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Author Topic: Of Film and the Photography of People  (Read 7401 times)
Rob C
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« on: February 14, 2014, 02:13:15 PM »
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It's often said that film and digital are just the same thing, but that digital, with modern convenience thrown in, gives digital the superior edge in the world of actual work, rather than in the world of fanboyism.

I enclose this video which, apart from its intrinsic value due to the presence of two famous names, shows something that gives - for this photographer at least - the lie to the supposed superiority of digital capture.

Looking at 7.20 and especially, again, at 7.52 there's an image of Christy Turlington, quite powerfully lit, hardly the most flattering of light, with lots of skin on show. I can't accept that digital, with the softest lighting available, would make for a more rewarding experience.

Listen closely to what Watson has to say about printing at around 8.20. I think he tells you quite simply all you need to know about photography and what dedication is really about: the holistic photographic experience.

Even if you end up disagreeing with my thinking, I do think you will still find the video interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKcqEBw-l1U

Rob C

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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2014, 02:52:14 PM »
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Right on both counts, Rob. I found the clip interesting and I disagree with you. Film and digital are simply different. For photography I think digital has surpassed film. Certainly that's true in color, and as papers, inks and printers continue to improve, I think digital monochrome has reached a point of equality at least with gelatin silver. I also think it's beginning to pull ahead, but that judgment has to be based on anecdotal evidence, and we both probably can think of examples where it's not true.

But these are only the tools, and I also think we agree that tools aren't what make the difference. It's the head behind the camera.
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WalterEG
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2014, 06:03:12 PM »
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Rob,

That is a favourite clip of mine despite the inclusion of the girl.  It is verging on the axiomatic.

For me, it is pertinent to your argument that the Christie Turlington portraits were not only done on film, but done on large format film.

There is not, never was, and never will be any real connection between photography with film and digital capture.  To be honest, I think that the sooner a new name emerges to signify that differentiation the better.

A most salient point made from the off in Seliger's interview is that before you choose a camera, let alone raise to the eye, it is essential that you be a person engaged in the world with experiences, opinions and wit.  Did Watson walk into las Vegas with a camera around his neck?  Hell no.  He went with an inquisitive outlook and a zest to engage with what he did not know about and learn prior to committing a statement in an image.

The camera (digital or film) has long been a badge of rank for far too many.  A highly offensive badge of rank at that for some who use it as authority to probe uninvited and unannounced into the privacy of others.  But it can also be the vehicle of expression for the few with the wisdom and skill to skilfully employ it for the purposes it is best suited to.

I rehash the old chestnut:  If you buy a piano, you own a piano.  But if you buy a camera, you are immediately a photographer.

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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2014, 03:11:19 AM »
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Rob,

That is a favourite clip of mine despite the inclusion of the girl.  It is verging on the axiomatic.

For me, it is pertinent to your argument that the Christie Turlington portraits were not only done on film, but done on large format film.

There is not, never was, and never will be any real connection between photography with film and digital capture.  To be honest, I think that the sooner a new name emerges to signify that differentiation the better.

A most salient point made from the off in Seliger's interview is that before you choose a camera, let alone raise to the eye, it is essential that you be a person engaged in the world with experiences, opinions and wit.  Did Watson walk into las Vegas with a camera around his neck?  Hell no.  He went with an inquisitive outlook and a zest to engage with what he did not know about and learn prior to committing a statement in an image.

The camera (digital or film) has long been a badge of rank for far too many.  A highly offensive badge of rank at that for some who use it as authority to probe uninvited and unannounced into the privacy of others.  But it can also be the vehicle of expression for the few with the wisdom and skill to skilfully employ it for the purposes it is best suited to.

I rehash the old chestnut:  If you buy a piano, you own a piano.  But if you buy a camera, you are immediately a photographer.





Yes, the eye candy was a bit superfluous, and even her images were nothing new -  but she is pretty and has lovely teeth.

On the matter of the two forms of capture - I think I'd extend the medium differentiation even further, right into the final step of print. A digital print will never, for me at least, carry the artistic weight or value of a well-crafted wet print. Both the look of it as well as the journey to that print are so different that comparison is pretty much pointless - a bit like comparing a page in a magazine with a bromide. Nothing is going to convince me that sitting at a computer, making layer upon layer of minute adjustments, going off for lunch if one likes and returning to the job later, has anything to do with the skill in shading or burning in a real print. One is art or craft and the other nothing more exciting than counting the beans in a bowl of soup. The very infinite reproducibility of the digital takes it right out of the state of grace that allows the creation of the great wet print.

In fact, digital reminds me of one of my favourite lines out of Forever Amber: My tail's for sale; half-a-crown will lay me down. An expensive lay for the mid 1600s, considering relative values of the pound, but there you are.

Really, it's a whore. A democratic whore of course, but a whore none the less.

Rob C
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WalterEG
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2014, 03:23:34 AM »
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And to stay with the Forever Amber analogy, a festering carbuncle of a whore.

And yes Rob, you are right (again), the tedious perfection of the computer generated print is hideous while being, at the same time, soporific.

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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2014, 09:10:12 AM »
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I'd add this to the conversation:

http://procameraman.jp/Interview/overseas_file08_201207.html#English

Rob C
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2014, 02:42:11 PM »
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. . .the tedious perfection of the computer generated print is hideous while being, at the same time, soporific.

So the definition of an interesting print is one with glaring imperfections? You can do that on a computer too, Walter. It's even easier, because you don't need to clean up afterwards.
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WalterEG
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« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2014, 03:16:30 AM »
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I suppose fine art photography is a bit like the fashion industry. From what I understand, which is little, the current style involves huge, digital files, absolutely perfect with billions pixels per image. Photography has morphed into a different creature while I have been looking the other way. One of the greatest strengths of photography is that there is/was a tie to reality. I suppose that no longer exists. We canít really believe anything in a print anymore. And, this is not sour grapes, Iím not complaining, just commenting. Itís the way creativity moves and changes, erratically, unpredictably, and itís exciting. But I am not really on that path. As a young photographer, perhaps, I had more of a sense of what was going on, but not anymore. Actually, I think there is a great danger of being so conscious of whatís going on that you follow the current and forget yourself.

........

My print size is always about 7 3/4 inches square, and prints are dry-mounted and matted on 16 x 20 inch vertical white museum board (4 ply backing, 2 ply matt). There is no variation in this presentation. I have been doing this for a long time. Iíve experimented with smaller prints and bigger prints, but Iíve decided this is the size that I prefer, the optimum size for me. My images are quite intimate. They are not there to impress or awe people. They donít describe details. There are there for intimate engagement. I want my viewers to be very close to the print.
ó quoted from the linked interview with Michael Kenna.

Just goes to show that there are artists working in the medium of photography and then there are people who own and play with cameras.  To quote Kipling [Barrack-room Ballads 1892]: "never the twain shall meet"
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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2014, 02:43:45 PM »
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http://www.martynmoore.com/donovan.html

Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2014, 03:37:13 PM »
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The "tie to reality" that Michael Kenna (of whose work I'm a huge admirer) refers to is and always was an illusion. In the film era the illusion was just easier to maintain. Personally I'd rather acknowledge reality than play pretend.

IMO binding up photographyóas a concept, endeavor and creative pursuitóin the technology that first made it possible is an absurd proposition. The tools and methods used are not the thing itself.

-Dave-
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2014, 03:48:53 AM »
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1.  The "tie to reality" that Michael Kenna (of whose work I'm a huge admirer) refers to is and always was an illusion. In the film era the illusion was just easier to maintain. Personally I'd rather acknowledge reality than play pretend.

2...IMO binding up photographyóas a concept, endeavor and creative pursuitóin the technology that first made it possible is an absurd proposition. The tools and methods used are not the thing itself.

-Dave-



1.  I don't read Kenna as saying what your interpretation of his words is at all; however, I do see that digital is a progression of capture methodology, perhaps one that will come to be seen as even more dramatic a difference than that between painting and early photography. The problem, which to some it is anything but, is what I see as a race to photography-by-numbers, a thing I see borne out via Photoshop where even the unskilled can change, change and change until they get lucky. It wasn't possible with wet processing: you needed to develop quite substantial skill and some sensibility of what constituted quality.

2.  On the contrary, I think they very much are the same thing. That shouldn't imply that we revert to the daguerreotype or lose photography; I think that until the relatively recent 'perfection' of film it, photography, was a medium in evolution, but that process has now stopped and it seems to me that a separate species has formed, a species called digital. As Walter suggested, a new name should be coined in order to avoid confusion. I see a parallel with an independent Scotland wanting to continue under the mantle of the UK pound: can't be, the ground will have been changed and all bets off. One can't continue to pick the fruit yet burn down the tree that grows them.

Rob C
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WalterEG
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« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2014, 05:01:55 AM »
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Rob,

Thanks for the Donovan link.  I printed it out and devoured it at my leisure.  Cracker of a yarn.
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2014, 07:58:52 AM »
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Rob,

Thanks for the Donovan link.  I printed it out and devoured it at my leisure.  Cracker of a yarn.



Yes, and he says so much about so many things that matter to some of us.

This, in particular, broke me up:

"When I did my 900th interview about that Robert Palmer video Addicted to Love someone asked me where I got the idea from and I said, 'I did something rather odd... I thought of it!' It seems to be a rather old fashioned thing to do."

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Walter.

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2014, 08:50:08 AM »
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1.  I don't read Kenna as saying what your interpretation of his words is at all; however, I do see that digital is a progression of capture methodology, perhaps one that will come to be seen as even more dramatic a difference than that between painting and early photography. The problem, which to some it is anything but, is what I see as a race to photography-by-numbers, a thing I see borne out via Photoshop where even the unskilled can change, change and change until they get lucky. It wasn't possible with wet processing: you needed to develop quite substantial skill and some sensibility of what constituted quality.

2.  On the contrary, I think they very much are the same thing. That shouldn't imply that we revert to the daguerreotype or lose photography; I think that until the relatively recent 'perfection' of film it, photography, was a medium in evolution, but that process has now stopped and it seems to me that a separate species has formed, a species called digital. As Walter suggested, a new name should be coined in order to avoid confusion. I see a parallel with an independent Scotland wanting to continue under the mantle of the UK pound: can't be, the ground will have been changed and all bets off. One can't continue to pick the fruit yet burn down the tree that grows them.

Rob C


I swear that I hadn't seen this link I'm posting when I wrote the above; it explains/mirrors exactly what I'm on about in (2) above. At least, in the first part, before it gives in to what's expected of some 'arty' interviews and wanders off into psychobabble.

http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/06/interview-fred-ritchin-the-best-and-worst-of-times-2008.html
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2014, 09:26:58 PM »
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1.  I don't read Kenna as saying what your interpretation of his words is at all; however, I do see that digital is a progression of capture methodology, perhaps one that will come to be seen as even more dramatic a difference than that between painting and early photography. The problem, which to some it is anything but, is what I see as a race to photography-by-numbers, a thing I see borne out via Photoshop where even the unskilled can change, change and change until they get lucky. It wasn't possible with wet processing: you needed to develop quite substantial skill and some sensibility of what constituted quality.

I guess I'm just more sanguine about Photoshop et al. While it gives every Tom, Dick & Harry easier access than ever to powerful processing tools, it also empowers people with skill in new ways. The good stuff, at least the good stuff made available to the world at large, eventually rises up and the crap sinks. Eventually. (Who knows how many Vivian Meiers have performed visual magic during their lives and yet will remain forever unknown, their work ending up in landfills or incinerators. Makes me sad every time I think about it.)

Quote
2.  On the contrary, I think they very much are the same thing. That shouldn't imply that we revert to the daguerreotype or lose photography; I think that until the relatively recent 'perfection' of film it, photography, was a medium in evolution, but that process has now stopped and it seems to me that a separate species has formed, a species called digital. As Walter suggested, a new name should be coined in order to avoid confusion. I see a parallel with an independent Scotland wanting to continue under the mantle of the UK pound: can't be, the ground will have been changed and all bets off. One can't continue to pick the fruit yet burn down the tree that grows them.

I don't object to using the terms "film photography" and "electronic photography." This makes a distinction between the two without introducing any pejoratives.

IMO the Scots (I'm 50% Scot myself) will prove to be utter fools if they opt for independence. Such decisions should be informed more by present realities than past grievances. But I'm an American by birth so I should probably keep my mouth shut.   Smiley

-Dave-
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Alan Klein
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2014, 08:59:27 AM »
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Isn't it more important what's in the final image and what you do with the results than how you got there? 
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2014, 10:33:00 AM »
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Isn't it more important what's in the final image and what you do with the results than how you got there? 


The importances are not mutually exclusive.

Rob C
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Jagatai
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2014, 12:58:17 PM »
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My personal approach is that my work must stand on its own.  It is either a satisfying image or it is not.  The tools and the process I use may be a factor in whether that image is satisfying or not but only insofar as I have used the tools and the process well for that particular image. 

I don't feel it is artistically appropriate to expect the process I use to validate my work.  My images either stand on their own as images or they don't.  The tool or the process I used to create them should not be used as a crutch to support the work if the image itself is uninteresting.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: March 13, 2014, 01:14:18 PM »
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It's nothing to do with crutches: how on Earth can a camera be a crutch? Did you mean in the sense of something to blame?

The importance of different cameras is all to do with what they can do, as tools, and how they make you feel and operate when you use them. A Nikon and Hasselblad 500 Series turned me into two quite different photographers, even in the rare sessions where I had to work on both formats. I'd sometimes start on the 'blad, get frustrated by a model's lack of response and then swap to the little camera and, by becoming more active myself, make her react a little bit more, even to the extent of saving the situation. The larger, more expensive to operate film camera was normally used for jobs where final output size usually determined its use, as much as by the project's requirements - for example, where a single shot from a shoot was all they wanted, I could usually get it in twelve, so why waste time shooting thirty-six?

Rob C
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Jagatai
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« Reply #19 on: March 13, 2014, 01:47:55 PM »
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I agree.  Different cameras provide different ways of working.  For commercial work, I much prefer the slow, controlled workflow of medium format.  For my personal photography I prefer smaller cameras like a Leica M-6 or a Sony a7r.

I'm sorry if the term "using something as a crutch" is an unfamiliar metaphor.  (It's common in the U.S. but I gather you are British.)  What I am referring to as using a tool or a process as a crutch is if an artist were to rely on a assumed greater value of one process over another to add value to the work rather than relying solely on their ability to create a compelling image.  This is my personal attitude about the value of process and tools and it is what I apply to myself when shooting and editing my images.  Obviously each photographer has to find the balance that works for them.  Different processes can be used to achieve interesting photographic effects and I enjoy seeing how others use them.  I have nothing against the creative use of a new or an old process.  But in the end, when I look at a photograph it is the photograph I am looking at and not the history behind that photograph.
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