Print and/or Image Value

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by cliveh, Feb 25, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Is there much added value to viewing an actual photographic print, as opposed to one reproduced in a book or on the net? I suppose the question I’m asking is does appreciation of print value form as much or more importance as opposed to just reproduction of these print values showing composition and content of an image. I would say not, although if I were viewing a painting I may have a different response.
     
  2. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Viewing an image on the web or in a book is like eating canned food heated in a microwave. It may give you a taste of the real thing, but it is not the same. Viewing prints in person is like eating a gourmet meal in fine restaurant.
     
  3. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    If I understand your question correctly, yes, there is much added value without one single doubt in my mind. Viewing on the net, doesn't hold the candle by a long shot, so for me that's not even worth a discussion. Books, even beautifully printed ones, do not either. Now, to show composition and/or content, as a work in progress so to speak, I would say it is okay (net viewing or books). For example, I own a few original Fan Ho prints and also a limited edition book, beautifully printed, "Hong Kong Yesterday". The original prints are so much better, that there is absolutely no contest. The same ones in the book are slightly over-sharpened, the paper is obviously different, color (toning) is a bit off, and, for as beautiful as the images are, they just fall totally flat compared to holding and viewing the original print. In short, viewing on the net, or a book, are limitations we all live with to present, promote, share, work. There is value in that, but it is very limited when compared to an actual print, to a viewer, a collector, whoever.
     
  4. garysamson

    garysamson Subscriber

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    Have you had an opportunity to view original prints by master photographers in a museum environment? No reproduction of a painting, drawing or photographic print will equal the viewing experience of seeing the original work with al it's subtilties.
     
  5. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    Yes. It is no different for a photographic print than for a painting.
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I saw prints made by Clyde Butcher at a local museum. My first reaction was "WOW!" Then I stood there for a while. I had this feeling of image surrounding me. Later, I read (on his web page), he envisions viewer walking into his image that he purposely leaves a space on his print where the view can walk into. I'm not even a landscape photographer. I'm more of a portrait guy.

    Looking at his images on my LCD panel doesn't even come close to seeing his prints, especially big ones.

    On other occasions, I saw a print that was rather small, 11x14 maybe that I stood and contemplated for a while. I really didn't know what it was supposed to tell me, but I stood there nevertheless. I never did that with online images.

    Rather than asking for others' opinions, I encourage you to visit local museums and see for yourself. It's not a matter of what you *should* be seeing. It's the matter of images just grabbing you. If you can get this from online images, great, but I doubt you do.
     
  7. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    It's kinda like the difference between muscle cars in books and muscle cars in the flesh.

    As mentioned, you have to get yourself to some museums.

    Do a google image search of "stieglitz hand of man". See how many variations there are of a single photo? See how they all poorly reproduce the dark tones? That's what you get with a typical book or internet photo. I haven't seen the original of this, but the variety of reproductions I've seen lead me to not trust the copies. I have seen other pictorialist and modernist photos at museums and in private ownership, and there is absolutely a huge difference, and few of them reproduce well. A hundred year old platinum contact print is something special. So is a FB silver print of Karsh's.

    Moving to color.... There is nothing quite like Eliot Porter's dye transfer prints.

    Then, sometimes a mediocre image looks better in a book; some of Ansel Adam's color cibachrome landscapes come to mind. Cibachromes can look stunning though.

    Furthermore, there is some important context to the size of the image. Books don't present this well due to their size limitations. Better ones have an appendix describing the size and material of the original so you can help understand it's size context better. Photographers of old created latent images with the final output size in mind. They knew it would be a contact print of a particular size. We've gotten away from that, blowing things into 18' tall cindy shermans and shrinking whole plate negatives down to 1/4 page in books. Sometimes it works, often it's a travesty. This is a result of small formats and digital that lets us easily not think about final presentation when the photo is captured. Comparing to art.. An impressionist or pointilism painting looks great at it's original size but not so well at different sizes. The medium and craft is an important part of the whole.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 25, 2012
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Do you like virtual sex, beer, food, wine, art, etc? Or do you like the real thing better?

    Yes, viewing the real print adds a lot of value. Especially in this day and age where almost everything is a digital copy of something real.
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    on the other side of the coin
    i have seen paintings and buildings in books
    and when i saw them in real life
    i was like - " that's it ? "
    it doesn't happen often but sometimes ...
    with all photography, the person making the image
    and the book displaying the image ( or website ) has
    the opportunity to change the point of view ..
    and make a crowd of 3 look like a mob,
    or a run down building look like a castle ..

    personally ..
    i think there is nothing quite like seeing something real .. and
    art in a gallery or museum or portfolio that is mailed to you
    is about as real as it gets.

    i remember seeing man ray's "le cadeau" at the MFA in boston
    and maholy nagy's light shadow simulator "light prop"
    and the movie he made from it .. i got the same feeling when i
    stood inside la chappelle at ronchamp by le corbusier ...
     
  10. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    It all turns on the quality of the "print"

    A high quality book reproduction of a high quality print will trump a poor print every time.
     
  11. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    True. But it won't trump the high quality print.
     
  12. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Gosh this has some meat to it Clive...

    Art (whatever that is), I would prefer to see in person than say virtually. Value is so nebulous though of a term, think of Gursky's Rhine II, some give a lot of value (monetarily and as a piece of art) due to seeing it personally due to its presence (same might be said for Sherman's huge pieces) - but what is value anyway? Does a grandparent have tons of value seeing a ultrasound picture of their first grandchild as a print in hand vs say posted on FB?

    Photojournalism, now it starts to break down (or maybe prove a point), when I saw in horror those poor souls killed in Tiananmen Square, what difference does it make if those horrible images are printed on 10x10' Cibachromes or as a bad grainy video still - the "value" is the same. Same could be said for The horrible images of Neda Agha-Soltan that went all through twitter and the net in a matter of hours after her being killed in Iran in 2009....how do you place a "value"?

    Photography/art is hard to put in a pretty box....I ask you what is value? And if you answer that, who's to say anyone is right or wrong? It might be easy to say fine art prints are better in hand (hence value) which I agree with (just look at how bad my print scans look for proof, gosh my prints look nothing like the garbage in the Gallery), but it might be too limited to say "value" because it depends on the image, purpose and intention...
     
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I don’t agree with this analogy. An exhibition print of the Grand Canyon is still virtual as opposed to being there, as is a lithographic print, silk screen, inkjet, gravure, etc. Sometimes my students produce better representations of a negative image through scanning and inkjet printing than they do in the darkroom.
     
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  15. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Of course they do. That's because negative manipulation is far easier, and with a higher degree of control, with scanning and photoshop, than in a conventional darkroom. I don't think this is relevant to the current discussion though, unless of course you want to open a whole new can of worms by bringing into it the value of a silver gelatin print, VS an inkjet.
     
  16. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    My opinion is that the added value is not always a factor of 'quality' alone and can also be influenced by the viewer's relationship with the medium. My guess is that darkroom printers may value an original print more than, say, a layman who may find a print in a book perfectly acceptable, even identical. Likewise some people may be adverse to looking at photos on a computer screen - my elderly relatives can't stand doing that and are only interested in passing around 'real' prints.
     
  17. batwister

    batwister Member

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    This seems to be a question that only really concerns photographers and photography historians. Nuance, let's face it, is our concern. Whether we accept it or not, if we aspire to be successful art photographers, our images will be reproduced in all different kinds of qualities, it's just the age we live in. The images we make now have to hold up as... images, whatever the means of presentation. My point of view is that the unique piece of art (the fine print) that nearly everyone here values above all else, no longer holds the value it once did outside of 'fine art' communities. We have to tell normal people, beautiful subtleties or not, that the print is hand made for them to value the subtleties because for so many, the photograph is now simply a constant source of information on world events, cultures, products etc. So habitually, it's only the information that they take from the photograph and then, they move on to the next one. We're experts at obtaining information today and we're addicted to getting our next information fix. In a time when images are produced and consumed like Big Macs, I'd argue that it's not nuance that people should value, but strong images that stop people in their tracks for even a little longer than usual. The best way to do this is by obscuring the information that we need to get at. The most famous image, the Mona Lisa, is the ultimate archetype of this and the very reason it is so famous. Some say that it's not even very well painted!

    It's understandable that crafting a darkroom masterpiece will reward extended viewing, but does it earn it? Werner Herzog says we're starved of great images today and I agree wholeheartedly. One of the great image makers, Harry Callahan, made contact prints and his photographs hold the same value for me on Google image search as they do in the brilliantly printed monograph I have. That I get more pleasure holding and flipping through the book, might simply be the reward for my consumerist nature - what I get from the images is the same. But there's also the 'presence' of an older photograph or piece of art that perhaps comes from the aura of older paper, canvases and paint, which is diminished completely in reproduction. This, more than anything else, might be the biggest factor in our value judgments of the work of master photographers and artists.

    I'm going to see John Blakemore's prints soon and I'm sure that will be a different story altogether.

    edit: Need to stop editing posts.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2012
  18. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    It was a question I asked.

    My own level of enjoyment is infinitely enhanced by having something tangible to deal with; something I can touch with my own hands. The part of it that pleases me the most is that I'm alone with the object. Only my senses interpret, and that is where the value lies, freed of 'noise'.
     
  19. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    In awnser to your original question I like the real thing better. But I don't see how this relates to a photographic print. You can be alone and touch a page in a book, as you can with a print made by any form of printing medium.
     
  20. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    Question: why is there a need to even try to commercialize, sell prints to enthusiasts/collectors? Why is there a need to even try to show in a gallery? It seems to me that now, with all the technology available, it is a lot easier to craft and self publish a book of photos for the masses, or just keep on publishing for the web, and call it a day. Does anyone really feel that there is much value (yes, there is SOME) in that, and that it would bring fulfillment (let alone meaningful income) to an artist?
     
  21. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Yes, but in the book there is usually a level of interpretation in how the book should be printed, for example. It's not the 'real thing', even though for the most part it's the 'next best alternative'. Many of us cannot afford to buy expensive prints of our favorite artists, so we have to settle for a book.
    But, I really enjoy a print a lot more than I do a copy in a book.
     
  22. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    What do you mean by the real thing. My idea of the real thing would be the negative, or even the latent image.
     
  23. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Is it difficult to appreciate that someone likes to view an original print more than some reproduction in a book, or worse yet, on the internet?
     
  24. MDR

    MDR Member

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    The Internet or books often have a different surface characteristic than the print, if the image is meant to be seen in the digital domain or the wanted end product is a book reproduction or an inkjet print. Then the picture is better on the internet or in the book as it was the photographers original intention if on the other hand the photo was made to be seen as handprint in a gallery then the picture in the gallery is the better one. The photographers original intention is what should count. I personally prefer a good print hanging in gallery/museum to an internet picture.

    Dominik
     
  25. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    No it isn’t Thomas and I can understand how a hand crafted print particularly by the photographer is what a lot of people wish to see, particularly fellow darkroom workers. I suppose by value, I am talking about being precious about the print, and a lot depends on the type of picture we are looking at. A print can be crafted and produced in an infinite different ways, but only from the existing negative.
     
  26. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I'm not looking for an argument, but I don't agree with the 'latent image' being the purest representation of the artist's intent. It doesn't come alive until it's printed, so what's the point of worshipping the negative? It's an intermediary as a step to the destination of becoming something that is visible and comprehensible by the viewer. I mean, why do you feel it important enough to show prints here, in shows, and on your web site? Shouldn't you just let people look at your negatives? Or better yet, why not let them look with infrared light on an undeveloped piece of film with a latent image on it?

    Artists make choices when they print, and it's the culmination of all their decisions in framing the exposure, exposing the film, choice of processing, interpreting the negative, cropping and framing the print, and finally toning and choice of presentation. All those decisions matter to me, and one thing that is immensely important to me is scale. Imagine a Gursky print that's several feet across, represented by an 800x600 pixel jpeg on a web site, or an 8x6" reproduction in a book. While I don't like Gursky's work in general, I can appreciate the impact of scale, which is another intention the photographer has when they make their exposures.

    So, to me, and this is my opinion, I think the final print holds tremendous value for the viewing experience. It is an entirely different experience from looking in a book, on a computer screen or projection. Someone mentioned surface texture of a print; you mentioned photogravure - the relief of the print, which I think is an important aspect of making them in the first place, and it doesn't show in a book or on a computer screen.

    There are many reasons for me to enjoy the print as the ultimate form of expression.