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 7, 2005
  26. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Bjorke
    To answer your question about the the prints. I think Ed ,from very early on in his career wanted large images of these rock quarrys he visited. Before anyone knew who Ed was , he was deep in the mud using a large format camera , bringing home the negs , developing them himself and in the beginning stages printing his own work in his darkrooms at TIW.
    TIW is an extension of Ed and was built so that he could work in this fashion and not get killed with the Visa Card each time he made a print. If he came to the shops I worked at and had us print , mount and frame he would be paying in excess of $800 per unit. If he did it himself with his own inventory he would be paying much, much less.
    For every image you saw yesterday I know he has printed and bounced 10 that he felt did not make the cut.
    Regarding the digital aspect , since he is the owner of the largest and well respected digital training and printing lab,*why not digital* I think the answer is simply ,that 20-25 years ago he started with negative, colour print and to change medias does not make sense.
    I have printed my share of shows and I always like to keep the prints consistant and over the years my clients make portfolios of the same media rather than switching back and forth every time some new product comes out.
    I do not think it is more complicated than that , but you could phone him and I can assure you he will return the calls ...