Does anyone else find it ironic that most submittals today require digital files for submittal?
I seem to notice, over time, that a digital representation of a silver print falls far short of the imact of the print, where as the typical inkjet output of a digital image falls short of the display (on a good monitor). This gives the digital photography an unfair advantage over the analog, in my opinion.
If I am selected for a show, the gallery folks are always impressed by the final print, when brought in for hanging (as time goes by, they see less and less of good silver printing).
This is especially true of large prints, which much of my work in recent years is. I make diptych or triptych images from usually 2 or 3 negs, usually 120 rollei stuff. The submittal image always looks tired compared to the final framed image. True, digital submission is convenient - I make final prints at 8x10 and use the scans to submit - doing final 16" image and matting and framing if chosen for a show, so I save a lot of time and money on images I alone like.
Anyone else notice this monitor vs final print thing?
I don't, as I find digital wonderful in this way. I can originate on film, make a silver print, scan it, send it in seconds anywhere on the planet and produce inkjet prints infinitum exactly the same in look as my silver prints.
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In the old days, many competitions required the photographer to submit the images on slides. The contest organizers didn't want to be responsible for a large number of prints and the slides were easier to handle and view. The slides were never as good as the final print.
I would much rather submit a digital file over a slide.
I recently curated an open entry photography show and I received information on the medium (inkjet, silver) as well as size, along with the digital images. A surprising number of digital photographers shoot themselves in the foot by turning the saturation up to "11", over-sharpening, and excessive use of HDR. I took medium and and size into account when making selections, so it wasn't solely based on the digital file. Galleries also usually reserve the right to reject finished pieces if they don't meet standards. Silver prints may not be at the disadvantage you think.
Originally Posted by George Collier
I don't submit work for competitions, so this is just an observation. But every monitor I've ever seen clips the image highlights to some varying extent, no matter how much one fiddles with the scans. This produces a noticeably "brighter" looking reproduction than the original print. Shadows seem to suffer as well, but the highlights are where I personally notice the most differences.
For me the result is that a print on silver paper seems much more complex and richer, while a scanned reproduction of that same print appears much simpler and more lightweight. And complex images are usually approached differently by the viewer than simple images.
I'm guessing that this difference originates with the fact that reflective silver paper is the standard native reproduction medium for viewing real negatives, while glowing rear-lighted monitors are the standard native medium for viewing digital images. Trying to cross over in either direction leads to less than optimum viewing experiences for both.
This is another example of the unavoidable differences between the two photographic media. For some this difference will mean nothing. For others it may mean everything.
If your photos are only about the subject and composition, this difference will often have less practical meaning to you. But if the inclusion and recognition of delicate tonal relationships is also a major part of the message you wish to communicate to your viewers, then this difference can be maddening when they, and you, see your film work only digitally reproduced.
But it is undoubtedly cheaper and more convenient for the judges...
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
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You can make good digital files of your analog work. It requires a good display, monitor calibration, etc... just like someone submitting a pure digital capture/creation.
Silver prints are easier to approximate with a digital representation than some of the other old formats. Google image search for "stieglitz hand of man" and see how many different ways that photo is poorly represented digitally. A tintype doesn't reproduce well online at all. Platinum prints rarely do.
The OP's concern about presentation isn't new. It was a bigger deal in time of the arts and crafts period, including the framing. Fred Day was upset with Stieglitz because Stieglitz had some unframed Day photos (apparently for collector purposes) and exhibited them without Day's choice of frames.
Last edited by jp498; 09-16-2013 at 10:30 PM. Click to view previous post history.
+1. This is why a bit of skill on digital tools is useful, to approximate as much as possible what your silver print looks like.
Originally Posted by Allen Friday
To me the ease of entry, for contests literally the world over, is a gigantic advantage and a huge gain for photographers.
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Thanks, all for your comments.
Clive and Allen - I agree with you on the benifits of the scanned image, it is convenient, easily distributed, and better than a slide, just not a good representation. And digital output is getting better all the time, but a different subject.
Barry brings up something I didn't think to mention, and I agree with that too, trouble is, if the digi image falls short, they may never see the silver print, which is really my point.
Ken - you get what I'm saying and said it better. It isn't about dynamic range so much as what you refer to as richness and complexity, which are important to my work.
My career is in graphic arts, and I have a good sense of scanning and display, so I do the best I can in the scan, but 256 values isn't enough to represent a good silver print, even if you get both ends, in my opinion. Also, I can't control what kind of display is used in the judging of the submittals - it could be someone's laptop of unknown quality, projected onto what?
jp - didn't mean to imply that this is new, and I like the Stieglitz story.
I didn't mean to rant, just notice that when I view one of my own scans on my nice Apple display, it falls short of the feeling in the print, and the comments made by the gallery folks, when they see the framed print just reinforce this to me. Point taken, though, on the practicallity of it.
another upside of the digital representation - you only have to make it once, and then you can keep re-sending it to as many competitions/calls-for-entry as you like, unlike slides where you had to have them re-shot periodically or copies made from an original slide which always lose some quality.