Print and/or Image Value
Is there much added value to viewing an actual photographic print, as opposed to one reproduced in a book or on the net? I suppose the question I’m asking is does appreciation of print value form as much or more importance as opposed to just reproduction of these print values showing composition and content of an image. I would say not, although if I were viewing a painting I may have a different response.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
Viewing an image on the web or in a book is like eating canned food heated in a microwave. It may give you a taste of the real thing, but it is not the same. Viewing prints in person is like eating a gourmet meal in fine restaurant.
If I understand your question correctly, yes, there is much added value without one single doubt in my mind. Viewing on the net, doesn't hold the candle by a long shot, so for me that's not even worth a discussion. Books, even beautifully printed ones, do not either. Now, to show composition and/or content, as a work in progress so to speak, I would say it is okay (net viewing or books). For example, I own a few original Fan Ho prints and also a limited edition book, beautifully printed, "Hong Kong Yesterday". The original prints are so much better, that there is absolutely no contest. The same ones in the book are slightly over-sharpened, the paper is obviously different, color (toning) is a bit off, and, for as beautiful as the images are, they just fall totally flat compared to holding and viewing the original print. In short, viewing on the net, or a book, are limitations we all live with to present, promote, share, work. There is value in that, but it is very limited when compared to an actual print, to a viewer, a collector, whoever.
Have you had an opportunity to view original prints by master photographers in a museum environment? No reproduction of a painting, drawing or photographic print will equal the viewing experience of seeing the original work with al it's subtilties.
Yes. It is no different for a photographic print than for a painting.
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I saw prints made by Clyde Butcher at a local museum. My first reaction was "WOW!" Then I stood there for a while. I had this feeling of image surrounding me. Later, I read (on his web page), he envisions viewer walking into his image that he purposely leaves a space on his print where the view can walk into. I'm not even a landscape photographer. I'm more of a portrait guy.
Looking at his images on my LCD panel doesn't even come close to seeing his prints, especially big ones.
On other occasions, I saw a print that was rather small, 11x14 maybe that I stood and contemplated for a while. I really didn't know what it was supposed to tell me, but I stood there nevertheless. I never did that with online images.
Rather than asking for others' opinions, I encourage you to visit local museums and see for yourself. It's not a matter of what you *should* be seeing. It's the matter of images just grabbing you. If you can get this from online images, great, but I doubt you do.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
It's kinda like the difference between muscle cars in books and muscle cars in the flesh.
Originally Posted by cliveh
As mentioned, you have to get yourself to some museums.
Do a google image search of "stieglitz hand of man". See how many variations there are of a single photo? See how they all poorly reproduce the dark tones? That's what you get with a typical book or internet photo. I haven't seen the original of this, but the variety of reproductions I've seen lead me to not trust the copies. I have seen other pictorialist and modernist photos at museums and in private ownership, and there is absolutely a huge difference, and few of them reproduce well. A hundred year old platinum contact print is something special. So is a FB silver print of Karsh's.
Moving to color.... There is nothing quite like Eliot Porter's dye transfer prints.
Then, sometimes a mediocre image looks better in a book; some of Ansel Adam's color cibachrome landscapes come to mind. Cibachromes can look stunning though.
Furthermore, there is some important context to the size of the image. Books don't present this well due to their size limitations. Better ones have an appendix describing the size and material of the original so you can help understand it's size context better. Photographers of old created latent images with the final output size in mind. They knew it would be a contact print of a particular size. We've gotten away from that, blowing things into 18' tall cindy shermans and shrinking whole plate negatives down to 1/4 page in books. Sometimes it works, often it's a travesty. This is a result of small formats and digital that lets us easily not think about final presentation when the photo is captured. Comparing to art.. An impressionist or pointilism painting looks great at it's original size but not so well at different sizes. The medium and craft is an important part of the whole.
Last edited by jp498; 02-25-2012 at 08:18 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Do you like virtual sex, beer, food, wine, art, etc? Or do you like the real thing better?
Yes, viewing the real print adds a lot of value. Especially in this day and age where almost everything is a digital copy of something real.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
on the other side of the coin
i have seen paintings and buildings in books
and when i saw them in real life
i was like - " that's it ? "
it doesn't happen often but sometimes ...
with all photography, the person making the image
and the book displaying the image ( or website ) has
the opportunity to change the point of view ..
and make a crowd of 3 look like a mob,
or a run down building look like a castle ..
i think there is nothing quite like seeing something real .. and
art in a gallery or museum or portfolio that is mailed to you
is about as real as it gets.
i remember seeing man ray's "le cadeau" at the MFA in boston
and maholy nagy's light shadow simulator "light prop"
and the movie he made from it .. i got the same feeling when i
stood inside la chappelle at ronchamp by le corbusier ...
It all turns on the quality of the "print"
A high quality book reproduction of a high quality print will trump a poor print every time.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2