This last Saturday I had the pleasure to attend the Paul Strand exhibition of photographs at the Tacoma Art Museum
in Tacoma Washington. The photographs were not large, some being very small, and all matted and framed in white
metal. I had been looking forward to seeing the prints since the first of the year and finally made there. The
other showing was of Frida Kalho, her life though photographs, which included many famous photographers
photographing great artist. This was simply spectacular.
Several Paul Strand photographs appeared darker than I had imagined and upon asking I was told they were
illuminated correctly. Two photographs especially bothered me. I have seen them reproduced in books and the vast
shadow areas contain a lot of details. The two photographs in the show had no shadow details in very large areas
of the images. At the show were two books by Strand, Photographs of the Southwest. I opened it up to the two
photographs, walked over to them and held the book up and compared. The actual photographs were void of shadow
detail but the book reproductions had the shadow detail. In my mind it should have been the other way around. A
reproduction usually, but not always, would lose detail and not gain it.
I ordered two books by Paul Strand, which are on the way, and will be eager to see the prints in the books. Anyone
who can't get to the galleries due to location, time, or other reasons, get some books and don't feel that you are
missing everything there is to offer. I have found that a couple of printings of an image can give you a very good
impression. Apparently the printing is the performance as Adams would say.
Because of the lack of quality of Verizon DSL I had to compose in text and cut and paste into the thread.
Last edited by Curt; 05-21-2007 at 02:53 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: reason for look of text
Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand
The display by museums of gelatin silver prints under inadequate illumination is epidemic today. Photographers invariably printed for much higher viewing light levels, but curators defer to conservators and the lumens get severely restricted. Low value details are then obscured, just as you observed.
When books are printed, modern controls can be applied and the process is optimized for expected viewing conditions. After attending Weston and Strand museum shows during the last few years, I agree that books are a better way to see the work. Only if a private collector is willing to display prints under "vintage" illumination levels can one more fully appreciate the images.
So the prints were illuminated "correctly" (did Strand leave instructions?), or by what standard? I think I agree with the comment about conservators' recommendations, if they are original artist produced prints.
About the books, I have seen this in the past also. Makes me wonder if the original negs were scanned and carefully P-shopped to emulate the prints, with speculated "improvements"...
Originally Posted by Curt
I have often seen the same thing. I first became aware of this almost 40 years ago with a Bill Brandt exhibition at Dartington Hall. Since then I've been disappointed by (in particular) Ansel Adams, Karsh of Ottawa and Aleksandr Rodchenko exhibitions -- to name only the worst. In my steadily growing experience, prints in repro often raise unrealistic expectations for originals.
A few years ago I was scheduled to have a show of my photos and chose my favorite (which I was quite proud of) to have printed on the post card invitations. When I saw the postcards, I was quite humbled, as they managed to capture that elusive glow which the original only hinted at. I was petrified that anyone attending would be disappointed that the prints didn't live up to the postcard! So I went and reprinted that photo --many times--until I felt it was worthy.
It did help me improve my printing skills...
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