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  1. #1

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    We have it sooo easy!

    About a year ago I made a month long canoe trip with an 8x20 and 11x14. Everything was downstream so to speak (and in the stream sometimes). All told not too bad and a lot of fun.

    Yesterday at the State Library of Victoria (Australia) I had the privilege of examining around 20 original prints by Carleton Watkins. The terrain was rugged, the wet plate collodian must have been incredibly taxing to work with but the images were (in my opinion) worth the bother he must have made. Yeah, they were mostly soft on the corners (18x22 inches) and the foreground was often not too well in focus but the man saw well. The photographs went past pure historical interest and reminded me that we stand in an ever-changing stream of photographic progress. The timeless quality of the man discovering under the darkcloth remains when you see the work today - not much different than what we can do now.

    These prints were given to the library in 1871 and are still in pretty amazing condition. I wonder how many of today's images will survive as well, like inkjet posters for example.

  2. #2
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    I saw the Watkins show at the Metropolitan Museum here in New York a few years ago. Indeed they were amazing, and it was amazing to think of him trudging through the wilderness and on rough mining and logging roads with his darkroom cart and big glass plates.

    On the other hand, in his own day, photography must not have felt as instantaneous as it does to us today. Compared to painting, it must have seemed like cheating.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  3. #3

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    There was a tactility to the prints. Not only because I could hold them and see the dust specks mounted beneath the prints but also because one could sense the effort given in their creation. Historically photography was seen as somehow 'cheating' in the minimal effort required to make an image. It's all relative.

    I spent one year in Povugnituk, Quebec, 300 miles north of the nearest tree. People who lived there said it wasn't cold there, it was cold at the next place north. It all depends on your perspective. Still, I think he didn't cheat but worked bloody hard.



 

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