How much of Mapplethorps's art was Mapplethorps?

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by severian, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. severian

    severian Member

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    I am not a fan of the work of Mapplethorp but he was responsible for some amazingly beautiful prints. Or was he? Help from photo historians is needed here. I believe he simply gave the film to "his darkroom man" who was actually responsible for the look. I believe it was Tom Baril. If this is the case, how much of this work belongs to Mapplethorpe and how much belongs to Baril?
    Jack B
     
  2. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Tom Baril was Mapplethorp's principal printer, at least for significant periods during Mapplethorp's career.

    The message that I took away from reading the Mapplethorp biography is that he had lots of ideas, but was not especially adept at the craft aspects of photography. Baril, by contrast, is a consumate craftsman.
     
  3. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    This dilemma could be a factor in the work of many photographers. The popular ones of today like Ritts, Gorman, Leibowitz (sp?) etc who have published books are rarely involved in the printing. In many aspects they aren't even in control of a lot of the ideas. Since they are mostly commercial photographers who work for art directors they, in many cases get credit for ideas they didn't concieve of. A lot of that work is done by committee.

    Almost no portrait photographer in the last few years did their own printing but sent it off to a lab.

    Avedon had lab people doing his work. It can be argued that they oversaw the process but to some, that is like da Vinci telling his assistant how he wanted the Mona Lisa painted.


    Michael
     
  4. david b

    david b Member

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    MapplethorpE
     
  5. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    These guys did have they're own approach/stle prior to fame. A lot of the originality was fed from then cultivated the commercial concepts designers got the inspiration from. In the case of Gorman I know he did all his own darkroom work for a lot of years before the workload became to demanding. Ritz,Newton and mapplethorpe all had printers. In Mapplethorpe's case his work really took on a great look once his printer took over and I think (only a guess) his style really fed from this printing approach.
    Personally I do not see the problem with printers doing the work. Would like their viewpoint as another tool to learn from while developing an idea. at the same time I think the prints should be signed on the back by the printer. It really is an art, so they should get some recognition.
     
  6. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    It's illuminating to see Avedon's very explicit printing instructions for his American West pictures. There are a great more subtle details than I ever conceived of anyone being able to do. That's one project, at least, that there's no doubt who was the artist, even though there were others setting up the cameras, holding the lights, loading and changing the film, and doing the printing.
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Mapplethorpe was the one going into sex clubs to document underground gay BDSM culture, so that part was his. Mapplethorpe's themes, selection of models, composition and lighting were certainly his own.
     
  8. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Without a great image , a printer is only rendering tones.
     
  9. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Gerald Moore was well known in the world of music as an accompanist - the guy who normally sits at the piano while the singer takes the bows. But Moore was also an iconoclast, and so when the song ended, he insisted on standing with the singer to take the bows. And he got away with it.
     
  10. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    My view of maplethorpe's stuff*...
    Much of the 'gay BDSM culture' stuff was, outside of the subject, pretty mundane -- which may have been his intent. The uptown images (those that got sold but not talked about as much) where often wonderfully conceived and executed, but the subject was often mundane.

    *With credit to an art teacher who referred to the two main bodies of wrk as Uptown and downtown.
     
  11. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    If you want to see some amazing prints done by himself although I don't know if he does his own enlarged negs but the platnum work by Albert Watson is startling. deep saturated big beautiful prints.
     
  12. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    Sorry, but this analogy does not work at all.
    Excepted for those of course who believe phtography = printing.
    bertram
     
  13. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Marpelthorpe was, I believe, a marvelous photographer. I particularly like his color work. Truth to be told I would imagine the great majority of the members a APUG would benefit from having our work printed by the best printers around. I also believe, certainly in my own case, that we would have less satisfaction or sense of ownership by having others print our negatives. We would also have far less funds. Printing your own work, it seems to me, to be integral with the learning process. There is no better way to realize the deficiencies of our negatives than by learning to print but I am sure there are few of us that do it with such regularity as to become first rate at printing.
     
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  15. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Mapplethorpe is an interesting subject. While I think he was an above average phtographer as far as his technical skill and use of lighting, I wonder if anyone would care about any of his work if not for his homo-erotic images and his relationship with art critique and curator Sam Wagstaff. This certainly would have opened many doors for him in the rarified air of the NYC art scene. His tragic, early death also elevated the status of his work, as death does for the work of most well known artists in their prime.

    However, as is the case with any art, subject matter and the courage, ability, vision of the artist to bring it to light often is more important then any technical ability.

    With regards to other printing his work, this is by no means unusual. One parallel in the art world is sculpture. Artists who work with massive pieces such as Richard Serra and David Smith design the work but have others do the construction and installation. Pop artists like Jeff Koons have whole legions of staff to actually make the pieces and Sol Lewitt also provides designs for others to complete.
     
  16. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    It depends on your point of view. If one believes that photography is an art then one might wish that the photographer was the sole participant in the production from concept through to the production of the print.

    If one accepts that it is a collaborative process between assistants, art directors, and printers then we start to get to the point where we are giving the photographer far too much credit for the work.

    As I said it is a sticky problem. It starts to get towards the Thomas Kinkade(sp?)/Jeff Koons situation where the artist oversees, sort of. Hardly the hands on concept that the public may think they are buying.


    Michael
     
  17. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Elliott Erwitt once said he didn't respect any photographer who wouldn't process his own film. I'm not sure how that went over with Henri Cartier-Bresson and other members of Magnum (an agency Erwitt headed for a period) who used lab people to handle the darkroom work.

    My personal thoughts are that a photographer's photographs should be his own photographs. If he is not able to print them himself, he should at least be present and oversee the procedures. I would bet most photographers use others to process their film and print their work when they reach a level of popularity and can't keep up with the workload. Paul Strand and Walker Evans did it, I know, and Erwitt eventually did it himself.
     
  18. RichSBV

    RichSBV Member

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    Just a note. When discussing Mapplethorpe, it might be a nice idea to mention which one, especially when you mention the fact that he's now dead. Yes, Robert Mapplethorpe is dead, but Edward is alive and well and still photographing...
     
  19. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Many of the famous painter's like Rembrandt, when doing portraits, would merely paint the subject's face and then have assistants do the clothing and background. You must remember that they were not considered artists, the concept did not exist in their time, but merely as artisans.
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Me too. Robert Mapplethorpe's dye transfer work may be the best color printing I've ever seen, no matter who actually printed it.

    I don't find his controversial b&w work in the least bit erotic, but those color still lifes are really something.
     
  21. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    Mapplethorpe never misrepresented his work as being printed by himself, so no problem IMO. If he hadn't been there none of those images would of been created.
     
  22. rfshootist

    rfshootist Member

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    Michael[/QUOTE]
    If one believes that photography is an art then one might wish that the photographer was the sole participant in the production from concept through to the production of the print.


    That is your personal wish but most pros have another point of view. To me this does not sound logic either and real life has proven and still proves the opposite.

    I've observed the precise dialog between Nachtwey and his printer, he has a clear imagination of how his pics shall look and he kows what can be done and how it can be done and what role does it play then who presses the buttons ?

    What has this kinda outsourcing to do with art or no-art ? Is there a tacit assumption that those who prefer print outsourcing could not do the printing themselves ? That they give their negs to a printer and take what he delivers ? This has nothing to do with the real life.

    But even if this would be true, in this case one has to face that printing itself does not produce any kinda art. The art is in the source. The print is the craft which makes it perceivable, it isn't the art itself. A printer is an artist only when he prints art, not because he is printing !

    If you'd learn that H. C.-B. hasn't printed ever his photos would you then
    seriously find his work artistically less worth than you found it before ?

    bertram
     
  23. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    You could go ad nauseum with this type of thinking. Wet-plate guys could accuse us film shooters of not creating our own emulsions, so we aren't artists.
    Perhaps we should be digging up our own silver ore and making everything from scratch.
     
  24. severian

    severian Member

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    E

    Mapplethorpeeeeeeeee
    Sorry!
     
  25. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I do, absolutely, understand the real world. I realize that when Annie Leibowitz works she has a staff of 6-10 people who design, art direct, light, and print her work. Is it still her work? I guess so.

    As for your HCB example, I love his work. BUT any photographer who is capable of producing it from beginning to end, I would definitely respect more.

    As for the printing aspects. If a photographer is a very capable printer, then has someone else (another printer) follow his direction because he is too old, too busy, etc I don't really have a problem with.

    But if he can't print and someone else is intrepreting and printing his work, it loses some of its value, TO ME.

    None of this means that I don't respect their work, I just have more respect if their hands were on it.

    Michael
     
  26. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    If you'd learn that H. C.-B. hasn't printed ever his photos would you then
    seriously find his work artistically less worth than you found it before ?

    bertram[/QUOTE]

    Actually, in the beginning HC-B did all of his own darkroom work, including printing. Then, later, when he was traveling the world so much, he developed his own film (Using Harold Harvey's Panthermic 777, I believe). Prints from those negatives were made later by Pierre Gassman's lab. It is variously reported that the negatives could be printed straight, or that they were really terrible requiring master printers to get anything usable out of them.
    Personally, I think that there should be different expectations from a working photographer, and a "fine-arts" photographer.