The advantage that a print has over an on-line image, or even an image in a book, is that the photographer retains control over the look of the photograph, assuming that the photographer can specify the lighting conditions under which the photograph is viewed.
The look of on-line images is very dependent on the quality and settings of the monitor that renders those images. I can spend a lot of time getting a scan of a print to look like the print through my monitor (say my desk top computer) only to be disappointed when I view the image on another device (say my smart phone) or when the image is rendered through an on-line platform, such as Flickr or Instagram. This is especially true of fine-art prints.
Of course this is assuming that we all see in the same way, which of course we don’t. I was reminded of this obvious fact last year when I had a successful cataract operation in my right eye. I was amazed to discover how white, white really is! The hardening of the eye-lens over time has progressively rendered white as slightly yellow.
I have slowly accumulated a nice collection of photo-books. One of my favourite pastimes is to look through the sequence of photographs chosen (and hopefully sequenced) by a photographer and accompanied by a well written essay. For me one of the gold standards in photo-books is “American Photographs” by Walker Evans with its accompanying essay by Lincoln Kerstein.
It is a gold standard for several reasons, but an important one for me is the quality of the printing in the book. The black and grey duotone 1 separations were done by Thomas Palmer, who also printed separations for Lee Friedlander, Nicholas Nixon, Robert Adams, Paul Strand and Edward Weston. The midtone expansion of tonality in the photographs give them a lovely character.
‘duotone is a halftone production of an image using the superimposition of one contrasting color halftone over another color halftone. This is most often used to bring out middle tones and highlights of an image. Traditionally the superimposed contrasting halftone color is black and the most commonly implemented colours are blue, yellow, brown, and red however there are many varieties of color combinations used’ – (from wikipedia). For the Walker Evans photographs, duotone was sufficient to render monochrome-colour match, as opposed to tritone or quadtone. ↩
Mention ‘landscape photography’ these days and many would immediately think of that style of photography that looks to the ‘beautiful’ or to the ‘sublime’ or to the ‘picturesque’ in our countryside. Perhaps we have Edmund Burke’s ‘A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful‘ to blame for that.
Romanticism in landscape photography is nothing new of course. 19th century Romantic photography provided a position which enabled a counter-reaction into Modernism.
There are times when I need to be alone to make pictures. This is one of those times. By alone, I don’t mean just physically alone. I also mean culturally alone – away from the photographs and influences of others.
When I see the two words ‘Zen’ and ‘Photography’ together my in-built bullshit alarm starts to ring. An on-line search of the words ‘Zen’ + ‘Photography’ will retrieve ethereal long exposure landscapes and seascapes or articles about the need for an empty mind when pressing the camera’s shutter. And and so on. Empty indeed!
This photograph took some effort. The church is almost abandoned, lying about five miles west of Rugby, North Dakota. The problem was that the altar and its furniture was not quite square, so I moved the furniture to find symmetry around the figure of Jesus. Whereas I find asymmetry often pleasing, something that is supposed to be symmetrical but is a shade out gnaws at me at little.
I enjoyed taking this photograph. It is just a few minutes away from where I live. Five women had stopped to take in the scene with their sandwiches.
A view within a view type of picture, like we are eaves-dropping on a private moment. Of course, we are not secretly listening to a conversation; rather we are secretly sharing a vista with five women except ours is more inclusive in that it contains theirs. Or so it seems. Of course, there might have been someone behind me looking at me taking in five women taking in a scene.
Photography has this strange quality. It engenders the idea that the vista starts at you, with no cognizance of what is behind; that the world starts with you. But as we peer intently into the picture a doubt emerges… The world does not start anywhere. Like a photograph, this is a neat but necessary illusion.
At a recent exhibition of Rembrandt’s printmaking techniques I was struck by the similarities between Etching, Bromoil and Paper Negative printing. All show the hand of the artist. All share a certain sensibility.
I have a thing about taking photographs of statues, particularly in natural settings or cemeteries. It is hard to put into words but for me statues can evoke a sense of time stood still. It’s that influence from Atget.