Define "Print Quality"
This is a purely academic exercise on my part. I've been thinking about this for some time and have come to the conclusion that print quality is more subjective than objective.
One the one hand, we have the Ansel Adams school in which the photographer tries to achieve the perfect print. The final photograph will have a full range of gray tones with clear whites and inky blacks and give the impression of giving off an inner light.
But on the other hand, some great photographers had other ideas about printing their photographs. Some of my favorite photographers are listed.
Walker Evans' photos always look well-crafted and rich to me but he was known to harrass his lab assistants for spending too much time and effort in trying to make perfect prints.
Bill Brandt's photos are outrageously contrasty. Some of them are totally lacking in detail with burned out whites and blocked up blacks. But they still work for me.
Lee Friedlander's book "The Desert Seen" gives a first impression of the prints being awful and washed out but they were meant to capture the essence of the desert's blinding light and they succeed well at this. I find myself squinting when I look at this book.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard apparently was haphazard in his darkroom work--possibly because he had little time to devote to printing. Yet his photos are still provocative and highly respected.
Robert Frank has made an artform of grainy, soft photographs printed outside the definition of a "full tonal range".
Is the classic concept of print quality important to you or are you more inclined to take a different path?
Ansel Adams said in one of his book is that the negative is the score and the print is the performance. You can not really say what is a perfect print from a negative nor you can say what is a perfect performance from a musical score.
I would think that the perfect print would be one that accomplishes the intentions of the photographer.
What I care is to see if the print can give me some feelings or make me thinking. It can be w/o any details in the dark or total blown out highlights. Of course, it has to be spotted and flatened. I hate to see white spot in shadows or vise versa.
What works for me is a print that presents itself in such a manner as to satisfy how I feel about my rememberance of what I wanted when I made the photo.
Thats is pretty subjective..oh my God is that subjective.
It takes a scientist to make a perfect negative, but it takes an artist to make a perfect photograph.
I want both (still working on it).
I agree most with JBrunner but is there really such a thing as a perfect print?
The issue isn't perfection, it is 'quality'.
Lee, go to a museum, look at a bunch of prints that you think are satisfying, and write a short essay. We'll grade the effort.
Naw...I'm doin' the grading here. ;)
Appears subjectivity is winning so far.
I'm not sure you are right about Meatyard. I think he just preferred to do small prints. At any rate, it doesn't matter.
Thelonious Monk was often criticized for not being technically proficient as a pianist, yet he NEVER played a wrong note. And by "wrong" I don't just mean the wrong key, but also wrong rhythm, wrong accent, etc. His technique was proficient for his art.