For the photographer, the process is important; for the audience, the image is all that matters. But for that audience, the image may also include knowledge of how it was made which may be important to them.
There is a continuum of discernment in those who care about art of any sort. A tiger on velvet is just fine for some...a cellphone pic just fine for others as is a street vendor's knock off of a designer's work. These discussions always seem to end up having to acknowledge the diversity that is the nature of a 'public'. Just about the time you've 'educated' an audience, their children show up old enough to buy liquour and you have to start all over again.
I think photography is a great excuse to be outside and look at interesting stuff. After all, most times it doesn't result in an exceptional image. And the chemistry doesn't interest me very much. Once I took empty film holders by mistake; It was still a great trip...
I believe the process is inseparable from the final image, and as a result, it is only about the final image because that is the culmination of the effort.
However, the chosen process to produce the final image is, in many cases (but not all) what makes the final image a unique, artistic object.
I say "but not all", because some processes serve only the needs of the craftsman, and not the consumer of the object. As an absurd example, perhaps I could set up a scene in a studio, measure it a point at a time with some sort of meter, enter that information manually into a text editor, convert the resulting data into a tiff file, then print that tiff on an inkjet. It might take me 5 years of painstaking, highly skilled work to pull that off.
But I could take a simple digicam and photograph the scene, and print the captured image on the same inkjet in 5 minutes. In this admittedly absurd case, the consumer perceives no difference in value, regardless of the effort of the craftsman. Why? Because while the craftsman was working very hard for years to produce the result, he wasn't adding value in any way. The bits weren't prettier, or more archival, or more accurate, or more abstract. Nothing of the craftsman shows through the result.
Dipping into the grey a bit, a film photographer and digital photographer could capture the same scene on the same day, one with a 35mm leica, one with a digital back Contax 645. Lets say the film photog then drum scans his negative and ships it to a commercial printer to produce a lightjet print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Lets say the digital photographer does the same thing. Same image, same light, essentially the same bits sent to the printer, same archival result. Is it the image or the process? Is the film shooter's result somehow better because he caught it on film? To the consumer, I presume the answer is no. (Perhaps this is APUG heresy, but I don't think so.)
What if one of the photographers above, after scanning the image, changed the result, adjusting levels, or performed local enhancements in some other way to improve the image? What if that photographer did so in such a way that was perceived by the consumer as "better"? Is it somehow more better if that effort was done by the film photographer rather than the digital photographer? I think not.
Greyer still: same image, but the film photographer carries the print completely through an analog process, by hand. No hybrid digital process in path of print production. The photographer is a master printer, and the result looks identical to the commercially printed result: both equally rendered images, beautifully produced, archival, fiber paper, well mounted. However, the film photographer's print is enscribed on the back as being an "Authentic archival wet process photograph, hand made by Adam Jones on xx/xx/xx".
In this case, I believe the consumer perceives additional value, even if the two prints are otherwise identical. There is an intangible "collectors" value at play here. This is a unique object, unlike the commercially produced print from a digital image. That one can be mass produced by machines, this one can only be made by hand. And the next one made may not be exactly like this one, so it is essentially unique. This is different from the first example, because somehow the consumer can understand this effort, and can appreciate (even if scientifically unmeasurable) the added quality of a hand made object. (Porsche has served a market that appreciates hand made objects even though arguably higher quality objects are available at a lower price that serve the need.)
Again, and maybe this isn't clear from the examples, the image and the process are fused, but in the end it is still about the image (the result, the object.)
Hmm, I'm not sure even I'm clear with myself. But I'll let this note rip anyway, and see what folks think...
While I think of myself as a "total process" sort of person, and really enjoy the magic of the darkroom, I doubt that I'd go to the trouble absent (what I percieve to be) the benefit to the final image. For me, fine tuning the photographic process is like the difference of hiring a professional makeup artist and hair stylist when shooting a model. Or, the time a writer spends digging in the dictionary or thumbing through a thesaurus.
The cool thing about photography, however, is that there's plenty of room for all types. Thus, anyone can do what pleases them most, and/or what best suits their individual talents.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
I'm with jovo on this one: for myself, it's the journey and the thrill of "collecting" the images. For the people who look at my work, it must be "all about the image", since they have nothing else to make a judgement on.
(BTW, my journey from film to print includes the computer, but I enjoy that aspect of producing the print.)
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Well, the image is first in my head. I then have a process by which I verify that image, primarily for myself. I enjoy the photographic process immensely. The final print is trivial, just something I show someone to let them in on the thing inside my head. Whether they get it or not is almost meaningless to me.
Robert, for myself this is a question I've been going through almost mental torment over for the last few weeks. From a personal view the process of selecting the film and exposure based on the look I want is fascinating. With street shoots the thrill of the hunt and capture is addictive and in some ways the ultimate motivation. The final print provides the "trophy" to complete the process.
That said at the end of the day if no-one is interested in looking at the final print, then it has all been for little more than self indulgence which means I may as well take up fishing as a hobby again.
So I guess ultimately it is about the final image.
Last edited by TPPhotog; 03-08-2005 at 05:55 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Well, I like what JoVo and Jon said. My photos usually are the result of having gone for a morning drive with my sweetheart and a cup of coffee. I carry my camera with me all the time and so the photos are a happy accident.
I treat my hobbies as hobbies and if I like the photo when it's done that's a bonus. If I dont' then I still had a great morning with my sweetheart.
Summary? - for me it's neither the process NOR the image - it's all just part of a life which I try to enjoy as much as possible.
I think I fall pretty close to your philosophy of it, John. I think that many people spend their entire lives trying to do what pleases other people without fully realizing what pleases them.
Originally Posted by John Bartley
I love the entire process of photography...am I any good...well no one is beating down the door to buy prints. Do I care? Not really.
I went on a weekend photo trip last fall to shoot waterfalls. I love waterfalls! I don't care if they are "last year" or passe or anything else! There were two "pro" photogs on the trip. I had an opportunity to talk to each of them separately. I asked them who they shoot for...the potential client or themselves. One said she shoots with the buyer in mind. The other said she shoots strictly for herself, and that if she loved it probably someone else would.
The pro who shot for the 'sale' was generally hyper-critical of her shots, and appeared to have very little fun taking them...she was intense, and upon finding the 'perfect' place to take a shot, she generally planted herself there. Her shots were ok, but not breathtaking.
The pro who shot for 'self' had the attitude that she was there for the fun of it. She explored, and upon finding a good 'spot' would often show others. Her shots were breathtaking.
I think attitude is everything. If you are into photography and you are unhappy with yourself...load up the camera, walk out the door and shoot a roll of film for the hell of it... not for anyone...not for any reason. Just because the light is good and you like the play of light and shadow!
I am frequently disappointed in my photos...but rarely in the experience of making them.
I find the creative process, vital to the final image, but I don't think it really matters what that process is... be it digital or in the wet darkroom. (Of course, I choose the b/w printed in the wet darkroom!) But, if I try to short circuit that process, I never quite get a final print that is worth showing.
Although, many viewers would probably find the details of all those decisions about the process a crashing bore, better just to let them enjoy the final print!