It's kinda like the difference between muscle cars in books and muscle cars in the flesh.
Originally Posted by cliveh
As mentioned, you have to get yourself to some museums.
Do a google image search of "stieglitz hand of man". See how many variations there are of a single photo? See how they all poorly reproduce the dark tones? That's what you get with a typical book or internet photo. I haven't seen the original of this, but the variety of reproductions I've seen lead me to not trust the copies. I have seen other pictorialist and modernist photos at museums and in private ownership, and there is absolutely a huge difference, and few of them reproduce well. A hundred year old platinum contact print is something special. So is a FB silver print of Karsh's.
Moving to color.... There is nothing quite like Eliot Porter's dye transfer prints.
Then, sometimes a mediocre image looks better in a book; some of Ansel Adam's color cibachrome landscapes come to mind. Cibachromes can look stunning though.
Furthermore, there is some important context to the size of the image. Books don't present this well due to their size limitations. Better ones have an appendix describing the size and material of the original so you can help understand it's size context better. Photographers of old created latent images with the final output size in mind. They knew it would be a contact print of a particular size. We've gotten away from that, blowing things into 18' tall cindy shermans and shrinking whole plate negatives down to 1/4 page in books. Sometimes it works, often it's a travesty. This is a result of small formats and digital that lets us easily not think about final presentation when the photo is captured. Comparing to art.. An impressionist or pointilism painting looks great at it's original size but not so well at different sizes. The medium and craft is an important part of the whole.
Last edited by jp498; 02-25-2012 at 08:18 PM. Click to view previous post history.