Of course "a pig is still a pig". Great work (as well as poor work) can be done using any medium. But, as traditional methods cede further space to digital, it becomes rarer, more alien, and (in the mind of the general public) more collectible. This will only increase as "idiot-proof" cameras, and better, cheaper, larger printers become available to the amateur user.
Quality issues being equal, people are drawn to things they find exotic. Analog has crossed over to the exotic.
There are reasons people buy antique dressers, or dressers made by an expert woodworker, rather than IKEA.
From the commercial portrait studio perspective, the proliferation of camera phones, cheap digital cameras and computer programs to enhance them, is decidedly not the same as the era of the Kodak Brownie being introduced.
The quality and ease of use has actually turned the commercial portrait studio on its head due to the acceptability of the photography and prints that is attainable with these new cameras and the number of people who have them. Add to that is the fashionable style of informality, and the recession, and you have a perfect storm that professional studios are now dealing with.
With regard to the "fine art print", it wasn't long ago that a "giclee" print was an interesting fine art selling tool. Now perhaps darkroom prints will feel a resurgence because it's "different" but in reality the consumer probably can't tell the difference anyway. A sharp dealer could tell them it was achieved with fairy dust and they would believe it.
Top collectors have and always will be familiar with darkroom processes and seek these out but like I said, most people could not tell the difference between a digital or a darkroom print.
Eddie, yes, but we are talking about the end product here, which is a print. What becomes rarer and more collectible? Film negatives? Buyers are not interested in negatives, or Instagram files. They buy prints. To make the statement that "film photography" may attain fine art status because of the proliferation of digital is really incorrect. Film photography doesn't guarantee quality or marketability and cannot be, in itself, "fine art". I don't believe that being a film photographer elevates anyone, or the art, to a higher status. There is A LOT more going on than just that. A great image, on film (or digital) skillfully printed on silver or various alternate processes is where intrinsic value is placed upon, and not whether it was recorded by film or a sensor, a 35mm camera, a giant 11x14 or with any crazy expensive lens. Some here may not agree but it's really a choice of whether we want to live in a dream world or reality.
Originally Posted by eddie
Blansky brings up an important point. Top collectors with education about the process and means to buy the very best may prefer traditional prints - assuming both versions are available for the given image. But most consumers, including wealthy consumers who wants to adorn their house with expensive and nice pictures aren't likely to care. They will buy what appeals to them or what their gallery suggests to them. So we are talking very small number of people who will hold higher value to traditional photographs and something that will only matter when same image is printed using both methods. (Clyde Butcher does this... he offers both types) For vast majority of consumers, it's well beyond their understanding. They couldn't care less about the fact that film has a superior dynamic range or that archival processed prints are going to last 150 years.
If we can put our prejudice towards digital products aside for a moment, I will have to say well prepared digital prints are just as good as well prepared traditional prints. Crappy prints are crappy in either method.
I'd say the quality of the image comes first and the process comes distant second.
Max- I agree that a darkroom produced image isn't necessarily "fine art". It can suck as much as any other image making medium. Prior to digital, most film photographs didn't attain that status. I do believe that, all things being equal (i.e.- an equally good darkroom vs. a digital print- Yes, I know... hard to quantify...), the darkroom print will have a marketing advantage, due to it's relative rarity. I think this trend will continue as analog becomes even more rare. I do agree that an excellent image, regardless of how it's produced is the bottom line. However, I've seen a renewed interest in analog at my shows. The ubiquity of digital on canvas (which was the "hot thing" not too many years ago) has led to this renewed interest.
Perfect timing for this thread, as I was one of 50 photographers to participate in the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Portfolio Review yesterday. Out of that 50, only 7 had any film/alt processes (there were palladium prints, wet plates, gold-toned albumen, and silver prints), the rest were purely digital. Of those seven, three were using film, then scanning the film and outputting either digital negs or inkjet prints, two were wet plate, and two were film/silver (including myself).
Originally Posted by tkamiya
The people who used film or alt processes were much more attuned to the craft of photography, in my opinion, and their work was on a much higher level. With very few exceptions, the work of the digital crowd was a nightmarish pile of over sharpened, hyper saturated prints.
(I use digital every day, and I believe I do so with the same care and craft that I put into my personal work. One of the quickest ways for me to blow a sale in my portrait studio is to start talking about what paper or process I use to produce the prints. Nobody cares. I send that work to a pro lab, let them do the work, and it's done.)
The reviewers I met with, however, almost all asked about the prints and seemed delighted to be looking at real silver! In terms of credibility, I felt that it gave me an edge of seriousness about my work that I care enough to print it that way. After the event opened to the public, I spoke with many people who had similar reactions. It really is about the audience; people who love the art and craft of photography will be much more interested in the physical qualities of the print than your average consumer.
Originally Posted by tkamiya
Photographers must still be able to produce quality work right from the start (to build reputation) before debating endlessly on what printing methodology their work will be produced; when they decide on that, there can be no deviation from the methods by which the photographer is known. Breaking into the production of fine art and upholding the standard expected of such is bloody hard work. Too many photographers think it's a piece of cake and wonder why people skip over them for the lesser known, but bigger name, low output artist-photographers.
A photographer may have outstanding visual/conceptualisation skills in bringing an scene/image to life, but his printing and/framing and post-production can let the whole show wanting. People with cash to splash vary in their assessment of artists (photographs are rarely purchased as investments as opposed to the traditional brush art works which accumulate value). They can be aloof, distant and out of touch, or empathetic, interested, engaging and bond instantly to the photographer, his/her work and the quality level, resulting in a long-lasting business relationship (which should never carry personal overtones when dealing in fine arts). I have experienced both extremes over 25 years. The wealthy are easy to deal with, but never ever take them for granted.
I don't know of anybody now doing wet darkroom colour printing to a fine art level. In Australia I'm sure a very, very small few do exist. Occasional stories surface of horror jobs home printing RA4 and Ilfochrome Classic (for those who can afford the exhorbitant residual roll material cost). RA4 was never a fine art level process to start with, as opposed to the many very high quality variations of B&W darkroom produced works). I can put my prejudice of digital aside to the point of what and when I should (not need) to use it. A-to-D (analogue to digital colour printing) is now very common, though technically labour intensive and offering exceptionally fine tuning to the end result (assuming the skill base is there to start with, otherwise the best job can be totally stuffed). It is the only form of colour printing available to me and others which is pushed to a very, very high standard — not to the archival longevity of Ilfochrome, but it's certainly catching up on that.
We must look to the future developments of colour media beyond what we have now. There have really been a number of eye-opening developments for post-analogue media with exceptional archival longevity. The only problem is the cost: with greater take-up the cost will come down, but the high-end media will always be a premium and today's photographers must skill up and be ready to integrate.
Generally I would agree with you. The client is purchasing primarily the end product, so any process that produces that desired end product is "relevant." I think what eddie and the others are implying is that analog photography is becoming a "desired" medium not because of the materials used of themselves, but because of the worker wrestling with the disappearing materials, rising costs, and relative difficulty of obtaining, and maintaining a darkroom. Perhaps those who choose to work this way are becoming perceived as people who can be trusted to produce important and collectible work because they choose to struggle with these limitations and excel regardless. Don't get me wrong, junk is still junk and fine work is still fine work. This is a lot like the "blue sky" a business creates over time. It's those intangibles of integrity, diligence, craftsmanship, customer service, value, etc. that lead a person to do business with company X and not company Y. Not every business has it or can create it on demand, but it does have monetary value.
Originally Posted by MaximusM3
the backstory sometimes sells an image as much as the image itself ...
but it isn't the only thing that sells it ... unless it is a photograph
made by a celebrity, or of a celebrity or historically significant event
there are plenty of bad images of or buy noteworthy people and situations ...
i don't know if doing chemical photography will make things more rare or impressive
or noteworthy, but chemical photography seems to picking up right where it left off in about 1910 ...
But the point is how many people know anything more about "process" than what the sales person bullshits them with.
Originally Posted by scheimfluger_77
And the mythological characterization of the hours spend toiling in the darkroom for the "perfect" print has no more credence that a digital photographer working on his computer for the same thing. Even though in digital, the print is relatively effortless, the post production is not.
What I'm saying is that the same amount of time and effort can go into the process of making an end print, from the time the shutter is tripped, whether it's analog or digital.
And I seriously doubt 1 in 10,000 could look at a print and know how it was made, digital or analog.