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  1. #1
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    Victoms of the Zone System

    Hello all,

    I was skimming through some of my books to find some info on toning RC papers. I came across a statement in "The Variable Contrast Printing Manual" by Steve Anchell that, I guess, I had not seen in the book before. I know this book is familiar to some of you and there may have previously been some discussion about it in some burried thread somewhere. So, my apologies if it is one of those beating the dead horse issues.

    Page 140, he is discussing Kodak Sepia Toner and why it is not as popular as it once was; his first reason is that lots of photographers have stopped mixing their own toner solutions and therefore have resorted to using Kodak's brand of sepia toner. He goes on to postulate that it has been associated with the antique look and therefore is simply not as desired as it use to be. His second reason is because of Zone System users, who, according to him, prefer neutral tones (I know that I prefer neutral tones which is the whole reason I found myself thinking about it and for writing this post; I was asking myself if I am falling into some kind of trap by trying to seriously understand the ZS method and principles, personally, I don't feel that way). Your thoughts on the following:

    Quote:

    "As good as the ZS has been for teaching photographic methods and principles (the purpose for which is was designed), it has had the unfortunate side effect of hindering the growth and indiviuality among photographers. Photographers who learn their craft through the ZS are often inclined to codify all their methods so they "don't have to think about technique, just creating." They attempt to tightly control their methods of exposure, development, and print processing so they can produce a finished, dry-mounted print as expediently as possible."

    Have a safe weekend,

    Chuck

  2. #2
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    Oops, I just realized I mispelled "Victims"

  3. #3

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    Chuck,

    The photographer that can get past the Zone System is the photographer that can make hers/his own images. The Zone System is a tool and not a way of life. Lots of photographers spend time fitting the image into the photograph and not the other way around. Seeing is responding and making the image. Knowing how to get it on film is a matter of fact.

    Testing film all the time is not a thing that I want to do. Seeing and having the tools to do it with, is what I teach to may students.

    I will get down from the soap box.

    My mentor Al Weber has taught me a lot. One day when I asked him about information that I needed to teach a 16 week Zone class. He said 'what are you planning to do for the other 15 weeks'

    Jan Pietrzak

  4. #4
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    I consider myself to be a "liberatee" of the Zone System, not a victim. By just considering the technique as one other tool in the box, and applying elements of it where appropriate, it often helps me do what I want with individual images.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  5. #5
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    Odd - I would say he is wrong on both counts....

    The reason Kodak Sepia Toner is not used much is because it is sulphide based - stinks and fogs photographic emulsions! Much better to use a thiocarbamide based toner...

    I also don't see how understanding your materials leads to "hindering the growth and indiviuality among photographers".

    Nor do I believe the purpose of the ZS is simply "for teaching photographic methods and principles (the purpose for which is was designed) ". It's a practical working tool - one that I wish I had the temperament to apply rather less haphazardly than I do at present...

    Bob.

  6. #6
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    Jan is absolutely spot on. The ZS is simply a tool and can be mastered in 1 day. It will help your confidence and free the mind to deal with the important issues of seeing and making meaningful images.
    "Digital circuits are made from analogue parts"
    Fourtune Cookie-Brooklyn May 2006

    Website: www.lesmcleanphotography.com

  7. #7

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    Besides, what is wrong with taking care of all the desicions when you take the shot and then have an easy print to make? I would like to know what is his point. If he is implying that a print that was made quick because it was easy to print lacks quality/emotion/artistic expression, then I think he is wrong, and if he is not implying this...then what is the point of that comment.

  8. #8

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    Yeah....What Jorge said.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

  9. #9
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    A funny thing happened the other day at the camera store - I was visiting with the proprietor when a photography student came in with some negs and a contact sheet. They were a mess, looked to be both overexposed and overdeveloped. With some type of super-contrast-enhancer added. He was having trouble printing them and wanted the shopkeeper's advice. It was kind of fun listening to all the printing advice that bounced back and forth for the next 20 minutes. Then I cleared my throat and said "I can fix that for you, easy."
    "How?"
    "Well, that tree is still there, ain't it?"
    "Well, yeah."
    So I reached into my camera bag and handed him a roll of J&C Pro 100 and said "Go back in better light and shoot better negatives. Bracket 'em a stop to each side. Give 'em 13 1/2 minutes in 1:50 Rodinal and then go make GOOD prints."
    He left with a smile, the roll of film I gave him and a brand new bottle of Rodinal. My work there was finished. You'd of been proud of me, Morten!

  10. #10
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    Too funny and sadly so true. Up in our neck of the woods, the local higher education establishment has decided the analog world is the wrong direction, so darkrooms are gone (or nearly) and it will be full speed digital . Too much theory and not enough shooting with a bit of practicality thrown in.

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