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  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moopheus View Post
    I think this comment reveals more about Erwitt's biases than about the value of either Adams's or Frank's art. Adams persued technical perfection and Frank didn't. It's true--you can't substitute technical quality for a lack of vision. Is Erwitt suggesting that this is what Adams did? I don't buy that. If Adams's photos were merely demonstrations of technical prowess, they would have disappeared decades ago.
    Adams would indeed have disappeared decades agao if he had not done what he did at the time he did. f/64, anti-pictorialism, anti-Stieglitz (also a technical perfectionist, but of a different aestheticism), and all that.
    Out of that context, he wouldn't have lasted.

    Except, of course, because of the Zone System Church of Technical Excellence.
    To paraphrase Mark above: just an excuse for boring work.

  2. #12
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    I agree that this comparison is, perhaps, meaningless. There's an old cliche... something about apples to oranges... I forget.

    Ansel was about the beauty of nature really. I dont' think he wanted to get grouped into the "postcard" category. He was just photographing the grandeur of nature, and he did it better than lots of others. As a kid he would spend his summers in Yosemite and so I think for him, it's a retreat to that. It's more of a zen thing.

    Robert Frank is your classic urbanite photographer. More like a hard-boiled noir detective, but with a camera. You know, gritty underbellies, visual puns; although those great things! He captures the human aspect of nature; not the rocks and trees.

    I think that Mr. Frank's photography can teach us and show us about ourselves, our cities and the general hilarity of these apes that we call humans! Whereas Ansel's photos are more about celebrating mother nature, period. The things that we drive by and don't recognize how amazing they are, he captures them.

    It's up for other people to perpetuate the idea that they are panderers to a certain cliche. They're just doing (did) what they do.

    Good thread though
    If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

  3. #13

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    It's a frame-of-reference argument, isn't it? If Adams didn't do what he did, how would Erwitt be able to contrast/compare in the first place? So, both Adams and Frank are valid and represent 2 different photographic philosophies. Both are useful, depending on the context, IMHO.
    i can't wait to take a picture of my thumb with this beautiful camera.

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  4. #14
    Ian Leake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mainecoonmaniac View Post
    Some writers have perfect grammar and structure, but it's all useless if the writer has nothing to say. Some musicians play on key and have perfect notes, but they might not be playing music. The craft should serve the art. The Impressionist were consider sloppy painters, but now they're revered. I agree with Jim Roher. You can't compare Adams with Frank. There are a lot of photographers that are slaves to technique and materials instead of serving art.
    Well said.

  5. #15
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Some of you are missing the point. It's not about comparing Adams and Frank.

    It's about evaluating why we do what we do and how we do it, and what part of it that is truly valuable to the outcome.
    It's about questioning our approach and values that we may have formed over the years, perhaps without asking ourselves why.

    Example: I used to think that I could get magic results by testing different films and developers. Why? Because I read a lot about different films and their 'characteristics' on the internet, and was intrigued with the choices presented to me, and thought that my gold nugget was somewhere in there among all those films.

    Problem: I didn't really learn any of those films very well at all, and I produced work that I am not very happy with. Printing is difficult and cumbersome, because virtually all my old negatives are widely varying in density, contrast, grain, etc and I don't really know what to expect from them.

    Solution: A wise man hit me over the head with the argument: Why? Why are you doing this? It forced me to sit down and question my approach, and I have since switched to using mainly one single film, and one or two others on the side for fun. All processed in one main developer, and yet another (again on the side) when I want to play with unimportant shots.

    Results: The process of exposure, film development, and printing, has become very much second nature to me. I don't really think about what I need to do at the time of exposure. I feel it, like it's flowing through my veins. That's important and has liberated my senses, and I can focus on what I think is important - subject matter.

    I thought that the quote by Erwitt would have a similar impact on others, and perhaps even be somewhat of an 'epiphany' to some, because it is a very bold statement that made me sit down and think for a while.

    - Thomas
    "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

  6. #16
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    What you're saying sounds more like an Adam's philosophy. He would tell you the same thing; pick a developer & film and stick with it.

    I thought the point was more like, worry about what you're pointing your camera at, not what happens later. I imagine that Robert Frank is more likely to have negatives developed in god-knows-what and frankly he doesn't care, because it's the photo that matters.

    That's my take-away-message at least. From a social perspective, Frank's photos are much more engaging on a gut level. You see people, you wonder about them, some scare you, some excite you. There's a raw energy to it.
    If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

  7. #17
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by holmburgers View Post
    I imagine that Robert Frank is more likely to have negatives developed in god-knows-what and frankly he doesn't care, because it's the photo that matters.
    That's an assumption, and an argument can't be based on that.

    But I get your idea, and as long as it's clear to you, that's all that matters.
    "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

  8. #18

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    You see though how quickly the entire "why?" question gets brushed away?
    [...]"sounds more like an Adam's philosophy. He would tell you the same thing; pick a developer & film and stick with it."

    Where's the "why" in that? Where's the answer?
    And can Adams' philosophy be summed up as "pick a developer & film and stick with it"???

    "Why?" is indeed the best question to ask. A question that indeed is asked very often too.
    But one people rarely ask themselves. And even if they do, coming up with an answer is even rarer.

  9. #19

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    I don't think you can judge Robert Frank's photo the same way you judge Ansel Adams' photo. For landscape picture, technical perfection is very important, but for journalistic work, content is everything.
    Don't you just hate it when you print a high contrast picture, with the intention to suppress all shadow detail, and you show it to somebody, the first response you got is "I wish there are more shadow detail". I am sure those are the comment that will drive Ellior Erwitt crazy too.

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by tmike View Post
    I don't think you can judge Robert Frank's photo the same way you judge Ansel Adams' photo. For landscape picture, technical perfection is very important, but for journalistic work, content is everything.
    Don't you just hate it when you print a high contrast picture, with the intention to suppress all shadow detail, and you show it to somebody, the first response you got is "I wish there are more shadow detail". I am sure those are the comment that will drive Ellior Erwitt crazy too.
    Why would a landscape picture have to be "technically perfect"?

    What is "technical perfection" anyway?
    Stieglitz i mentioned before has shown quite a few great landscape pictures in his Camera Work, that were nothing like Adams' take on perfection. Yet technically perfect they were too, because they were exactly the way their makers wanted them to be (!).

    You can judge Adams' pictures the way you can judge the pictorialists pictures: by the answers to the "why?" and "why like this?" their makers have provided.

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