I appreciate your points. Actually, my definition of a 'technically perfect negative' has been the same for decades. I had to put some thought into it and question a lot of assumptions that I had before I could distill it down to that simple sentence.
FYI, I have been to art exhitibs where ONLY the negative was shown and not the print. I have been to some where both were on display. I've even been to exhibits where only the prints were on display<g>. I know of a photographer who sells negatives, not prints (this was some years ago). Recently a book was published showing only negatives. So, there is interest in the negative. If you care to take a peek at my personal gallery, you'll see many negative images. Personally, I appreciate the negative as an image in it's own right, but it must work as an image and not be used as pure effect.
But what I was really trying to address was the working style of the photographer. I know there are photographers who do work like that and probably they can be quite successful. It's just my personal opinion that I don't respect that approach - if that drives some people mad, then so be it. It's quite possible that I could go to a show of an unknown photographer and see some images that I liked. If after the show I learned that he\she worked in this manner, honestly I would lose respect for that person. So process is apparently important to me.
"There are some good works and good photographers on here but I can't help but feel some would benefit from throwing their spotmeters away, grabbing a good 35mm, going somewhere that isn't already quite pretty and banging off a few rolls."
I appreciate this point and your sentiment. I have actually done this on many occasions because I was starting to feel constrained by the LF process. Still, I took care with my exposures and development. I even took random pictures where I never looked thru the viewfinder. Even still, because of the way I setup the shot on a tripod, I had a fair idea of what I was getting but there was an element of randomness in it. My ratio of good images to negatives exposed was quite low, however. But still it was a liberating experience and I got at least one 'keeper' that particular day.
As a rather long-time LF'er, I want to defend all us LF'ers on one point of yours and that is the perception that we think that all an image has to do is contain a full range of tones, be sharp all over, etc. (20 years ago, this would have been my definition of a technically perfect negative). Well, we are actually brighter than that, believe it or not. Just because we work under a darkcloth doesn't mean our brains turn to mush. Those technical qualities in a print are only a means to an end - a good image. We actually do like photographic images as art and we even appreciate good 35mm work or whatever. It's just that many of us have adopted an ethic where we embrace values such as tonality, sharpness, contrast, etc. Our ethic is just as valid as the hand-held shoot from the hip 35mm folks. Please son't accuse us of only being interested in the technical aspects of a print.
Lastly, thanks for the good post and the good points. I appreciate you sticking to the point. Some others were getting personal towards me for some reason and I appreciate you not doing that.
In Bruce Barnbaum's Lenswork interview (CD version of interview), he relates how by 1980 he had acquired the technique to handle the too contrasty lighting of slit canyons. He states he entered Antelope Canyon in Jan 1st, 1980 knowing that he was both the 1st photographer to enter it & that he could technically take the pictures. How often have we been in a situation were we felt incapable of handling the technical problems either at time of exposure or in darkroom. Vision without technical abilities is an un-realized image.
van Huyck Photo
"Progress is only a direction, and it's often the wrong direction"
Jorge, this quote of Doug's should be a nice addition to your top ten of APUG signatures/quotes. Well said Doug.
Originally Posted by doughowk
One of the things we overlook is that early photographers had very basic equipment compared to what we have today. Many of them like us would have got their equipment and leaned how to use it, just like we do today and like today some would have given up if they had not been able to produce the pictures they wanted.
My point is that many of the masters possibly had the ability to see light and with experience could transfer that to the final image without the need of accurate light meters. As metering got better those people didn't lose their ability but were able to better judge the image they wanted. If they didn't have the ability then we would never have heard of them.
Endless practice with a pepper or other object is the journey along the learning curve. Cartier-Bresson had the decisive moment and composed full frame. But how many decisive moments did he miss and therefore didn't get a picture? Also he printed full frame ratio but many of his pictures enlarged to that ratio even the "reflection in a mud-puddle"
They are masters because they had the ability to produce the picture with the available materials at the time. Technically perfect negative? I bet none of them felt they had achieved perfection.
The power of hindsight produces many heroes and villans.
The medium of photograhy uses such a broad spectrum of tools, that I'm not sure how productive it is to argue over whether one technique is better than another. I admire Weston's peppers, nudes, and landscapes. He was a master with his camera and in the darkroom. I also admire someone like Robert Frank, who I think wasn't as good a craftsman, but despite that, (or maybe because) he realized some great images. I consider him a master, but a very different type of artist than Weston, and comparing these very different approaches turns into an apples and oranges argument.
Having said all that, I'm personally not after total technical perfection, but by mastering the craft, and creating good negatives, I can use my darkroom techniques (not tricks) to make expressive prints. Something I think many of us are after.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Forgive the long quote, but I think it is necessary to start from a "ground".
Originally Posted by mikewhi
This discussion could be viewed with one question in mind: "Is the process of Art/ Photography one of "creation" or "capture"? - something I am far from resolving.
I can understand your concept of "a successful photograph is one that satisfies the pre-visualization", but that leaves a number of questions unanswered ... What, then, does one do with an image that did NOT "turn out as intended", but is still recognized by the photographers a *really* good work - one conforming to the concept of Ansel Adam's "Fortunate Accident"? Throw it away? Destroy a thing of beauty that fascinates and enraptures the photographer and the experiencer? Whatever the "soup" that resulted in the production of that image, it is still the photographer's work, to do with as s/he will.
I might extend the idea of previsualization back still further: "The only photograph that could be considered valid is one where the photographer exerts tight control over the elements in the image ... selecting and arranging each, and controlling, tightly, their relationships to each other and the overall composition" - in other words, strict "creation". The only way that would be possible would be in a "tabletop" situation.
I would submit that the fraction of those photographs considerd to be significant, and and also being rigid "Tabletop" creations is relatively small. There is usually (note that I'm avoiding any "absolute" here) some level of capture, otherwise known as the "Decisive Moment".
Back to the idea of "Fortunate Accidents" - I have an image posted here - what was it titled ... "Abstraction #27", which happened to come into being as the result of a malfunctioning Hasselblad magazine. Artistic "value" aside - If it is "not photography " - then what is it? "Is it in some way unethical to mat and frame that image and exhibit in a gallery, claiming it as "my photograph"? - As I have already done...
Ansel Adam's "Moonrise Over Hernandez" (hope I've got that right) is certainly one of the most significant photographs - of all time - and the negative, from an undisputed "Master", did NOT turn out "the way it should have" - as it was pre-visualized by Adams, resulting in extensive darkroom manipulation. One *very* successful photograph.
I do not mean to be contentious here, I'm only attempting to bring attention to one facet of, and offer my legitimization to an alternative way to do photography.
The "final product" to me, is of crucial importance. If I can draw the attention of the viewer, and ultimately, create in the experiencer some level of the same emotional state *I* felt when - or more appropriately, during - the production of that image - I will consider the work to be successful. However I caused that to happen is incidental.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Ed I see nothing contentious in what you posted here and feel you have made the point very well. There are many successful people who cannot say what the mechanics are for producing their results, but they know that what they do works for them and have the results to prove it. Accidents? .... in some parts of the world those are known as the hand of god aren't they?
I have read all the posts on this subject, and thought long & hard about it. I guess because I consider myself to be lower than even the most beginning apprentice!
So who determines whom is a "master" of any craft or fine art, or whatever we choose to call it?...(it's just a matter of semantics.) Is it the co-workers of the prospective master? Is it the public? Who gets to decide? When I go to the Art Museum and look at all the objects there...I have to wonder! There are many exhibits that must be defined as "art" or they would not be in the Art Museum. But I have to tell you that those "things" are NOT art in my eyes, and the people who created them are far from being "Masters." They are not Monet, Manet, DaVinci, etc.
Isn't it the same with photography? I see some photos and I just stare in awe! Is that how a 'Master' is defined? By the response evoked in the public? Or do all the photographers (those who obviously know what is good and what isn't) decide who is a 'master' irregardless of what the public thinks? Kind of like the Acadamy Awards, isn't it?
As for the technical aspects... well, like I said, I'm definitely not in danger of someone calling me a 'master'... but what difference does it make if the negative was easy or hard to print? No one looks at the negative! They look at the print! So I guess I'd have to say it's a moot point as to whether the 'master' photographer spent 10 minutes or 5 hours making the print.
Well I have to admit that I'm a bit thunderstruck! I cringed after I made my last comment and expected to get blasted this morning for basically insulting much of the site!!! But everyone is calm and thoughtful. Possibly many have given up reading anything attached to my name or everyone is much more flexible than I thought. I'm surprised and impressed.
mikewhi, after you clarified about EWS I went back and read that part again and did see that you were complimenting him and it was your friend that said his negs were awful. I understand where you are coming from and realize that your interests are broader than the pure technique. Oddly enough I often find negatives to be works of art in themselves sometime and the resulting positive lacking in energy.
I'm glad someone brought up Robert Frank because I was talking to a microscope rep from Nikon yesterday (I'm involved in science) and we got onto the subject of cameras. It turns out he's been a landscape/nature photographer for about 30 years and lives in Nova Scotia - which is where Robert Frank has been living for ages. I asked him if he knew who he was and he didn't have a clue!!! This was quite a surprise since he had been a big fan of BW and originally worked with camera/lens manufacturer such as Zeiss and Leica before going to Nikon. I know that I probably can't name many nature photographers but anyone who has read even a simple history of photography should've encountered Robert Frank.
As for Frank not being that good technically, once again I'm not sure how this has been decided and why it would be so important. If you have seen his images you can tell he knows what he is doing and even so his photos have are much, much deeper than the tonal range or the amount of shadow detail. They are not superficial images and considering that he changed modern photography I'm not sure technical proficiency is all that important.
Imagine for a moment the snickers this thread evokes from those with books filled with perfectly composed and exposed chromes. :rolleyes:
The perfect negative might be a positive
Imitation cameras come with big egos, real cameras do not include accessories.