I certainly know my share of very skilled inkjet printers, and I'll bet they put just as many hours tuning up an image as they did back in their
darkroom days. It's damn near impossible for any commercial lab to be viable as a business and put that kind of labor into something at the
same time. Home cooking has to be a labor of love, and perhaps only a few hired gun printers are around who will take that kind of commitment on a dedicated assignment for someone else's actual shots. Ctein is one of them. But anything under Eggleston's name was probably done on an assembly-line basis, with different tasks in the whole complex workflow assigned to different people. The quality of the prints could also vary to how far along the edition was and the condition of the matrices. My remark about not liking his work big is of course a personal aesthetic, but I've never like his work big, even when he briefly shot med format and still had it done dye transfer. The shoe just
didn't fit his style.
This is very interesting discussion and i'll chuck my few pence in...
there are some new dyes up in the Tate Modern in London part of a new set of prints from the book Chromes, so previously unseen.
i think the edition was printed by guy stricherz.
they are 16x20" prints.
apparently some are from Kodachrome and others from Ektachrome stock and this can be guessed in a few of the prints. also strangely some of the prints vary noticeably from the same images seen the recent Chromes publication and not always for the better. I remember seeing a similar recent edition of Bruce Davidson Subway and a friend saying to me that these are good prints from some tricky originals, similarly there are some tricky looking prints here, i'd love to know more about why that is?
the majority are lovely.
much more interestingly is the fact that this was a major investment project too, tax breaks involved etc.and that the powers that be decided that the best (aesthetically? economically? both?) way to produce these prints was still dye transfer.
from what i hear there were dye prints made for Eggleston in the past that weren't top quality for various reasons, it was a much more commercial process in it's heyday so possible.
we are lucky enough to be attempting to move into hybrid-dye transfer, we have a stock of the Efke matrix (sorry ctein we can't buy your pan-matrix as we are "skint" and need to buy a neg writer) and are currently building a new space from too smaller darkrooms, as for paper we have a long way to go.
I don't think we need to make this contentious. Drew did NOT insinuate that Eggelston had low standards nor that all labs produce mediocre prints. He only observed, correctly, that the latter can be true and he did not know what Eggleston's standards were for these prints.
I can testify that I have seen some very crappy exhibits from photographers I would expect otherwise from. The last exhibit I saw of Elliot Porter dye transfers while he was still alive, his Antarctic (or was it arctic? lotsa ice, whichever), was terrible. I won't mince words. The prints were crap. Obviously bad color and tone, poorly spotted. They were completely substandard. Obviously they weren't made under his direct hand or supervision, unless he was losing it. But regardless who printed them, inexplicably (to me) they'd been deemed satisfactory for public exhibit.
So, even the best of folks, with sterling reputations, can have bad shows. It's a fair question to raise when you see something that didn't impress-- what went wrong, and where.
And, medium and subject matter come into play, as already mentioned. I could probably get consensus agreement that I'm the best dye transfer printer of color negative who ever existed; I know I'm much, much better than any other work I've ever seen. But from slides? I'm good. But only just good. I'm a more meticulous and cleaner printer than almost anyone else out there -- the only prints I've seen that technically were as good as mine were ones done for Mapplethorpe. (Coincidentally, I met the fellow who printed those a few years back. I told him how impressed I was.) But as for the aesthetic qualities, like tone and color rendition, there were many printers who were better than me, were better at masking, that kind of thing.
When it's a process as complex as dye transfer, no one has ever mastered it all.
And, now that I think on it, I'd have to say the same about digital printing. The physical high bar to making good prints has been removed (hurrah!), but the range of controls and techniques available to the digital printer makes dye transfer feel like chromogenic printing. There is so much more one can learn to improve one's results.
Which is one big reason it excites my muse.
pax / Ctein
"Eggleston himself is not a printmaker, so it's hard to know what his personal expectations were." -DREW WILEY
Originally Posted by Ctein
Let's take the converse of this just for argument's sake; namely that Eggleston is a printmaker. Would Drew have any clue as to what his personal expectations were in the printing of his work? I doubt it. Would it matter? Absolutely not. Why would it? Does the fact that an Eggleston is rendered in DT vs. inkjet change the value of the object at all? Clearly, based on the Christie's sale, it does not. An Eggleston is an Eggleston is an Eggleston, regardless of how it's rendered. Only a lesser photographer would need to glom onto the process in order to enhance the perceived value of the artwork. Contrary to Drew's claim, there was no "publisher" involved in the inkjet reprints that were sold at Christies (but Drew should know this because based on his strong opinion regarding the reprints he must have been in attendance at the auction house). Rest assured that Eggleston proofs and edits and reproofs all of his pictures with a mastery that few can touch and a sensibility that is entirely his own.
Drew's implication is that a photographer who doesn't print his/her own work couldn't possibly have an eye for print quality. As someone who printed commercially for years I can say with certainty that this is not at all true. In fact I've witnessed many a scenario where an expert printmaker has shown themselves to be utterly lacking in the aesthetic sensibilities necessary to render an image as successfully as he/she might have done so under the direction of the artist. In the end, whether a print is made digitally or traditionally has no bearing on the emotional impact of the image. And nowadays, with the demise of worthy analogue materials, digital clearly has the upper hand when it comes to effective color printing.
In the documentary, William Eggleston: In the Real World he doesn't talk about the printmaking much, but he does examine some closely. Another artist that has transitioned to inkjet yet doesn't make his own prints is Gregory Crewdson. In the documentary Close Encounters he is shown standing over the Epson printer, scrutinizing the minute details as it comes out of the printer, so he clearly cares about the quality, but has someone else do the work. Just an observation.
None of the insinuations nor implications you assert are in Drew's post are actually there. He did not say any of those things, explicitly nor implicitly, nor did he intend to. I happen to know Drew personally, and all the attitudes/opinions you keep trying to ascribe to him are simply not the case. None of it.
You are looking for a fight where none exists, an argument for the sake of argument. You are misreading what he wrote. The discussion is over, so far as I am concerned, because you are trying to win an argument that exists only in your own mind.
Again, I request you just drop this, but whether you choose to or not, I am doing so. If you wish to rebut this post, it will not get a response.
Just let it go. Please.
pax / Ctein
It would be interesting to see Eggleston prints with a production-provenance that is strictly from Eggleston's hand. In fairness, some of his work seems to me fairly to scream out for dye transfer; but I don't want these remarks to lead to bloodshed. I should mention that Ctein not only shoots his images on med format Kodak, but he also developed the color neg before beginning his DT process. You can have a great deal of confidence that you see what the artist intended when he/she has done so many of the steps with his/her own hands.