This seems to be a question that only really concerns photographers and photography historians. Nuance, let's face it, is our concern. Whether we accept it or not, if we aspire to be successful art photographers, our images will be reproduced in all different kinds of qualities, it's just the age we live in. The images we make now have to hold up as... images, whatever the means of presentation. My point of view is that the unique piece of art (the fine print) that nearly everyone here values above all else, no longer holds the value it once did outside of 'fine art' communities. We have to tell normal people, beautiful subtleties or not, that the print is hand made for them to value the subtleties because for so many, the photograph is now simply a constant source of information on world events, cultures, products etc. So habitually, it's only the information that they take from the photograph and then, they move on to the next one. We're experts at obtaining information today and we're addicted to getting our next information fix. In a time when images are produced and consumed like Big Macs, I'd argue that it's not nuance that people should value, but strong images that stop people in their tracks for even a little longer than usual. The best way to do this is by obscuring the information that we need to get at. The most famous image, the Mona Lisa, is the ultimate archetype of this and the very reason it is so famous. Some say that it's not even very well painted!
It's understandable that crafting a darkroom masterpiece will reward extended viewing, but does it earn it? Werner Herzog says we're starved of great images today and I agree wholeheartedly. One of the great image makers, Harry Callahan, made contact prints and his photographs hold the same value for me on Google image search as they do in the brilliantly printed monograph I have. That I get more pleasure holding and flipping through the book, might simply be the reward for my consumerist nature - what I get from the images is the same. But there's also the 'presence' of an older photograph or piece of art that perhaps comes from the aura of older paper, canvases and paint, which is diminished completely in reproduction. This, more than anything else, might be the biggest factor in our value judgments of the work of master photographers and artists.
I'm going to see John Blakemore's prints soon and I'm sure that will be a different story altogether.
edit: Need to stop editing posts.
Last edited by batwister; 02-26-2012 at 11:14 AM. Click to view previous post history.