aside from massive manipulations, at the taking and printing stage, i would suggest that the survey work osullivan did
for the federal government, if printed in the same "full scale" way ... if osullivan had film and enlarging paper / instead of
a tent filled with ether fumes, glass plates and cyanide ... ( to me at least ) maybe they would look pretty much the same. AND if osullivan
was shooting dry plates instead of wet plates, he probably would have been using the system a lot of people used to manipulate
a negative at the taking stage to get a full scale negative, which adams renamed the zone system, and people mistakenly think he invented.
whether he had a bunch of people running around with him saying " photography should have everything in focus ( + HDR bla bla bla the rest of the f64 manifesto )"
i don't really think is important. if you have ever seen some of osullivan's giant plates you soon realize he was probably every bit of an (anal retentive) perfectionist as adams was ... his subject matter was similar ... and well, adams and him kind of sort of shot in the same vein.
i haven't seem much of osullivan's portrait work but i am guessing since he was also a portraitist ( from what i remember ) his portraits were
probably stiff, mainly because of the materials, while adam's portraits were stiff because it seemed to be more of a stretch for him.
getting back to the questions though, neither adams nor osullivan were shooting in a vacuum. they were both professionals, and well connected ....
and would have easily known what others were up to, whether those others were dead or alive ...
it is hard to imagine someone, even someone learning photography in the 1850s and in persia, doing it in a vacuum ...
he's long gone ..
his shop was behind the haden building ... last surviving hh richardson commercial block ... in boston's "combat zone"
... last i noticed he was there was in the mid 90s ...
they re-did the hayden building around 1996-7ish maybe he left from all the construction, and
that now the cheep-rent-red-light-district was going "upscale" ...
I started with a DSLR in about 2007. I bought it to take family photos, and through a strange chain of happy accidents I ended up also shooting models and getting some notice in this small town.
A friend, a co-worker really, asked me to set aside a Saturday so he could show me a few things regarding photography. We met for beers, and he saw a few of my early works who's better qualities were more a factor of luck and statistics (if you take 1,000 photos, one or two will look pretty good). He reached into his bag and pulled out this antique camera that I just wanted to look at and admire for awhile. It was a Mamiya C330.
We spent a couple of hours going through the operation of the camera, how to use a light meter, the sunny 16 rule, and basics of coming up with a good exposure. He let me borrow that camera for a few months, gave me a bag of random ancient expired film from his freezer, and then said one thing that changed my life forever: "Some of this work you're doing now, it reminds me of Robert Mapplethorpe".
That's it. It was over for me as soon as I looked up Mapplethorpe. I could never again go back to life as I once knew it.
Learning about Mapplethorpe led me to Arbus, Avedon, Newton, Weegee, et al. I started studying their works, trying to understand their techniques, and applying what I'd learned to my own aesthetic. I started reading Ansel Adams to understand the confluence of art & science. Heck, I even took some drawing classes (something I still can't do) for no other reason than to try to gain a more concrete understanding of what I see in the mind's eye so that I might capture it better on film.
Here we are now in 2013, and I spent all day Saturday with the fellow who got me started with the Mamiya (I own three of those Mamiyas now, and they remain my favorite camera). This time I was toting around a Crown Graphic, handheld, and fired off all of three photos for an all day walkabout.
I'm not going to say the new breed of photographers is wrong, but in the strictest sense they are mostly ignorant. I shoot film, but I also shoot more modern hardware, and my experience with film and learning about the old masters has helped me with both forms.
I should also point out, the term "fine art photography" has been usurped as a polite way of saying "nude model photography".
I don't get why modern young aspiring photographers should care about Capa, Adams, Stieglitz or whoever ruled in the last century or even care about how a darkroom works and how to make archival FB silverprints. They learn the trade, use of digital cameras and PS techniques from modern "photographers" who themselves only barely know the traditional techniques. when talking HDR this and that, strobism and multilayering (or what ever these all sharp insect shots are called) there is not much sence in refering to historic masters and how they squezed a 7stop ranging subject into a 4stop paper without loosing the slightest tonality. They learn from Hobby and Mcnally and other masters of this current era. They look at images posted on the web where they are readily available and why should they care what us old farts think.
Except Ansel, I had no idea who any of those old masters were when I was in my teens and early 20's. But as I grew up, got more work and got better, I sought out the info for my self. David Hobby and McNally are not in any way shape or form at the level of mastery of who are truly considered masters by the way, they are mostly marketing sell-outs and will never have the historical impact of the aforementioned. They also won't have a nice print sale like Nick Brandt's 60x80 African elephant at 215K. There is a big difference between a fine art photographer and two guys who now make most of their incomes off of teaching gear laden workshops my friend....