How do you define a 'master printer'?
It's one of those terms that's thrown around a great deal in photography writing and discussions, nearly always in reference to a photographer known for using the zone system. Why is it that we consider John Sexton a master printer, but not Wynn Bullock or Harry Callahan or Minor White so much? Does the person in question always have to be a landscape photographer? Can Cartier-Bresson be described as a master printer or is he merely efficient? Can a (dare I say it here) colour photographer be called a 'master printer'? Eliot Porter and Charles Cramer produced (or did produce) some of the most beautiful fine art prints anyone has seen - I haven't personally, but it's not too controversial to say that this is a fact. When we call a photographer a 'master printer' is this actually a polite way of saying 'not so masterful photographer'? I think John Sexton is a master printer without question, but I've never considered his images... compelling photography, as such, certainly not compared to one of his British 'master printer' contemporaries, John Blakemore. Can we only call an artist a master printer when most of his creative energy is focused in the darkroom? Does the term in this way actually refer to a sub genre of fine art photography, meaning in essence, great 'darkroom art'? To stir the water a little (a lot), do you think we will ever have a master digital printer? Just to lay down some ground rules for that one, Andreas Gursky is not
Please tell me who you consider a master printer and why.
I always just thought of it as a "rank" of sorts at professional labs. The head printer is the "master printer." I take any other use of the term with a grain of salt.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
I am a master printer, since no one else prints my images.
Some people's wives might say a similar thing about house cleaning.
Sid Kaplan - printed Henri Cartier-Bresson. Hearing how Cartier-Bresson would photograph, it's a wonder the prints look as wonderful as they do.
Bob Carnie - one of our own members here on APUG. I have seen his prints, and all I can say is that attention to detail, as well as the content of the photograph, is amazing.
I think a master printer is able to understand what is necessary to show the content of the photograph effectively. His or her own, or somebody else's work. It is someone that can take all types of negatives, good and bad, and work with them until there is a result worthwhile. I do know that Bob Carnie has preferences of how the negatives are shot and processed, but I bet he can take a poor negative and make something good with it.
I agree, however, that it is a loose term, which probably is used differently by different people, based on their own understanding. It is more than a bit subjective what each of us would call masterful.
"Make good art!"
- Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera".
- Yousuf Karsh
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit".
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I forgot to say, about it being a subjective area, that it's often put forward as fact, in the same way that we call Botticelli an 'old master'.
I find that people who proclaim themselves as "master" of anything are usually only masters of worm hooking. Then there are the likes of Ralph Lambrecht, Bob Carnie, and many others here that are true masters at printing photographs, tho you never see them blowing their own horn. Mebbe because they are to busy printing, or helping others learn how to print, to waste time boasting.
BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"
Taking is everything, as once the image is captured; printing or any other manipulation of the negative to print is of infinite variation within time. Only capture rules supreme. Hence HCB should not be considered in the context of printing.
I would think that your peers would bestow the title upon you.
Having said that it is an ambiguous title.
Batwist; I've seen Eliot Porters prints and they are the nicest color images I've ever ever seen. I saw them in the Portland Museum of Art (ME) a few years ago, then last year I was at someone's private office and from across the room I mentioned that a photo looked like an Eliot Porter dye transfer print, and it was.
Around here, we have [small] boat owner/operators that use the title of captain. For some it's an optional formal title of responsibility and professionalism. For many, it's a ego boosting prefix they insist on using whenever possible. It's more a matter of marketing than skill, as most users of their services do not have the skills and experience to properly evaluate the operator of a boat with regard to safety, navigation, etc...