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  1. #21
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    edit: (got in late, this might seem out of context now... a few posts down the road)

    Hold the phone.

    I'm making general statements, true, but if you've ever read one Ansel's books, you'll see that he encourages this type of systematic, empirical approach. Point is, the initial post seemed to be poo-pooing Adams, and yet Thomas B. comes back and says something that appears, to me, to more applaud the Adam's approach over the Frank approach. That's all I'm saying. I don't know enough about Frank to really make any statements on his workflow.

    Furthermore, I'm not trying to base my argument on that assumption either; that Frank would've been more haphazard in his appraoch; I would think anyone could see the point in my statement. And yes, it's clear to me.

    But ultimately, I thought the whole point here was the picture, not the darkroom. An argument that could be crystallized in a Frank vs. Adams comparison.
    If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by holmburgers View Post
    But ultimately, I thought the whole point here was the picture, not the darkroom. An argument that could be crystallized in a Frank vs. Adams comparison.
    That's Erwitt's point: instead of obsessing about technicalities, Frank, he says, makes pictures.

  3. #23
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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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.
    Once again, it's not a Frank vs Adams smack-down. It's a statement of Erwitt where he describes what he feels when he views photographs of both photographers. He favors Frank, clearly, but that's not the point.
    The reason for posting it is to raise some questions about the way we work, to search within ourselves for better and better solutions to get to where we want to be. Only so much can be learned by reading the work of others. At some point we have to turn to ourselves for improvement, whatever improvement means. All too often I see 'optimum picture quality' as the de facto criteria to abide by, while other things about a photograph might be just as important, regardless of subject matter.
    "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

  4. #24
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by holmburgers View Post
    But ultimately, I thought the whole point here was the picture, not the darkroom.
    It's about both the darkroom and the picture. It's about your entire process. That's how you get a picture anyway. Without the process there is no picture. You have to do both. But where do you spend your time? What's important to you? Do you strive to make one perfect print every month? Or five proof prints every day? What matters to you?
    "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

  5. #25
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    I see.

    Perhaps it's not as black & white as I tried to make it.




    Hmm, do you smell that?



    It's a pun.










  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson View Post
    It's about both the darkroom and the picture. It's about your entire process. That's how you get a picture anyway. Without the process there is no picture. You have to do both. But where do you spend your time? What's important to you? Do you strive to make one perfect print every month? Or five proof prints every day? What matters to you?
    Ah! I feel you're on the brink of losing a good point, of allowing yourself to be dragged into the "photography is a craft" Temple of Doom again.

    It's not about the process. It's about the end result of the process. But that even only in a small way.

    It is about, as Erwitt said about Frank, your intention. The "why", as you put it so well.

  7. #27
    Thomas Bertilsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Q.G. View Post
    Ah! I feel you're on the brink of losing a good point, of allowing yourself to be dragged into the "photography is a craft" Temple of Doom again.

    It's not about the process. It's about the end result of the process. But that even only in a small way.

    It is about, as Erwitt said about Frank, your intention. The "why", as you put it so well.
    OK. I'll rephrase. But first: a process, (any process), is important. Or else there would be no pictures at all. With process I mean the whole work flow from thinking about photography and reacting to subject matter, to the finished print - beginning to end. It's the work that represents what's in our heads and hearts.

    The question that needs to be asked is: How did we reach the conclusions that made us choose one approach over another? Those decisions matter, and should be subject to scrutiny when we decide what we do and how we do things. That defines our own intent.

    What do we want to achieve, and why did we choose the path we did to get there?
    I think the answer is different for everybody.
    "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. #28
    Denis P.'s Avatar
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    I'm with you, Thomas, and I think I understand what you were trying to convey here - before you got sidetracked, I think.

    The original question (or issue), as I see it, is difference between obsessing about technicalities and taking photos... (which is, perhaps, a rather simplistic take on the issue, since those are not mutually exclusive - on the contrary...).

    I've been having some discussions of similar kind lately, with some other photographer friends: we've all been taught that the "technically correct" B&W photo needs to have the full tonal (gray) scale.
    Even today, the "old school" guys, when taking a look at a B&W photo, will usually say: "Bah, it's technically incompetent, it doesn't have the full tonal scale from black to white!" - to which I say: bollocks! (pardon my French).

    What about "high key" and "low key" photos? I mean, the issue is similar to what you are trying to say, I think: (over)obsessing with technical aspect usually results in boring photos

    Wasn't it St. Ansel himself who said (quoting from memory here): "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept"?


    For such "old school" guys, a perfectly mundane photo of a horrible cliché is an example of "how it's done", as long as it has a full tonal scale
    (Meaning that any "technically perfect" photograph is "worthy of admiration" due only to its technical perfection.)

    Anyway, my quick take: you need a good working knowledge of your materials and technique. You need to know your film, your camera and your paper (and chemicals), so that you know in advance what kind of result you will get. So, the familiarity with the technicalities will actually free you from worrying, and liberate you to actually concentrate on the "art", if you will.

    You can't be free to actually see and photograph if you are unsure of the final result (i.e. "Was the exposure proper for this light? Did I point the light meter in the right direction? Will those shadows show as pure black, or will there be detail in there? Will those highlights be totally blown?").

    On the other hand, does it really matter that some of Frank's photos are rather fuzzy/blurry? Some are obviously under/overexposed/whatever...

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-Ansel or pro-Frank. I'm not taking sides in this false dichotomy: I'm just sayin...

    Sometimes a powerful photo cuts through the technical BS... "Sloppy technique" or not...

    I've often heard that about Sally Mann, for example. "Sloppy" is an adjective often used for her work by some other photographers. Her work still moves me a lot more than Ansel's, if I may be allowed to say...

    So there... My 2 cents' worth...

  9. #29
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    So true. It's also true with music. Classical is very precise while jazz is very capricious and free. You can't say classical music is better than jazz. I love Sally Mann's work too. Looks sloppy to the casual observer. I think all those wonderful streaks is made when she was coating the collodion plates which the music of chance plays into. She couldn't coat a glass plate exactly the same even if she tried. So each plate and photographs she makes is unique and one of a kind like a jazz performance.

  10. #30
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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    You know... I think the Erwitt quote is a little off base for what your point is, Thomas, and apologies in advance if I'm off base here. As you mentioned "intent"... I think both Frank and Adams (and Erwitt for that matter) are pretty clear in their intent with the tools they use for the pictures they each have made. They each have a voice that is as individual as they are.

    Just as some folks get critical about technique and ignore the image (fairly or unfairly) when viewing work, a lot of photographers also spend way too much time and effort on technique without giving much thought to the images they are making. (It's an easy mistake to make, and many have, myself included.) The challenge is... finding your voice as a photographer while you master your craft. Each photographer's journey will be different there, but it's instructive to know the work of photographers with a strong vision no matter how they made their pictures, and sometimes getting past the process as a viewer and a photographer will help you find your own voice in the medium. I'm not a particular fan of Ansel Adams (preferring the likes of Frank far better), but I find it hard to completely dismiss his work as merely technical fireworks, and indeed... I think Frank might have been a better technician that was my own impression after seeing a lot of his prints together in one place.

    Both of their work has informed my own understanding of this medium.
    Last edited by SuzanneR; 09-29-2010 at 06:39 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: grammar

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