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Thread: Craft vs. Art

  1. #11
    jovo's Avatar
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    I think for Mr. Benson's point to be valid, it should apply to art in general and not just art the end product of which is an object (as he put it.). In that case, 'art' music performance would rarely withstand the scrutiny of repeated listening to recordings of sloppy performances that were, on first hearing, exciting. Without reliable, near-flawless (within the limits of human fallability) technic acquired after infinite hours of the drugery of scale and passage work drills, and as much rehearsal as can be afforded, the art of performance would be a sorry one indeed. Technic must be totally second nature for truly expressive performance.

    No less should be expected of an artist whose work will hang on one's wall. Superb craftsmanship is the absolute prerequisite for artistic expression; only by complete mastery of one's tools can one truly express the focus of his artistic sensibility. To be satisfied with less is to be a second rate artist because such work only accidentally actually achieves the artists intent.
    John Voss

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  2. #12

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    The amazing thing is that the average viewer doesn't give a hoot about print quality. It's a photographer's obsession.

    Last year I was going through a huge stack of prints with a family that had just lost someone. The prints spanned 60 years, everything from contact printed B&Ws from the 30's to faded color prints from the 70's and beyond. We were all making a pile of "keepers" to scan and distribute and there were several times when I came upon an old contact that stopped me dead in my tracks, the tonality was so gorgeous. When I came across one of these, I'd pass it on, all excited, only to hear, "the smile isn't quite right, she's squinting a bit, it's kinda small, etc..." Okay, I realise this was a special situation and that special standards were at play, but still -- you'd think there'd be some moment of hesitation when looking at a gorgeous object while some of its unique qualities register. But it just never happened. I gotta say, that afternoon was a real eye-opener for me.

  3. #13
    Les McLean's Avatar
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    I agree that Cheryl got it right, the subject is all, I would rather see a poor print of a strong image than a faultless print of a boring subject. Having said that, I have always worked hard to learn and understand technique and the craft of photography and aimed for as near perfection as I can whenever I make a print. The logic that I apply is that if I don't have to think about the problems related to exposure and development of the film, and then dealing with the printing problems in the darkroom my mind is free to concentrate fully on the subject. I never have any worries when dealing with difficult lighting situations or in printing those horendous negatives that we all make from time to time simply because I have taught myself how to deal with the little things that Benson urges us to ignore. Whilst I agree that he is right that the image is important I think he is totally wrong to have taken the view that the little things are unimportant.

  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheryl Jacobs
    Well, perhaps I read it the way I want it to be read, but I feel more that he's addressing perfectionism rather than great craftsmanship. Perfectionism is a different thing entirely. Ed posted that great quote on the subject from "The Artist's Way". The refusal to allow something to be good enough, to obsess and fuss about the tiniest little nitpicks (in the craftmanship) can be a great excuse to not push on and create (the art.) I think he intentionally overstated his point in order to make sure it stuck.

    I'm certain he's not advocating sloppy, half-baked prints. I think he's just warning that obsessing about miniscule flaws can distract you from why you made the print in the first place.

    Personally, I prefer the print to get out of the way, so to speak. I'm happiest when people comment on a print itself as a second thought, or not at all. I want them to see the emotion in the image and to understand why I made it. I don't want technique, either great or terrible, to ever be the first thing people see when they look at my work.

    Just my thoughts.
    This is an interesting topic and thread and several have indicated important pertinant aspects.

    As I reflect back on the relatively few really "fine" prints/images that I have observed over the years, one thing stands out above all else. The print/image evidenced a very finely tuned technical competence on the part of the photographer. This technical competence was the vehicle through which the photographer expressed the emotional content of the image/print.

    There are those who utilize fuzzy technique to express something which doesn't transmit to the observer. There are certainly those, as well, who do not step beyond the "comfort zone" of their ill contrived means of expression. I am not speaking about this self limitation when I speak about technical competence in what I have written. We are all on a continuum of ever increasing ability.

    As I read some of the responses, I am sometimes left with the question of " what the he**did they mean by that?.such is the case of the distinction between the terms "image and print".

    I realize that this may be a foreign concept but I make photographs for my own enjoyment. What others may think, fail to think, like, fail to appreciate, understand or in any other way be affected by is of no consequence.

  5. #15
    Cheryl Jacobs's Avatar
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    Whilst I agree that he is right that the image is important I think he is totally wrong to have taken the view that the little things are unimportant.
    And I don't think he truly believes what he said either. Again, I think he made such a strong overstatement to make a point. Really, the proof's in his own work. Are his prints technically excellent? Does he leave careless flaws behind for the world to enjoy? Would you describe his work as "decent" or "beautiful"?

    If his personal work is technically strong and reflects attention to detail, then it stands to reason that he was simply trying to send a message about perfectionism and its effect on the ability of the artist to create.

  6. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Miller
    I realize that this may be a foreign concept but I make photographs for my own enjoyment. What others may think, fail to think, like, fail to appreciate, understand or in any other way be affected by is of no consequence.
    That is not a foreign concept to me, at all. I photograph for my own growth and necessity (it is no longer a pleasurable thing alone, it is an addiction).

    But I do believe that many, many photographers get caught up in the technical aspects of their work, and as a result hinder their growth. On the other end of the spectrum, many, many photographers get so anxious to "pass on the message" that they completely overlook the technical aspects, and that hinders their growth. These, I believe are the two extreme ends of the spectrum, and should be avoided.

    I am a big fan of "purposeful photography," but beautyful prints stop me dead at my tracks, mostly because I want my prints to look like that.

    I still think that the Aritotelian mean is the way to go, and my reading of the original post confirms my view (how convenient for me, huh?)

  7. #17

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    I think it was Ansel Adams who once said some thing along the lines of "I have seen to many sharp prints of a fuzzy idea".
    David Boyce

    When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money. Oscar Wilde Blog fp4.blogspot.com

  8. #18
    Cheryl Jacobs's Avatar
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    Tom, for those of us who never saw that particular interview, could you give us more context for the excerpt you posted? What was the premise of the interview? What question or questions led to this particular quote?

  9. #19

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    I always liked Fred Pickers approach. Get the technical stuff to where you can almost do it blindfolded. Do all the test and once you have the data stop testing, put it to use. Then go concentrate on photography.

  10. #20

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    Perfectionism is sterile, devoid of artistry. The art arises in the imperfect aspects of a medium. Despite the best efforts of oil painters over many centuries, none achieved a perfect rendering of reality. Its the taking advantage of the mediums' limitations that 19th century painting flurished.

    Yesterday visited an exhibit of Ansel Adams work (Harn Museum in Gainesville, FL). Ansel was an artist who took advantage of the medium's limitations to produce stunning works of art. Yet he was a perfectionist, a craftsman, in striving to achieve his vision. In an oft-quoted phrase, each of his negatives were a score and the print was the performance ( the performance could vary as many of his later prints had a darker mood). Landscape photography is different from portrait, wedding , etc. photography for its the performance - the print as both subject & object - that we judge.
    Last edited by doughowk; 07-11-2004 at 07:32 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    van Huyck Photo
    "Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"

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