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  1. #1

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    The Hurrell Style book - Bad information?

    Hello

    I have just received the book 50 Years of Photography, The hurrell Style, which I bought because I learnt that it had some technical info for each shot in the book, which is exactly what I was looking for. When I received it I was glad because I have found just what I was after: film used, lens used, shutter speed, f-number, and even type and amount of lights used! The book goes from the very beginning with portraits of Ramon Novarro until the very recent (70s years).

    I thought that all was very reliable, because afaik, this book was done when Hurrell was still alive, and with his collaboration/agreement. But, looking in more detail I begin to suspect about the technical data of the shots, specifically about the film used.

    According to the book, about 95% (I have not counted them, though) of them were shot with Eastman Super-X (not Super-XX, which came later). But reading in Vieira's book (Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits), he talks about different types of films used by Hurrell, during the different golden years, and never talks about Super-X. Moreover, Eastman Kodak Super-X was introduced in 1935 and even in the photos shot before (1931, etc) the book sais that he used Super-X...

    At this point my enthusiasm vanished, and I begin to suspect about the rest of the technical data... Unhappily I need it so much! Please, could someone try to clarify or comment? Do you have this book?

    If you have some idea / opinion about this I would appreciate it.

    Thanks
    Last edited by Darkbluesky; 12-26-2011 at 05:43 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Spelling & style

  2. #2
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    I do find understanding how others shoot and see interesting but...

    Film doesn't normally come with Meta-Data and I don't believe that it really matters that much.

    The data in the book is probably plenty to give you a good feel for Hurrell's style and tools but I don't believe there is any way any book can convey the nuances of applying it.

    If you want to recreate his look and quality you'll need to experiment a bit, well probably a lot.

    What you will probably find in time is that your own preferences will cloud the issue.

    For example I find this shot to be really fun http://www.flickr.com/photos/54459976@N00/5878966138

    But this one much nicer http://www.flickr.com/photos/8077097@N06/5229004360

    Both, at least for me, show an influence from Hurrell but the application of that knowledge is markedly different.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  3. #3

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    Choice of film and lens is probably the least important part of his work. Lighting, makeup, styling and the personality are a LOT more important.

  4. #4

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    Thanks for your answers!

    Yes, in fact I have some years of studying and compiling information about this. Let alone admiring and studying this style (photo and motion picture) for a lot of years.

    In fact is not an admiration for Hurrell specifically, it is for the whole 30s-40s style, photography/film and even to some extend, way of living, etc. And of course, I agree with the comments both you say.

    Style, makeup AND lighting is part of another study I am working on too, in parallel. At side of that (which is, of course, of basic importance), and after some reading and testing I still believe on the importance of film, developing, AND lens characteristics used (at least related to what is manufactured/sold today). Maybe I have to add, that for me, even professional studios (modern Harcourt, etc), Vieira's own attemps, and other professionals works, fall very short, or even fail completely. But of course each one can have his own opinion about that.

    On the other hand I agree that my own testing, which I do, is mandatory. I would like to know if someone has some information to compare/discuss, that could shed some light on this comparison/contradiction.

    As said, now I don't know if I should believe, for example, the types of light/power used described in the book or if they are also completely wrong... this is just an example.

    Tx!
    Last edited by Darkbluesky; 12-26-2011 at 08:45 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  5. #5

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    If you're trying to find out the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I'd say the answer is no.

    If you are trying to formulate a strategy that could be used for your own photographic practice using modern material and equipment, who cares.

    BTW did you check out my work? Can you guess how I captured the second image on my site? Yes, I have the factual answer. But that was from a few years back when I was using inferior equipment, etc. and I'd be embarrassed to disclose the truth. But you're welcome to come up with plausible stories incorporating expensive brand names. If not, I could do that part as well. That's what I mean... hahaha.

  6. #6
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Hmm, I could be wrong but I always figured that Hurrell originally shot to whatever (ortho?) film was available, made paper internegs and retouched them heavily. Many of the images have that graphical look.

    One interesting thing about these turn-of-the-century photographers- Hurrell, Steichen, Edward Weston, Cunningham et al, is that some of them modified their style as the more modern materials became available, others didn't.
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  7. #7
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    So.....

    Do you have an 8x10 camera?

    Given your research you probaly know this but I only think that getting in the right genre of film is important, I'll bet that FP4 is plenty close enough; in 8x10.

    Yes, you can probably get close with 5x7 or really stretch things and use 4x5, but, if the info by your name is right with regard to what you are shooting, there are real limits. 35mm it isn't going to get anyone to the same level as Hurrell. This isn't about your skill or dedication, it's pure physics.

    FP4's emulsion does not differ by format size, what does differ though, is the image size versus grain size. Changing formats completely changes the the look and the amount of detail available to print.

    For example in 35mm I find HP5's look too rough in many situations. In MF HP5 is nicely usable but still if I'm going to spend money, I would rather one of the Deltas or FP4. When we get 4x5 though, HP5 becomes a beautiful pallette to work on. This bias is mine but the physics are real.

    Edit.

    Or as Kieth says maybe an Ortho film.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  8. #8
    keithwms's Avatar
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    Well, the ortho (or at least blue-leaning) sensitization is a pretty big deal; I would focus on that part of the look, foremost. If a suitable film isn't available, then you can put a cyan filter on a modern film and get pretty close. Once you see what you get in terms of skin tones, then you will see why I strongly suspect paper neg retouching.

    When did red sensitization appear? 50s and 60s? All I know is that it was amazingly recent.

    P.S. Nope I am off by ten years it seems.... look at this!

    http://www.msp.rmit.edu.au/Article_03/02e.html
    "Only dead fish follow the stream"

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  9. #9
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    He did seem to shoot whatever film he had in quantity that was available, from what I've read, and retouching is an important part of the Hurrell look, but retouching directly on the negative, not on an interneg, as I understand it. This was largely the norm in professional portraiture in his context and beyond.

    Hurrell liked his subjects to use makeup only on the eyes and lips, to retain the glow of fresh clean skin. Blemishes could be corrected with pencil and knife on the neg.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
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  10. #10
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    I've been hacking away at this at Art City.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/neelin/...6365/lightbox/

    John Alton's "Painting with Light" (orig. 1949, but avail. in 1995 version) is somewhat illuminating on classic Hollywood technique.
    I've been using a lot of Agfa Scopix Cineradiography 35mm film to shoot these. It's a) orthochromatic b) I've got lots of it c) extremely contrasty.

    As far as technical details of those old photos related to modern recreation, my great epiphanies were:

    -orthochromatic film is just fine.
    -old Hollywood negs often had extensive pencil/blade retouching...bigtime!
    -the concept of "normal" lenses and using another film format i.e. 50mm/135 film 450mm/8x10 film, forget about it. You need the lens to subject distance to match the old 8x10 setup or your perspective is going to be off (i.e. fairly flat). It's pretty obvious after looking at a couple of shots. The example above with crop is probably and effective 100mm on 135 film, and it's still now where near as flat as the orig. Buster Keaton shot.
    -interesting sidenote. A lot of the poses while they look natural almost require duct tape & ropes to keep body parts in position! Well with fidgety kids anyways

    Robert

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