Well I saw the exhibit today, there are some really cool shots there. Michael you were right about the burned looking highlights, mostly on the ones shot in the swamp. At a guess I'd say the film highlights were blocked, the print had tone but no detail there. Some few had almost blank shadows but still looked good. Probably had something to do with contrasty light on top of reciprocity issues from exposure up to 10 minutes.
There was one that I'd seen on the web of the clumps of trees surrounded by open water that was really good looking but when I saw the wall sized picture I was astounded and tickled to see the trees were full of pelicans! Added a bit of dimension to the shot.
Over all I thought the exhibit was pretty good, I just wonder how difficult those negatives were that had the blocked highlights and if he was even worried by them.
Maybe one day I'll have a show there too ;-)
If you know what you are doing and care about excellence, you won't make prints like that. But he has a different agenda--and there is nothing wrong with that--it is just not art, with all that implies.
From what I could see the exhibit wasn't about art so much as an environmental exhibit. There are images in the exhibit worthy of being art though, just not all of them.
To quote from a wonderful article I read a long time ago:
"A characteristic that is required to create a third reality [connecting to the worls and to each other] is care. care is itself an artistic statement that expresses love."
Just out of curiosity ...
Is there a "gating criteria" that *every* photograph that has "blocked highlights" or "no shadow detail" is automatically barred from the being called *ART*?
No, of course not. That would be silly. And I am not silly. There are no rules. However, when the intention is to make photographs like Butcher's, which deal with the natural landscape in a traditional way, prints that have a full tonal scale will be more resonant and will be BETTER pictures. What is "better"? Those that will cause a deeper response in the knowledgeable viewer--that's better. Not to take the care to try to achieve that is, to me, inexcusable.
To go for the big print, no matter how poorly printed, for supposed "emotional impact" is a cheap (emotionally cheap) way to get a reaction. No serious collector or curator of photography gets sucked in by that stuff. That is not to say that these collectors and curators do not get sucked in by big prints. They most cetainly do, but only by well crafted ones.
I’ve visited Clyde Butcher's gallery in Big Cypress and found it a mixed bag. Some of the images were very striking even in smaller print sizes and IMHO well executed. Others were less so. I was left with the impression that the dark sky at the edges of some prints was intentionally burned this way. I would personally never do this so obviously, but this is Butcher’s call. Yes, there were often blocked highlights as the sun filters through the canopy into deep shade, but many of these shaded swamp images worked beautifully despite “imperfect” negatives. Does a blocked highlight or black shadow in very difficult lighting necessarily mean that his best images are not art? A subjective judgment in any case. If you visit some of these areas (I have), and your eyes have adjusted to the shade, if you look up the highlights blow out in your vision the same way. This is exactly what it really looks like. I think that comparing every print to the spectacular best that can be achieved with "perfect" negatives and azo or Pd/Pt contact prints is not always appropriate. I say this even as a committed Pd/Pt printer.
The Butchers recently opened another gallery in Venice, FL. It would seem someone must be collecting his work at pretty healthy prices.
[quote="kudzma"] I would personally never do this so obviously, but this is Butcher’s call.
By George!!! I think he's GOT IT!!!!
If any of my images of Florida were as good as Clyde Butcher's, I'd be a happy man. I don't believe his mural-sized prints are directed to the art collector group. Rather, they are meant to draw you into the world of florida in order to make you more aware of its environment. I personally prefer his smaller sized prints for they are better as prints. Would a printer think highly of them? Probably not, but printing is a specialty that may attract detail-oriented people.
Ed, anyone can print however they like.
Doug: I'm not interested in detail, but in a fineness of experience. And this is in everything I do--from making photographs and books, to building my house, to cooking, and everything else.
Some analogies: I'd prefer to hear a live concert than to listen to a CD of the same music. I even prefer listening to a vinyl record over a CD. I'd rather eat in a good restaurant, if I could afford it, then a mediocre one.
To some, these things don't matter: music is music, food is food, and a photograph is a photograph of whatever it is of and who cares about something as esoteric as "print quality." Fine and dandy. But that is not my way.