Why don't photographers include photo details in books?

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by StoneNYC, Nov 21, 2013.

  1. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I'm not sure if this is in the right section, mods, please move this if it's not.

    I'm constantly surprised and frustrated when I'm looking through a book of photographs by a famous photographer, and almost never is there any indication of what film it is or what developer was used.

    I don't expect to see all the details Aperture, shutter, light measurements, etc., but I at least expect to see what type of film it is and what developer was used to develop it if it's black-and-white.

    It's always sort of bothered me but never really came as a question until I happen to pick up Annie Leibowitz book "A Photographers Life". i've seen the book a few times before on the shelves, but with that he used bookstore and was able to pick it up at a reasonable price. The front cover has a bunch of different pieces of film on it all taken on Kodak TXP 6049 presumably taken on a Hassleblad considering it's medium format film in 6x6 format. (Or possibly Mamiya RB/RZ67 with 6x6 back? I only say that because later on in the book I found some Polaroid test shots that appeared to be with the 6 x 6 back that has the edgings that look like the Mamiya and not the Hassleblad but I don't have any kind of research to tell me what Annie's preference in cameras were over time when she wished shooting in studio, I know that her 35mm work was with a specific camera, but I don't know about her studio me and format stuff).

    So now I know that Annie at some point really like shooting with Tri-X Pan Professional. But only for those photographs, the rest of them though a lot of them seem to show the edgings of the film rather than them be cut out perfectly, but don't show the full edge markings so I can't tell what they are. Especially since many of the photographs in this particular book our large full-page images, not those crappy little tiny ones in some photo books which as an aside those really bother me, someone publishes a very large book, charges a lot of money for it, and then you open it up and there's tiny little squares inside a giant white page, but that's just personal preference for me.

    Anyway many of the photographs show very beautiful green and especially this early work of hers that she showing, and I wonder what type of film it is some of it a shot in very low light situations but seemingly have a wide DOF so I'm wondering if it was pushed, or if it was some kind of fast exposure film like Royal X Pan or something else. But I have no way of finding out it's very frustrating.

    I suppose since I'm confused about cameras it would also be nice to know what kind of camera they shot with as well as the film, not that it really matters but at least it would kind of gives some insight into the kinds of shooter they are something that I think people might be interested in.

    Does anyone know why this is such a failure in photographic books to not include something as simple as the type of film it is?
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi stone

    i think the reason photographers who publish books never include anything
    about camera, film technque, lighting, paper, developers &c is because
    well, most people don't really care about the details. the general public
    who buys books with photographs in them only really care about the imagery
    they couldn't care less about anything else. ( do books on painting list materials or paper ? )
    photographers or aspiring photographers on the other hand, that is mainly what they care about
    how an image was made, the film, paper, chemistry "chi" technique, light placement, gobox, modifiers and lights
    and everything else ....

    just like looking at images at a museum or gallery ... photographers ( film photographers ? ) put their nose as close to the glass as possible
    to look at the details &c and have no concept of viewing distance .. it is kind of embarrassing ...

    personally, i don't really care about what kind of film, paper, lights and all the technical "stuff"
    because to me the "chi" is the image, now all the crap used to make it...

    YMMV
     
  3. thegman

    thegman Member

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    I think it's probably going to be along the lines of 'it doesn't matter, only the content of the photos matter'. I guess that is either true or pretentious, depending on your point of view.
     
  4. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I don't think it's pretentious at all, I just think that I guess my perspective is wow this image is beautiful but so grainy and I'd love to know how it was made and what it was made with. Even just out of curiosity not because I want to mimic it.

    It doesn't matter but it kind of does matter in that if the image that looks so beautiful grainy were ultra sharp and digital looking then maybe wouldn't be such an interesting photograph because the textures would've changed.
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    There is a lot of Mamiya promotional literature that talks about Annie Leibowitz's use of a Mamiya RZ67.

    With the exception of books that focus on technical issues, and promotional materials put together for film companies, I cannot see any reason for including information about film choice in books.

    Unless of course the film manufacturer paid to ensure inclusion.

    The process involved in reproducing images in a book has far more influence on the appearance of the results than film choice ever could.

    If you expect reproductions in books to look like photographers' prints, you are going to find yourself disappointed, more often than not.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The best photographers are more concerned about the project than the technical details, I think. The technique is just a tool to convey an idea or tell a story, and it's better that the technique be invisible by the time a viewer is looking at the photograph as a print or in a book.
     
  7. Dinesh

    Dinesh Subscriber

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    So painful!
     
  8. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    ...in addition to it being mostly pointless, and highly subjective (ie. Tri-X and D76 can be very smooth, or very, very grainy when treated differently)...

    I would hazard that most photographers don't remember or care.

    I don't record what developer I use, and the film choice is generally unrelated to the overall look of the print...I have prints from FP4+ that make Delta 3200 look like TMax 100, and I have prints from Tri-X that have no right to print at 16x20" as smoothly as they do, but yet there they are...
     
  9. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I think it's because, even with the same film, developer, and paper, you wouldn't get identical results. There are too many other variables which would make the information useless.
     
  10. Dr Croubie

    Dr Croubie Member

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    I'd say it's the difference between going to a cinema to see a movie, compared to watching one of those "behind-the-scenes" or "making-of" documentaries. The "general public" only want to see the final product, and sometimes the artist doesn't want their techniques known.
    It's us nerds, geeks, students, gearheads, whatever, who want to know the process, the camera, lens, film, developer, paper, whatever. Sometimes so we can directly replicate the results, sometimes so we can learn a new technique, sometimes just out of GAS-based curiosity.
    Maybe convince your favourite photographers to do a "making of" or "behind the scenes" book of their favourite / most well known photos? I don't think it would sell as well as their portfolio books, a small few of us would be interested but the general public just won't care enough to make it very profitable, unfortunately...
     
  11. Pioneer

    Pioneer Member

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    If it means anything, Annie used the Mamiya RB67 (or maybe that should be RZ67) a lot for her portrait work, and a Nikon for a lot of her documentary type of work. But she went digital very early. She said herself that she changed every time a new digital camera came along that she felt provided better quality. To be perfectly honest though, I am not sure that knowing which film or which camera was used makes a lot of difference. She was not terribly concerned with equipment unless it didn't get her what she wanted. A lot of her early work was 35mm and one flash. She only moved to 6x6 because the shape of the cover of the Rolling Stone was square. She liked the look of the Mamiya lenses so that is what she went with.
     
  12. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Interesting thanks.
     
  13. h.v.

    h.v. Member

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    Probably because to most, it doesn't matter. Either from viewers who are just interested in the artistic side of it or from the artists themselves who don't believe the technical details are all that important. Plus, such detailed technical specs could clutter the layout of a photobook and detract from the central element of it - the actual photos. There may also be those who believe their process is 'theirs' and thus they feel the need to keep it to themselves. There are examples of this in pop culture, look at Breaking Bad for example. Egos can very easily get in the way of things.

    I thought I was the only one who did this! :smile:
     
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  15. Shawn Dougherty

    Shawn Dougherty Member

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    I believe the above statement of yours points in the direction of your answer... It is probably something worth thinking about in earnest before you buy yet another emulsion... or developer.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    If a photographers used a fairly consistent material and method, perhaps that info could be included with the Colophon at the back of the books.
     
  17. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Stone- You might like Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams.
     
  18. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    In Stone's defense, I think it is perfectly fine to be curious about things like the film choice of others.

    And of course, if you get to see original prints made by or under the direction of the photographer, it can be informative to learn about the photographer's technical choices made in support of the photographer's style.

    If you are interested in the results obtained by Karsh, for example, it is useful to learn about his techniques and material choices.
     
  19. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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    We have all probably learned about some aspect of photography by seeing an image that moved us and then questioning and investigating how such an image was made. Those photographers who choose to disclose the technical aspects of their work allow other practitioners to learn from their efforts. Personally, I learned about gum printing from seeing Steichen's work and then reading up on his technique. Same with Strand and photogravure.

    I'm sure electric guitar enthusiasts have an equal interest in learning what guitars, amps, pick-ups, strings, effects pedals and mics their heroes use, while the rest of us are content just to listen to the songs in blissful ignorance of all that.

    Jonathan
     
  20. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    I think Shawn has a good point. A lot of your posts remind me of some of my students, back in my teaching days. They were enthusiastic and talented, but too easily diverted by film/developer/paper combinations to gain any "traction" in their image making. I had one guy who, almost weekly, would come to me and say, "I saw a few prints by (insert famous photographer here). I read he used (insert camera/film/developer/paper here). I want my work to look like that." He'd then switch films and developers. He never produced anything worthwhile. I also had a girl who stuck with Plus-X/D-76 (if memory serves). Initially, she was very frustrated with her results. Rather than switch, though, she stuck with the combination, did all the boring tests, took notes, and ended up producing some very nice work. I ran into her about 6 years later, after she had finished college (I taught her in high school). She used all of her electives on photo courses, and kept shooting her original combination. She even had a solo exhibit in the campus gallery, the only non art major to ever get one, she told me.
     
  21. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I am sick, and therefore additionally ornery from my normal state, so I'll be coming off grumpy... But...

    For someone like Annie Leibovitz, do you really think any of her film work was actually darkroom printed by her? No, you would be an idiot to think that, it was sent to the magazines who either did their old school magazine print thing (I don't know what it's called but it wasn't RA4 or traditional B&W printing with an enlarger it was some other process to make rolling stone, and after that it was drum scanning the film, the same for the likes of Steve McCurry, and many others.

    So the type of film/equipment etc is CRITICAL to their style and image outcome.

    And I can certainly tell the difference between Kodachrome, or Kodak 400CN or VS or New Portra or Fuji color negative images, they all have a distinctive look to them, if they all looked the same then they wouldn't make different types, just one type...

    The same is true for B&W. There's just more types of B&W out there and more variables (different developers etc) and so I like to know what people used.

    Most likely Annie sent most of her stuff to a lab, even the B&W stuff so it was D-76 or HC-110 in a machine, but still the film is important to understanding the process the artist went through.

    If you don't think it's important or relevant, or that you can just use one film for all situations either you're a magician or an idiot or delusional...

    Again, I'm sick and grumpy and I'm tired of people telling me to only shoot one film, I don't want to, and I'm not going to, I'm going to shoot EVERY film I can and want to and use each one for its purpose until I settle on a few.

    End of grumpy rant.
     
  22. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Well, I don't see why what she does should be relevant to you, unless your goal is to copy her style. As for the magicians, idiots, and delusional, most of those that recommend sticking to one combination for awhile have decades more experience than you. For every roll, or sheet, you've developed, they've developed 500. Maybe they know a few things...
     
  23. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Maybe they know a few things because in their youth they tried all the films and then found what they liked and in their wisdom of sticking to on thing have forgotten how "wild" they used to be haha :smile:
     
  24. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Actually, I think there's a lot of truth in what you're saying. Early on, we all search for the "magic bullet". Then, we decide we want to make good photographs, rather than bounce around between mediocre results from various combinations. It's at that point that we all simplified our materials. haha :smile:
     
  25. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Nice burn! :smile: haha

    Thankfully I don't think ALL of my images in my gallery are mediocre or I might be offended LOL :smile:
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Stone:

    Hope you are feeling better soon.

    Shoot as many films as you like. If you enjoy that, then you should.

    It will benefit you in different ways though if you concentrate on fewer films, and work carefully and closely with your lab on how to get the most of your materials.

    Annie Leibovitz probably did print her early Rolling Stone work. If not, they were probably printed with her involvement. And the magazine's process then most likely was based on what were essentially photographs taken of the prints that were made conventionally by her or with her involvement.

    Or if she shot slide material, the slides themselves were essentially photographed.

    In most cases, in a blind test, it is just about impossible to identify categorically what film was used in a particular situation if there is an intermediary that is either digital in nature or if a photograph has been reproduced for publication. The intermediate steps add their own characteristics and get in the way.