William Henry Jackson is also known for his drawings. What astounds me is the effort it would have taken to make the photos he took. All of his gear if not accessible easily was carried on his back and his assistants. No mules made it into some of the spots those two got too. We gripe now adays if we have too many ounces. WHJ had to carry his processing darkroom set up as well as his 20x24 camera, the glass plates etc. That's dedication.
also WHJ had only one arm!
Well said Bruce,
I shoot 120 6x6 and often wait hours for the light to be right for a particular image.
Very well stated. I agree that the last paragraph says it all. I take students on the dreaded "day trip". We have 4x5 and 8x10 cameras but each student has only one sheet of film. It is a 4-8 hour excursion. They can make their one exposure in the first minute but only the smart asses do this. Most force themselves to be contemplative in their approach to making a photograph. I think they learn a lot about themselves and their photography this way. Thanks for the very interesting post and insight
I don't see the juxtaposition of what you call "artifice and gimmickery" and "vision". What vision? Whose vision? I think that the juxtaposition you make here is a completely "artificial" one.
Originally Posted by jdef
One of my favorite current photographers is Loretta Lux. Lots of "artifice" here but also a powerful "vision" of how to rethink the way we think about children.
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The right tool for the job
I believe in choosing the right tool for the job. I would not use a sledge hammer to pound in a penny nail, nor would I use a ball peen hammer to drive a rail spike. I think the same applies to choosing cameras.
I have access to cameras from 35 mm to 20x24. I choose which to use based on the desired print. I would not shoot a 20x24 to capture my son's soccer game, nor would I use a 35 mm to create a 20x24 platinum landscape. They are different tools, which have different primary purposes.
The last few years I have worked primarily with 5x7 and 12x20, 16x20 and 20x 24. The last time I photographed an action scene, my son's marching band in a parade, I felt out of my element. I photographed the parade for the school. The band instructor loved the pictures and even asked if I do photography as a professional. She did not, and could not, see the photographs I missed because I was not as fluent with the equipment as an action photographer would be. The instructor was happy, but I was not because I knew how much better the pictures could have been.
The photographers for Sports Illustrated have all switched to digital "do everything" cameras. They use autofocus, vibration reduction lenses, etc. Does this make them bad photographers? No. They are using the right tools for their job. And they know how to get the most out of them.
Jackson used a 20x24 inch camera. That was the best tool to produce the prints he needed--big prints to show congress. He could have used a half plate camera and made contact prints similar to those from a modern 4x5, but he did not. Jackson knew his equipment, used it efficiently and productively.
I think that is a key, know your equipment, how to use it to the best effect, and know its limitations. Few photographers have access to a 20x24. But many on this forum have 4x5. I know that the result from a 4x5 enlargement will not be the same as a contact print from a 20x24, but that does not mean that the final image made from the smaller camera will not be more satisfying to a viewer. I personally rarely enlarge a 35 mm negative over 5x7. But, I have seen some beautiful enlargements bigger than that from 35mm. I choose to use the 35mm camera one way, another photographer chooses to use it differently. Who is right on how they use the camera?
I do think there is a great benefit to learning to use a manual camera, or a "do everything" camera set to manual. Once manual operation is learned, the photographer can then add in the automatic features that help get the image the photographer wants. The decision on what to automate is made from knowledge, instead of using the automatic functions because one is ignorant on how to otherwise get the photograph.
I suppose my last few paragraphs point to the issue: how do we define "photographer." The English seem to divide camera owners into snappers and photographers. The "auto everything" cameras make it possible for snappers to get acceptable photographs. But that has been true for 30+ years--remember the Kodak 110? But, once again, the snappers are using the rigth tool for the job. They want snaps to put on the refrigerator or in a scrap book etc. Do they need a 4x5 view camera to do that?
The "do everything" camera is great for the great majority of picture takers--it allows them to get the results they want, i.e. snaps of the family around the holiday table. Some of the snappers will take a greater interest in photography and will spend the time to learn its craft. A few of those will decide they want to make art using their camera. Some art photographers will use 20x24 to make platinum prints. Some art photographers will use a 35mm camera to shoot color transparencies. Who is the better artist? I think it will come down to who uses their tools the most effectively to create the result they want.
Because if you don't get the shot, the model will have moved on...back to the "parades and fires" analogy. Landscapes don't move very quickly - though lighting does change.
Originally Posted by William Levitt
We'll try the other kind of shooting analogy (as I'm in the Marines) - I've shot long rifle at 500 yards; you can spend forever getting a good position with a tight sling, resin the stock, sand your fingertip down, then, while carefully controlling your breathing and moving your eye from the target to the front sight, devote a good 30 seconds slowly pulling the trigger. Nice shot. Different story in a 7 yard quick draw pistol encounter. Is one "better than the other?" No. Depends on what you're doing; I always carry a pistol AND a small P&S camera; but if I want to do some deliberate shooting, well, that's what LF or long lenses (and rifles with giant scopes) are for.
Great points !
AND it's helpful in all cases to know what you're shooting: to be able to see your target.
( I kept an air pistol in my studio, practiced every day. Never got 'good' by air pistol standards, but it did wonders for my Leica work. )
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
Bruce I am very much in agreement with your views. As a child, my first generation American parents of Geman ancestory were always admonishing me "If something is worth doing it is worth doing well". Well although I use 35mm I am so tedious in my photography, particularly camera placement on a tripod more suitable for 8x10 use that I wonder if I have not corrrupted that advice to "If you are going to do something you may as well make a big production out of it".
At they were least it has saved me money on film.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
Ah, come on Claire, loosen up. If it is worth doing at all it is worth doing badly.