Fred Picker? A fine printer, but a real snoozer of a photographer. You could pretty much insert the name of so many "master printers" who are all technique but no content. You hear classical musicians who are supreme technicians, and their music sounds very arid, very brittle.
On the other hand, I've seen a few Ansel Adams contact prints that choked me up. They were like looking into another reality.
Technique isn't everything. It isn't nothing, either.
Keith Carter is one of my favorite photographers. Extraordinary content, beautiful printing. I think he's the best in the biz right now.
As far as contemporary, fine art color photography goes, it can be impressive, but it never strikes me as "organic" or hand made. It always feels synthetic, machine made.
Here in Denmark we have a photographer called Kirsten Klein, and she is regarded as one fantastic printer - as well as photographer..
At the school we have to of her prints.
My girlfriend told me, that she often takes her prints out to see and compare with the Klein pictures, and realizing she (the girlfriend) actually is much better than the prints, hanging here....
Apart from two photographers who's work I have seen up front (I. Penn and S. Mann) she is the best I know.
Master printer? Not in her book. But she is getting there....
i don't know how to define master printer.
i do know of some printers that blow my mind
... she is one of them !
The only master printer I know is me
Am I too modest?
A commercial master printer is someone who can print other peoples negatives to match their (the photographers) own styles. It's a case of not necessarily printing someone else's negatives the way you'd think best for your own work but as they feel would be best.
But a master printer can also be someone who consistenly produces high wuality iomages from their own images over a long period of time, their feel may change but their style and flair is still there. John Blakemore is one of the true masters, but I'd guess Minor White would be similar, on the othef hand Paul Caponigro another renowned printer produced some sub stndard work shot in the UK in Megaliths
Ansel Adams was not a master printer, or at least not until quite late in his life. Early prints are all ovrer the place as an exhibition of images belonging to his daughter showed quite clearly when it toured the UK 3 or 4 years ago.
To me there are two types of master printers, those who print their own work and those who print the work of others.
Those who print their own work may produce stunning prints not because they have extraordinary printing skills but because their entire photographic chain is well evolved and optimized. If you have your film, exposure and film processing down to a consistent and predictable process, know your materials, have an understanding of the way a natural scene is translated by B&W film, and have a strong sense of lighting, which most often contributes to the wow factor of a print, then you will often produce prints of impressive qualities that require little in the way of printing magic. This also assumes some degree of basic printing competence. If you produce poor negatives of a poorly lit scene, it will indeed require a master printer to make something of nothing.
The true master printers print the work of others. I believe this because they are required to work with a range of negatives that can vary from awful to great and yet still have to consistently produce a stunning print. And as the range of the imagery varies so much, they can not develop some formula per se to compensates for consistent problem the way a photographer may do to mitigate their own weaknesses. A true master printer is also an artist, and if required by the photographer can completely reinterpret the image. A master printer understands perception and has the experience and knowledge of many techniques to achieve the desired goal.
so now we have printers - Master printers and now True Master printers...
I wonder what's next...
A simple definition of a master printer is as the name implies a printer who mastered the art of printing nothing more and nothing less. In my opinion Robin Bell, Tom Baril, Nathalie Lopparelli and other master printer are like a virtuoso they ad something to the image that goes beyond simple printing of an image, one could say they enhance the print by adding somthing of their vision and emotions. Mapplethorpe without Tom Baril would be unthinkable.