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Author Topic: Posthumous Prints  (Read 16263 times)
russell a
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« on: September 30, 2005, 04:10:41 PM »
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I would like to get some of the readers' opinions on the following issue (and introduce a different kind of topic into this forum).  The Philadelphia Museum has a current show of Eugene Atget Looking at Atget drawn from the collection of Julien Levy. It consists of vintage prints and a number of prints done by Berenice Abbott, who was a great admirer of Atget's work, and beyond that, was instrumental in rescuing his plates, negatives, prints, notes, etc. when Atget died.  The vintage prints are subject to varying degrees of fading, etc. so that it's difficult, if not impossible, to determine Atget's intent.  The Abbott prints are clearly from a different era and utilize different materials and even a different aesthetic. Abbott's prints have a tonal range that is more full and contrasty than most of the Atgets. She was aware that her prints were different and was concerned that they misrepresented Atget.  But here they are.  How do you think we should regard them?  As Atget translated to a more modern sensibility?  As flawed Atgets?  As a kind of collaboration between Atget and Abbott?
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Bobtrips
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« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2005, 04:24:46 PM »
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Perhaps as we regard the left-unfinished compositions of talented musicians that are completed by others.  

In the context of what they are.
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mikeseb
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« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2005, 04:26:45 PM »
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Since the images represent the work of two individuals separated across time, I think I'd regard them as a collaboration. How else can we look at it?

If one believes the old saw that "the negative is the score, the print the performance", then this is a situation similar to a modern orchestra performing Mozart. We have some scratchy 78's from which to hear the original performance (to extend the metaphor) and now a contemporary performance recorded on digital audio. Each can be enjoyed in its own right. Each is what it is. No need to overthink this.
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michael sebastian
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howard smith
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« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2005, 04:55:44 PM »
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Some high volume photographers do not print their own images.  Ansel Adams got out of the dark room long before he died.  He had "elves" to do his printing.  The final print is still an Adams.  Some have a stamp on the back and indicates who did the printing.  I have a few of those and value them as much as the ones the man got his hands wet doing.

In fact, an Adams print with Chris Rainier on the back is pretty cool to me.
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russell a
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« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2005, 06:44:47 PM »
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Howard:  I happen to be very fond of Abbott's interpretation of Atget.  Now, of course, in the marketplace the vintage print will bring the bigger bucks.  But, there still lingers a question.  What is an Atget, an Adams, etc.?  Is the "hand of the artist" critical?  Should Abbott have been more faithful to Atget - to the point of reviving older methods?  I haunt (well, visit often) the print study room of my local musuem.  I find that I can easily discern posthumous prints of say Ralph Eugene Meatyard.  Meatyard would print once a year in the two week vacation he gave himself from his eyeglass business.  He was not what one would describe as a Zone aficionado.  His prints tend to be dark and rather contrasty.  His posthumous printers tend to want to wring more tones from his negatives.   To me this is a misrepresentation by the "collaborator".  Diane Arbus is described as making very atypical choices in her printing.  Would someone who didn't do this be misrepresenting her?  Photographic prints are not quite like the score/conductor analogy.  The Atget show at the Philly Museum does very overtly credit Abbott.  In other contexts it's unclear that there is a collaborator.  Louis Faurer outsourced his editioned prints, with elaborate mark-up instructions on a proof print.  William Eggleston outsourced his printing.  There are some strange (IMO) choices that printers made in some of his prints (for example bringing up dark areas in the background to the point of introducing significant noise/grain) that one wonders whose choice it was.
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howard smith
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« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2005, 08:24:29 PM »
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russel, I understand what you are saying.  I am unable to tell the other-than-Adams prints from the original except by looking at the back and noticing that instaed of signing the from, Adams initialed some and some a reunmarked.  Of course, the non-Adams prints are stamped on the back.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2005, 10:48:48 PM »
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What is more important, liking the image or the person making it. As far as the mysterios world of "Art collecting," the value of a work may not have anything to do with the quality of the image. If you are "investing" in art, this is important. If not, the quality of the print is.
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howard smith
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« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2005, 08:35:17 AM »
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If the art is simply an investment, you need not like either the artist or the art.  Otherwise, I think it is the image.
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russell a
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« Reply #8 on: October 01, 2005, 08:43:42 AM »
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Quote
What is more important, liking the image or the person making it. As far as the mysterios world of "Art collecting," the value of a work may not have anything to do with the quality of the image. If you are "investing" in art, this is important. If not, the quality of the print is.
Agreed that the "investor" role is a different interest than the "appreciator" role.  However, in the case of Meatyard and Arbus you are appreciating more than just an image, but also the artist's philosophy as expressed in their presentation.  There are a number of photographers who deliberately do not want a "salon print" and their work would be qualitatively different if one attempted to interpret the negative in that way.  Think, not only of Meatyard, but William Kline and Robert Adams for examples.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #9 on: October 01, 2005, 11:05:24 PM »
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Russell, a negative can be printed different ways, but am I wrong because I perfer one interpretation over another? Is an image "invalidated" because it may not be printed the way the photographer wants? (Can Bach only be played one way?) Adams printing style change within his life. Does that make one print more correct than another? Is it possible for someone to make a better interpretation of a negative than the artist?

If a photographer chooses not to allow anone else print his work, there is no conflict. After he dies and the negatives are available, why would it be impossible to duplicate the artists style - ptinting is not that mysterious. For a collector, two identical prints, one made by the artist and one by me, the artist print would be more "valuable." But the images are identical. I would not care which was on my wall.
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russell a
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2005, 08:52:27 AM »
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I don't have a problem with anything labeled as a collaboration e.g. "X as reinterpreted by Y".  In a Mozart performance, we clearly understand that it is a re-intrepretation of the artist, except maybe for 'purchase's' hypothetical scratchy 78's (I'm looking for those to come up at auction!).  But if I were to see an "Ansel Adams" printed like a Robert Adams, or vice versa, I think that would be problematic.
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Bobtrips
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2005, 01:02:50 PM »
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Perhaps you should just work on getting your brain around it.  

In many art forms we have collaborations and interpretations.  As long as the work is properly labeled, not an attempt to deceive, why should there be any difference?
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russell a
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2005, 02:08:38 PM »
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As long as the work is properly labeled, not an attempt to deceive, why should there be any difference?
Didn't I say that proper labeling was key?  But then let's say that the print is done without the direct collaboration of the artist, either posthumously or through other circumstance.  Let's take an extreme example.  Someone takes a Robert Klein negative and makes a platinum toned print on heavily textured paper, reproducing all the tonality that the negative will support.  Surely this is different from Klein's assertion that he wanted his prints to look like they were "from the Daily News, lying in the gutter".  There are many photographers who feel that the "salon print look" interferes with the image, the unvarnished, if you will, directness of their message.  There are others who feel the opposite, etc.  Where you or I stand on this issue is irrelevant.  If you don't care about that dimension of the issue, fine.
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Bobtrips
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« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2005, 11:21:04 AM »
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I fail to see why this is an issue for you.  If Klein had a particular vision for his capture then that was his vision.  His prints should reflect that vision.  

Someone else's interpretation of his capture is their vision.  No different that what is done in many art forms.  

(Obviously copyright laws come in to play at some level here.  It may be interesting to see how 'sampling' is applied to photography.)
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2005, 01:34:32 PM »
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I agree that this is very comparable to someone doing a cover of a famous song. As long as it is labeled as such, and they have the legal rights, then they have the freedom to interpret the work as they see fit.

For an interesting example from music, check out this a capella version of the Beatle's Helter Skelter, performed by The Bobs. It completely transforms the song into a new dimension.
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dbell
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« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2005, 04:36:46 PM »
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When we hear an orchestra performing a well-known work, we all  know, almost intuitively, that the personality, taste and aptitudes of the conductor and the orchestra are influencing the way the music is expressed. If we listen to the same piece, as played by Isaac Stern and then again as played by Itzhak Perlman, we are specifically interested in hearing each individual's interpetation of the work while probably not consciously worrying about the composer's intent.

That statement implies two things: one, that we're very aware of the performer's influence and secondly, that we trust that the performer has understood enough of the composer's intent to offer a rendition that doesn't in some way misrepresent the work.

In the case of a photograph, I agree with those who feel that labeling is important.I want to know whether a print represents the photographer's vision (as it evolves over the course of that person's life) or the vision of someone else. It's not about validity as much as it is about letting me put what I'm seeing into context. The question of whether or not our posthumous printer is in some way misrepresenting the original artist's work is subtle and probably not directly answerable. How well can any human being know another? Can anyone, even the most intimate associate, know how anyone else's tastes would have evolved? I don't even print my OWN work the same way from year to year...
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