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Author Topic: Alain Briot's latest essay  (Read 29300 times)
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2006, 11:34:29 PM »
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In my view this situation is temporary, at least as far as the cost of MFDB is concerned.  The drop in prices are just as dramatic as the surge in prices. The P25 is currently priced around 12K, unless I am mistaken.  It was originally 30k.  That's a drop of 18k just after the introduction of a higher-resolution model.   

I agree that the cost of these backs is extremely high.  I don't have one myself for several reasons, the initial cost and the quick depreciation being some of them.

ALain
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Alain,

I don't want to look like I am arguing with you, because I am very much in agreement with your initial point, and the content of your essay.

However, on this one point, even if it is true that the P25 has indeed become cheaper, the current P45 high end is still priced just as high as the P25 initially was, isn't it?

I would be convinced if the price of the highest model were going down as well, but I just don't see such a trend as we speak.

I hope that you are right, and that the prices will indeed keep going down, but we haven't entered that era yet IMHO, and we won't as long as the top of the range keeps selling at the current price point.

Regards,
Bernard
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collum
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« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2006, 11:36:14 PM »
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I think you assume that all paintings are large and are made to be seen from a distance. While some certainly are, many are not.   Have you tried to view a miniature from accross a museum hall?
Alain
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that wasn't really what i meant.. i understand that paintings (like photographs) come in all sizes and shape. Some of my favorite images are small 4x5" contact  prints. I guess i think there are number of 'distances' when viewing an image (painting or photograph). There's too far (the Mona Lisa from across the room). As you move closer, you eventually arrive at what would be the optimum distance (hopefully the painter/photographer has sized it apropriately, and the purchaser has displayed it so that this distance is easily maintained).  

But people get closer to images.. and although i love Van Gogh's work and the 'right' distance.. i love getting as close as possible to see the texture and movement of the paint 'up close'  It seems that paintings still hold together at  this close distance, even when the 'resolution' of the image is exceeded. Some photographs do this (usually those that use grain to enhance the image), but for the most part, if you view a photograph at the optimal distance, and then move in very close.. if there is excessive grain/digital noise that is not intentionally there as part of the aesthetic.. then it is disappointing.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2006, 12:57:10 AM »
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From someone who has the deepest respect for your knowledge, involvement and understanding of art... Does the size of a painting or of a photograph has anything to do with the emotion it will give me or with it's intrinsic value? If I had the opportunity (the chance) of owing a truly meaningful piece of art, no matter it's size, would not it be my responsibility to place it in it's proper surrounding? Any technique has it's own limitations, but art should not, in my humble opinion, bother with them. Small or large, technically perfect or not, speak to my soul.
Mimi
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I think that size has everything to do with the emotion created by a work of art.  I tried my best to explain that in my essay.   I wonder if you do not confuse creating the art and enjoying the art.  For the person who creates the art, such as myself and my students, how the art is created becomes very important because we must know what effects our decisions have on the final outcome, the final appearance of the artwork. For the viewer, how the art was created can be somewhat unimportant, or even simply boring, depeding on how much interest they have in the creative process.

So my question to you is this: are you an artist, a creator, or are you a collector, an admirer of art?  If you are an artist I don't see how you cannot have an interest in how art is created, including the relationship between subject matter and print size.  Regarding appropriate viewing distance, both artist and collector need to be concerned with that, as it directly informs the enjoyability of the work.  

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2006, 11:20:53 AM »
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Alain,

I am mostly an admirer of art, with a growing interest in the techniques of photography.

I certainly agree that size has a lot to do (if not everything ?) with the emotion created by a work of art. For example, "les murales" of Diego Rivera could not possibly convey their author's intent in a small frame. Lanscape photography, by the very nature of the subject, probably lends itself to larger size more than any other subject. And I would think that any artist, wishing to do justice to his subject and share his intent in producing a large frame, should preferably use the most adequate equipment and certainly learn how to master its use. Everyone has to thank you for your contribution and expertise on that matter.

But I am quite certain that you would stress that thechnique complements and does not replace inspiration. I would anyday choose an imperfect but inspired work of art over a perfect large size postcard. Am I wrong in thinking that emotion and beauty can also be conveyed by artists who do not own the best equipment and that they should be encouraged in doing so?

Michel
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« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2006, 11:43:10 AM »
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The drop in prices are just as dramatic as the surge in prices. The P25 is currently priced around 12K, unless I am mistaken.  It was originally 30k.  That's a drop of 18k just after the introduction of a higher-resolution model.  

 

Alain,
 i think you're making a mistake, no even ebay salling in such low price

Blas
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John Camp
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« Reply #25 on: February 10, 2006, 12:15:08 PM »
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Does the size of a painting or of a photopgraph has anything to do with the emotion it will give me or with it's intrinsic value?

Yes, it does. There's a new book out called The Judgment of Paris (I don't have the author's name handy) which talks about the parallel lives of Manet and another painter named Messonier, in the second half of the 19th century in France. Messonier was the most famous French painter at the time, and was widely considered (at the time) to be the best French painter that the 19th century had produced. By the second decade of the 20th century, he was forgotten. Anyway, he spent ten years painting his masterpiece, called "Friedland," which showed Napolean and his staff at the moment of a great victory. Unfortunately, he painted small -- the painting was three or four feet across, when it demanded (given the topic, the public interest, the competition, etc.) to be treated in a larger, more sweeping size. As a result, the painting fell flat, and the man who signed up to buy it demanded his money back. (It now hangs in the Met, outside the Manet rooms.) The point of all this is, Size Matters. It's part of an art work's aesthetic, and it has a major effect on the viewer. It's very difficult to put a sweeping, triumphant scene ona  paostage stamp. Imagine "The Thinker" being the size of a matchbook -- the whole weightiness of the subject would be lost.

If I had the opportunity (the chance) of owing a truly meaningful piece of art, no matter it's size, would not it be my responsibility to place it in it's proper surrounding?

Maybe. Or maybe you wouldn't need a proper surrounding. Maybe you'd be involved enough in the artwork that any place would work. I think I read someplace that Di Vinci travelled with the Mona Lisa for 30 years...he could look at it anywhere. But most art works (in my opinion) are designed for a particular kind of place. You probably wouldn't want to put one of Monet's huge water lily paintings in a hallway, because you couldn't see it.

Any technique has it's own limitations, but art should not, in my humble opinion, bother with them. Small or large, technically perfect or not, speak to my soul.

I think you're simply wrong about this. Technique is an intrinsic part of art; in's inescapable. If a piece of art speaks to your soul, ask yourself it would still speak to your soul if it were a different size, or the painting were sloppier. One of the shortcomings of art photography is that it sometimes makes a fetish out of technique, and skips the art, but it's very difficult to get to great art without an appropriately great technique. Bach was one of the great innovators of the piano (See the Well-Tempered Clavier), in addition to being a great composer; Picasso and van Gogh were master draftsmen, though you might not see it in their paintings. All the great artists have technique; it's part of what makes them great.. 

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« Reply #26 on: February 10, 2006, 12:55:08 PM »
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One of the shortcomings of art photography is that it sometimes makes a fetish out of technique, and skips the art, but it's very difficult to get to great art without an appropriately great technique.

John,

I must admit that my comment was very crude and rather superficial for such a complex issue. I think you  have described in a much more to the point way the problem I was aiming at. I must thank you for your elaborate answer. Very respectful and helping.

Michel
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alainbriot
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« Reply #27 on: February 10, 2006, 01:04:01 PM »
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Alain,
I am mostly an admirer of art, with a growing interest in the techniques of photography.
(. . .) I am quite certain that you would stress that thechnique complements and does not replace inspiration. I would anyday choose an imperfect but inspired work of art over a perfect large size postcard.

Am I wrong in thinking that emotion and beauty can also be conveyed by artists who do not own the best equipment and that they should be encouraged in doing so?
Michel
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Yes, if I have to pick one out of technique and inspiration, I personally will pick inspiration, based on my belief that there's nothing worse than a technically perfect uninspired photograph.  But, this being said, the basis of my first essay in my Reflections on Photography and Art, as well as of the introduction to this series, is that art is a combination of art and science, and that A-it is easy to sway towards one or the other, and B-a masterpiece is truly a combination of both.  I recommend reading both the introduction and the first essay unless you already have.  This series is organized in a logical fashion, progressing from foundational concepts towards the application of these concepts.  I am doing it this way so we avoid going over the same things over and over again and, instead, progress towards a better awareness of issues rarely addressed in the context of landscape photography.

Equipment is only one of many variables.  In photography, the quality of the equipment is often stressed  more than the quality of the inspiration.  That's unfortunate, and in my estimate evidence that more photographers favor science than art.  However, this being said, you need good equipment.  As the French saying goes " The fine craftman uses fine tools."  You wouldn't expect building a fine piece of furniture using dull chisels, a chair as a workbench and rusty saws.  Same with photography.  It does not mean  you have to buy the most expensive equipment available, but it does mean that good equipment -or rather equipment appropriate to achieve your artistic goals- is necessary.  This is not elitist, this is not aimed at preventing anyone from being a professional photographer, this is just a fact.  Good equipment is expensive, and this expense shows your level of commitment to your art.  As is often the case, it is a matter of priorities.

Alain
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Alain Briot
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dealy663
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« Reply #28 on: February 11, 2006, 05:30:41 PM »
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I'm going to be a bit contrairian here.

I read your article with some interest. I'm not a professional photographer, just an amateur, and an admirer of fine photography.

As of late I find I have a problem with the number of people that now have the ability to print large and do so in a way that is all too frequently unnecessary. Just because you can go large doesn't mean you should. For whatever reason, your the article came across to me as a rather long treatise on why one should go large. I know that the article was ostensibly about printing the right size for the image (which should also mean not printing large). But it came across more as an explanation why the author chooses to go large.

My problems with going large are the following:
  - The art is frequently target at the wealthy or businesses only, because large is often used as a reason for charging prices that are unattainable by average people.

  - How many photographs greater than 16x20 can a household physically support? Yes a buisness lobby, a gallery or a museum can support many. But once again, are those the only clients you're interested in?

I guess what I'm saying is that I find the ever increasing sizes and costs of artwork as giving off a feeling that the artist is above the normal guy who might be an art consumer, that those of us who can't afford a $x000 photograph are beneath them ane are of no concern. I know that nothing like this was said in the article, but yet that is the feeling I get from so many current photographers.

I would like to point out that I've never even seen an Ansel Adams print in real life. And that the largest reproduction of his that I've seen is only about 16x20. Yet those limitations on my ability to review and appreciate his artistry did not stop me from being bowled over by his work. Of all my favorites I've probably studied him the most (he wrote the most), and yet no modern artists work I've seen (whether large or small) has reached the same level. My other favorites (very standard I know) like, E. Weston, Cartier-Bresson and Dorothea Lange, have been on displays that I've seen in real life. Again, nothing larger than 16x20 and yet mostly uneclipsed by modern photographers.

The world is a varied place, and certainly there is room and need for extremely large photographic prints. Yet my world, and that of most everyone else is limited by the realities of family life and budgets. There was an editorial recently by Brooks Jensen in his magazine LensWork which conveys some of my thoughts in a more well written sort of way.

Derek
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #29 on: February 11, 2006, 06:10:24 PM »
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I would like to point out that I've never even seen an Ansel Adams print in real life. And that the largest reproduction of his that I've seen is only about 16x20. Yet those limitations on my ability to review and appreciate his artistry did not stop me from being bowled over by his work. Of all my favorites I've probably studied him the most (he wrote the most), and yet no modern artists work I've seen (whether large or small) has reached the same level. My other favorites (very standard I know) like, E. Weston, Cartier-Bresson and Dorothea Lange, have been on displays that I've seen in real life. Again, nothing larger than 16x20 and yet mostly uneclipsed by modern photographers.

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Derek,

I got to see the recent big Ansel Adams exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts twice, and I sympathize with your point of view. Interestingly, the exhibit dis show a few of Adams' photos that were larger than 16x20 (primiarily a couple of mural-sized ones on room-divider screens), but most were 8x10" plus a few 11x14" or so. To my eye, the large prints were generally much weaker than the small ones -- even though most of Adams' subjects seem to call for a "grand" presentation.

I also own four Adams prints, two Westons, and one Lange (unfortunately, no Cartier-Bressons). These are all 8x10s mounted to about 14x18", and I have never wanted them any larger.

My own photography is generally aimed at a "home" market. Since I've gone digital, I print on an Epson 2200, which can go up to 13x19", but for exhibits and for sale I seldome print bigger than 10x15".

That being said, I do agree with Alain's main point: one should consider the eventual size of a print before taking the picture. But my range is more compressed than his.

Eric
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« Reply #30 on: February 11, 2006, 06:20:48 PM »
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My 2 cents on the painting viewing distance sub-discussion.

Unfortunately I can't remember the artist (Alain probably knows) - but I think early Renaissance - anyway he was the first practitioner of "sharpening" as we know it - ie increasing accutance to give his images a more 3d look.  He would outline the boundaries he wanted to accentuate with a thin white line (the pre-cursor of today's halos    I can't imagine he envisaged anyone comming up close enough to notice this.  

I think when we approach a painting closely it's to gain an understanding of technique - brush stokes etc - not to judge the esthetic quality of the work.  Same with a picture - when we poke our nose against it we are looking to see how deep the detail goes, not to judge the compositional quality of the image.

I remember seeing Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles when I was a teenager (Van Gogh was one of my favourites) - I got as close as I could and was amazed at the dimensionality of the way the paint was laid down and the resulting 3d texture.  Same experience a few years ago with a Seurat at the Barnes exhibition.

Bottom line, I think paintings or photographic prints  ARE (or at least should be) intended/designed to be viewed at a certain distance, although there are good reasons for getting closer.
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« Reply #31 on: February 11, 2006, 07:14:53 PM »
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I think when we approach a painting closely it's to gain an understanding of technique - brush stokes etc - not to judge the esthetic quality of the work.
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I totally agree.  We are studying the "facture" of the painting (French term describing the "touch" of the artist") more than we are enjoying the work as art.  If we go back to art & science, we are studying the science behind the work, as it comes through the technique and facture (I reallly like the word facture for which I find no equivalent in English.  I'll expand on it in a future essay).

Regarding large prints being expensive or taking lots of space (Derek's comments), it's all true.  But, proportionally speaking, my smaller prints are not that affordable either.  They are not aimed at being cheap anyway, they are aimed at being as good as I can make them, and that takes huge amounts of time, equipment and supplies, all of which are expensive.  It's quality vs quantity, and I make quality. I used to make quantity (see my Artist in Business article) but changed when I realized quality decreased below acceptable levels in my view.

Regarding the work being elitist, I don't think so, at least that is not my intention.  Because something is expensive doesn't mean it's elitist.

Alain
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #32 on: February 11, 2006, 08:47:56 PM »
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Same with a picture - when we poke our nose against it we are looking to see how deep the detail goes, not to judge the compositional quality of the image.
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I agree. But the question still arises, 'How significant is that fine detail to the composition at the size it (the print) is displayed? If there's detail that looks as though it might be significant but we can't quite make it out because of blurriness or distortion due to an inadequate number of camera pixels, then the print has been enlarged too much, perhaps. It's something I'm not too clear about in my own mind because making really large prints is expensive and troublesome and I haven't done it yet.

Just as an experiment, I searched on my database for a recent shot of the Duomo in Siena (a cathedral with a very ornate and detailed facade). The shot was taken with my Sigma 15-30 at 15mm on a 20D. After cropping, the file size was less than 17MB, so this can be considered an image from a 6MP camera.

I wondered what the detail would look like if I were to blow up this image really large, say 7 1/2ft x 10ft. I used Genuine Fractals and the file size became about 1.6GB at 240ppi.

Here are the results.

[attachment=235:attachment]      [attachment=236:attachment]     [attachment=237:attachment]


The problem I have with this degree of enlargement is, it's difficult to see exactly what the guy reading the book is doing. Is he holding the book with a piece of cloth because it's a sacred document, or is that just a shadow?

The bicubic interpolation provides no more detail and is actually slightly blurrier. GF at least produces clean edges although it tends to distort shapes, giving them a sort of angular appearance. No halos though   .
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Mimi
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« Reply #33 on: February 12, 2006, 02:04:59 AM »
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What I gather from the discussion:

There is probably always an optimal size that will better give justice to the subject and to render the artist's vision and intent;

it is an artistic decision, but which can be limited for technical reasons;

any artist should strive at his best to attain perfection in both the technical and artistic aspects of his work (which encompasses using the best possible equipment);

but the fact that the size was not optimal does not mean that some justice cannot be given to the subject and that the artist's vision and intent cannot be shared, although to a lesser extent;

even if the technical habilities of the artist or the equipment he owns have limitations, that does not mean that he should deprive us of the emotions and pleasure we could get from seeing a part of his vision.

Michel
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« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2006, 01:05:13 PM »
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Nick Rains wrote:
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A piece of art should bear examination at a close distance. If a photograph does not bear satisfactory examination at a close distance then it is too big.

I personally don't think a serious photographic print should ever be bigger than it's inherent resolution and subject matter will allow.
Alain Briot wrote:
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they are aimed at being as good as I can make them

Ray wrote:
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If I can get a little disturbed by crude daubs of paint when viewing an impressionistic painting from closer than is was designed to be viewed, then I see nothing wrong with, at most an experience of slight disappointment, viewing a large photo from close up to discover that the fine texture of the concrete wall
Ray: There seems to be quite a divergence of opinions on this subject from those who have posted here. The carton of beer I bought yesterday proclaims to all and sundry: "To create a masterpiece no compromise may be tolerated".  Nick, Alain, and Jim Collum seem to be examples of people who lean in the direction of valuing craftsmanship for its own sake, of feeling pride of worksmanship. From this perspective "good enough" simply isn't good enough. If a picture can be viewed from the distance of a single foot and doesn't radiate sheer perfection at that distance, then the picture isn't one that such a person would want to sign his or her name to (and it would be a poorer world without people like that in it).

The matter gets a little complicated at this point because there is a vast spectrum of differences in people's eyesight. [Meandering anecdote excised.]
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On a different topic Michel wrote:
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even if the technical habilities of the artist or the equipment he owns have limitations, that does not mean that he should deprive us of the emotions and pleasure we could get from seeing a part of his vision.
Michel: sometimes it is just the fact that there really are a few people like you in the world that keeps me going. Among all the people I know there is exactly one who derives unqualified emotion and pleasure from looking at pictures. When I finish a picture and get all excited looking at the print that has just popped out of the printer, it is her that I look forward to showing it to.  

Most people look through the picture to the subject - "Isn't that a 1967 456 cc Honda 4-stroke outboard on that sailboat?" - or in the case of artists and photographers they look at a picture through the filter of their own style. - "Pictorialism, eh? How quaint. I thought Pictorialism went out of style a hundred years ago."
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« Reply #35 on: February 12, 2006, 01:34:33 PM »
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even if the technical habilities of the artist or the equipment he owns have limitations, that does not mean that he should deprive us of the emotions and pleasure we could get from seeing a part of his vision.

Well, I think what is important is what is the vision.  If the vision is poster sized prints that are sharp all the way across and must show fine detail throughout, then it might be neccesary to acquire equipment that has a lot of resolution.  There may also be some other way of pursuig that vision.

I do not think that commitment is directly proportional to the amount of money that is spent.  In my opinion, someone that is truly driven to create something, and is creative, will do so with whatever they have.  It would be nice to have a lot of expensive gear, but I don't think I am any less capable of creating something beautiful because I do not have it.  Feeling otherwise would most likely be a reflection of my personal limitations than anything else.
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« Reply #36 on: February 12, 2006, 03:08:21 PM »
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I wanted to mention one aspect of resolution and painting and how it differs from a photo.
In a painting there are many levels of resolutiom because we focus on the texture of the paint at a close-up POV and it is sharp to the eye. The painter knows this and uses it as a technique. Monet used this to his advantage in creating a mood in the intimate closeup of the study one does of, say his signature or the brush strokes.
At a mid distance, there is another relationship to the work and at a distance, another.
The fine detail or crudeness of the brushstroke is not a comparison of quaility but a tool used for purpose as is the canvas or paper.
We as photographers are limited(for good or bad) by the mediun we work with. The mind seems to want to "make" a photograph sharp in the focus of our mind. When it is not, or the pixels blur , we have a problem accepting this as a purpose of the artist.
These are just my observations, not a comment on any POV or posts. Thanks Wyndham
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« Reply #37 on: February 12, 2006, 04:14:31 PM »
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We as photographers are limited(for good or bad) by the mediun we work with. The mind seems to want to "make" a photograph sharp in the focus of our mind. When it is not, or the pixels blur , we have a problem accepting this as a purpose of the artist.
These are just my observations, not a comment on any POV or posts. Thanks Wyndham
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To enlarge a bit on what you said (which I mostly agree with):

Photography and painting are different arts. In painting, everything is constructed, even the most "realistic" painting; even the most realistic painting is adjusted for impact, color, form, size, and sometimes, because of what the competition is doing. If you look at Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, you can be quite sure that that precise image never existed. If you'd been there with a camera, you could never have taken that image. It was created from a wide variety of pieces, and put together in Renoir's head -- and he and Monet were probably two of the greatest on-scene artists who ever lived.

With photography, as Roland Barthes says, "the referent adheres." You can't get rid of the original, machine-taken image. If you get rid of it entirely, then what was the point of taking the photograph in the first place? You can manipulate it, cut it up, re-color it, adjust it, and the referent adheres. Ultimately, at the most basic level of a photograph, there is a machine/chemical event which can't be eliminated.

There's nothing wrong with that; it's simply a different art form, and perhaps the most powerful art form that's ever been invented, because it claims to have something about it that is "true."

Paintings are usually objects of their own: they are looked at, rather than through. Photographs always have a window quality about them; they are not only looked at, they are always looked through, to some extent, to the original image beyond.

JC
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« Reply #38 on: February 12, 2006, 06:48:25 PM »
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A few things I have noticed about "art:"

- The limit of an artform or media is in the mind of the creator and audience.

- There is at least one example contradicting any statement of what "Art" is.

- Art is not practical.

And last but not least, the eternal paradox:

- All generalizations are false.  

We also have a philosophical problem of "if I can think it, the idea must be valid." Philosophy itself has rid itself of this idea in the 19th century. Except for exploration of logic and language, there is not much left for philosophy to do.

Science on the other hand is a harder master. Science requires a hypothosis to be tested. In other words, there must be a way to prove a claim false. If the method cannot prove the claim false, then we can form a theory. Theories stand until they are contradicted. Science has not been able to prove any absolute existence to "art" except it is subjective.  

While it is nice to share ideas and to inspire each other, we should not confuse "opinion" with "truth." Just because an "artist" makes a claim, does not make that claim "true." The only subject that we can discuss with any certainly is imaging science, but even that is usually tainted with personal/subjective interpretations.

Anyway, this has been an interesting thread. One thing I found with the article that was strange was changing print size on an enlarger is hard. I have never found that. Actually, it is quite simple. Even to compensate for exposure.
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Mimi
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« Reply #39 on: February 12, 2006, 07:32:57 PM »
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sometimes it is just the fact that there really are a few people like you in the world that keeps me going.
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May I add that sometimes the fact that there really are a few artists (seeking meaning and working hard to convey it) that keep us, art admirers, going.

Michel
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