This thread seems to have evolved into not only an evaluation of Fred's fine prints but also an evaluation of Fred's methodology and his business practices.
Like many others, I bought Fred's prints. What I observed, in retrospect, is that while the highlight and shadows were depicted within the tonal scale of the paper, there was very little if any local contrast shown.
However, that has also been my experience of other photographers whose work I have had the opportunity to see. For instance, I saw some of Bruce B's prints at the "After Image" in Dallas last fall...I was absolutely dismayed by what I saw. The magazine reproductions that I have seen, in his case, were better then the actual prints. An Ansel Adams print that I saw that day was equally as dismal. Yet other photographers, whose work was shown, were producing work that was as great as anything that I have ever seen.
Edward Weston's prints shown at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth initially seemed printed overly heavy...yet in proper lighting they absolutely glowed. Ansel Adams' work shown at the same gallery under the same conditions looked overly dramatic, weak, and inadequate in comparison.
I was intially impressed with Howard Bond's work years ago...today, I would say that some of his is good and some is not so good.
So to evaluate any photographers production requires, I think, a retrospective view of many years of production and in comparison to the work of others.
My experience of Fred was in regard, additionally, to my purchase of a 4X5 camera. A camera that I still own and use today...some twenty years later.
I remember buying the bag bellows with that camera. The bellows came apart after I bought it. I phoned Fred and explained my experience...His comment was "that really is a terrible thing isn't it?, a new an improved bellows is on the way to you"...I still have that bellows today. It was in fact new and improved.