Gee it seems so easy to bash dead people. I'm sure Fred would laugh about these naieve comments. Although I was not personal friends with Mr. Picker I did know him from about 1979 onward. The workshops that he gave in Vt. were and always will be some of the best given anywhere. That's where I finally got to make my first good negative and made my first quality print. It was all open-source before that term even came into play. These people were giving the information away. Fred ran those workshops for a very long time and turned a few thousand people on to LF.
The "idea" of the work prints was good one but obviously not one that lived up to the Zone-VI philosophy.When he moved up to Vt. he and his partmners only had a hope and a prayer to start the company. But the hustle idea is BS because this was the only photo company that had a money back guarantee on ALL products-and a lifetime guarantee. I still use my film and paper washers;wista, zone VI developer;a camera bag that has never ripped or torn after 20 years.He went and found Brilliant paper in France. He provided the information to do the Zone 1 test at a time when a densitometer cost thousands.Just do the test and send him the negs. He would read them and send them back; usually with an acrid remark if you screwed it up. Fred would pick up the phone any time.You could always ask questions. (his standard reply was:TRY IT) He had a great sense of humor and knew photography.He was on the board of Friends of Photography. If yours was a better way he only said:"show me the prints" The products he sold could get you up and running to actually do photography.
Picasso made the remark that he was 5% artist and 95% huckster. He knew what he was doing but the world always needs to be convinced. That's just the way it is. People should think before they make off-hand remarks about someone they didn't even know.
My dealings with Fred were always good and challenging. His workshop was the only one I ever needed to attend, way back in 1978. It was of college level and I believe you could get college credit if you applied for it. There I learned what a fine print really looked like and corrected all my mistakes. His images that he displayed were of great clarity and detail, rich and full of meat to chew. He also had a great collection of prints of other photographers. His Iceland Portfolio, which I bought, are a collection of very fine images.
There was one incident at the workshop, on a field trip, he did chase me away from an possible image that I was considering, very abstract of some boards and chicken wire. He said rather tersely, "There's nothing there!"
"The Zone VI Workshop" is an excellent book to learn the zone system from, simple and straight to the point. "The Fine Print" is an excellent reference for printing. I looked forward to his newsletters which were always inspirational, informative, challanging.
As for his products, I still use his exposure meter holster, print washer. He exchanged a camera bag 20 years after I bought it because of a bad zipper. Zone VI Brilliant graded paper, now discontinued, was rich and sharp.
I traveled to Vermont, a few years after attending his workshop and walked into the office, carrying a portfolio bag, to find him and Lil chatting and asked for a critique on the spot. He was very gracious and reviewed the work, labeling one as "a beaut." Lil took one look at the first print and said, "Oh, you have something to say!"
Well, now that Fred is gone, maybe some galleries will pick up on his work and sell it. After all the work of a dead artist is far more valuable then when he was living. Hmmm Picasso knew Fred Picker? I didn't know that.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
His choice of the words "fine print" was unfortunate. I fell for it, too. The prints weren't even very good, much less fine.
Originally Posted by WarEaglemtn
However, two people whose judgments I trust, Paul Paletti and Paula Chamlee, have both seen Lillian Farber's collection of Fred Picker's prints and they assure me that his personal body of work is absolutely splendid.
Whatever marketing blunder may have been made with regard to the 'reference' prints notwithstanding, it would seem that he was ultimately a fine photographer in every sense of the word.
When he was younger he took a portfolio of his Iceland pictures to Paul Strand who was quite impressed. I can't imagine a tougher critic, except for maybe God or Michael Smith.
I've never seen an original Picker print made for exhibition. I agree that someone should put together a retrospective show of his work. He may not have much standing in the gallery community but he did a lot to advance large format and B&W printing. Even if just to get people thinking. I have a couple of his books and think he has a few nice images. Maybe some smaller town Art museums might be interested.
I have four of Fred's "Fine Prints" and in my opinion they are truly beautiful prints.
I also have some of the reference prints. They are not even close to the quality or beauty of his Fine Prints.
In fact there was one of his Fine Prints that just sold over the weekend on eBay that I completely forgot about, otherwise I would now have Five.
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Got one of Fred's reference prints back then - the barn I think. Dreadfull.
Fred's review of Galerie paper came close to causing it's disappearance, which would have been unfortunate
Well, he would've had a vested interest in its demise, would he not?
Originally Posted by Mark Layne
That paper he sold was just godawful. 'Zone VI Dull', wasn't that its name?
Doing a critique of images or commenting on quality or lack of it in an image is not attacking the person who made it. It is a comment on the quality of the prints.
Yes, Fred was a booster for LF photography. No, the prints I saw were not of high enough quality to be used for much other than a reference for how not to make a good print. It doesn't mean he couldn't print, just that with these he didn't do well or his assistants didn't do well.
AA sold a set of prints in his gallery. Prints done by assistants to his specs & priced far lower than his personal exhibition work. These prints were done well & looked good, as good as his exhibition work. It can be done if one wants to do it & AA did it. I bought some when they were $35 each & they still look as good as the exhibition print we got for $800.
If one is selling work prints for comparison to help people learn what a 'fine print' looks like, it should be a 'fine print' in all respects.
I knew Fred from before his Zone VI days. I believe he was everything that has been said; a warm and generous person, a contributor to the medium he loved, a salesman, bs artist, etc. I was one of his original instructors at his workshops; and he did give good value.
Originally Posted by WarEaglemtn
In the early days, Fred had a wonderful sense of humor about himself; he was a good photographer who didn't take himself overly seriously. In later years, though, I started to get calls from former students around the country, telling me that Fred's advice in his newsletter contradicted what I had taught them. I told them they must be misinterpreting Fred, when they quoted him as saying that one should meter the highlights and not worry about shadows; a complete contradiction of the physics of b&w photography.
I visited Fred not long before his death. I hadn't seen him in several years, as our lives had taken different turns. I remember sitting in his livingroom, seeing one wall with AA prints, one with Strand, one with Caponigro, and one with Fred's own work. I was shocked at how poor his prints were; his early work in Iceland and Easter Island was good. Fred told me," you know, I've finally come to the conclusion that all you have to do is place the highlights, and the shadows will be fine." Fred was not in good health, and it was good to see an old friend after several years, so I didn't point out the obvious deficiency in his work that followed his new credo. It was sad to think that success had made him take himself so seriously that he thought he could decide how the materials would work.
I have many fond memories of Fred. But my advice to any photographer would be; there are good Fred Picker photographs out there, and there are really poor Fred Picker photographs out there. Don't assume anything; use your own judgement. On a good day, Fred would agree.
As stated in a earlier post I recieved the reference prints and they were bad, I am in my office now as I type and 3 feet away from me is the complete Zone V1 newsetters and some of his videos.
I have read these letters a couple of times and I still refer to some of the articles and all the young photographers that work around me here do pick up these sets of newsletters and read up on things and ask question , so I know that I got my moneys worth out of these articles.
He had a wonderful way of getting the word out about photography and you could see that he was fully immersed in this path that we have crazily taken.
But I have to say those reference prints really sucked.
By the way I bought the drying screens over 14 years ago for drying and they are still working fine in my darkroom. As well I agitate my fibre prints exactly the way his video recommended.