Daguerreotype to Digital show

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by ksmattfish, Mar 11, 2005.

  1. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    If anyone happens to be passing through the midwestern USA (Lawrence, Kansas) be sure to stop in to the Spencer Museum of Art on the University of Kansas campus. Right now through July they have a selection of 50 or 60 photographs up from their collection of photographs (which is one of the best in the country).

    The show is called "Daguerreotype to Digital", and shows examples of the many photographic printing processes uses over the years. There are a lot of famous photographers' work included in this show: Minor White, Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Berenice Abbot, Margaret Bourke-White, Edward Weston, and many more. There is nothing like seeing their prints in person.

    There is a Minor White photograph that I had never seen before except in books and the web. It's called "Capital Reef" at this site, although it is labeled with another title in the show.

    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/W/white/white_capitol_reef.html

    It is about a million times richer in person than it looks at that link. When it's printed in books and on the web its like half the photograph is lost. Whenever I hear someone say they don't understand the excitement over photographers such as Ansel Adams or Minor White I always suspect that they have never seen the real photographs in person.

    Get out. Go to your local museums and galleries. See the real photos! :)
     
  2. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Wow! What a lineup! That is going to be an amazing exhibit. I wish it would come here. :lol:

    It's true. There was an Ansel Adams exhibit at our High Museum last year, and my husband and I could hardly stand to leave. We got to see the same negatives printed at different times, with different methods, side by side, and it was a revelation!! Some of his stuff I'd swear.....SWEAR!!! - was infrared. Except it wasn't, according to the tags. And his highlights just glitter in some instances. A master printer. :hail:

    It's like looking at van Gogh in books and saying you're familiar with the brush strokes. There's no way you are until you stand in front of one. Then you are humbled. ;)
     
  3. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Just to play Devil's advocate...
    I have seen a lot of original prints done by some of the greats and was amazed at the awful print quality - dust and scratches with bad spotting. Actually made me feel better - those guys had the same problems as me. But I didn't think any the less of them as being truly great.
    It does illustrate how your view and appreciation of an artist's work can be coloured by having it filtered through mechanical reproduction in a mag or book, though. It doesn't just hide the blemishes but it also looses so much of the quality, subtlety and power of the original. I would recommend anyone with even the slightest interest in photography to take every opportunity to see exhibitions in the flesh - wether they are by 'famous' photographers or just your local camera club. There is no substitute.
    The most awesome experience I had was visiting Lacock Abbey and seeing the earliest surviving neg by Fox-Talbot.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Yeah, I've definately seen that too. Diane Arbus comes to mind. Some of the prints in the last show I saw by her were atrocious as far as print quality goes; really flat contrast, dust spots, some of them were almost gone from fixer contamination, etc... I made a comment to the folks that I was with that I wouldn't be comfortable displaying my own work in such condition. I still loved the show though. There was a 20 minute long video with Arbus' actual dialog; she went at length to explain she was mostly about the taking of the photographs, and she tended to neglect the darkroom work. It showed, but I don't feel any less inspired by her.

    In this current exhibition though the print quality is amazing. Like I said, there is just so much more detail and a depth of tonality in the actual Minor White print than in any reproduction I've ever seen. The Ansel Adam's stuff is also always amazing; of course some of it wasn't even printed by him. I'm sure that applies to other famous photogs too.

    I'm very fortunate. Besides the Spencer Museum's huge photography collection I'm geographically very close to the Hallmark photography collection, and I get to see pieces from that several times a year (usually at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, which also has it's own collection). I love it.
     
  5. oriecat

    oriecat work in progress

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    Matt, you sure seem to get a lot of good shows there! I think the Diane Arbus show you talked about before is here now. I need to check that out. This coming week is PhotoLucida, so there's lots of photo stuff going on here, which is kind of exciting. Hopefully I won't forget to go to some of it! Monday is the Portfolio walk, so I am really interested in that.
     
  6. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Arbus is in my top 20. She made the normal appear strange and the strange, normal. Anyone who hasn't seen her work should check her out.
    http://www.temple.edu/photo/photographers/arbus/arbus.htm

    A lot of the big names I met or talked to didn't do darkroom. Some of them didn't even do their own B/W film dev. They had their favourite lab and in a lot of cases worked closely with one printer.
    Took me a while to come to terms with this. I found that I thought a lot less of them - that because they weren't 'technical' they weren't good photographers.
    I eventually realised that I was being stupid when I came to understand that it is the vision that is important - not the means through which you make it happen. I also found that a photographer may do it all but a specialist printer can do it so much better. After all, I process my own B/W but get a lab to do my colour.

    It is a sad fact that a lot of prints used in exhibitions or put up for sale are rejects. The ones where you notice some dust, clean the neg and print it again. Or found it wasn't right for some other reason.
    Or someone gets hold of the negs and bangs out a few prints to make a quick buck.
    As soon as a photographer becomes saleable, people start looting their waste bins.
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I try not to hold it against folks for not doing their own darkroom work. ;) I do all my own BW stuff, except for getting proofs made for customers who don't want to proof online or with contact sheets. All of my color processing and printing is done by a lab. I enjoy printing color in a darkroom when it's someone else's darkroom, like at college, but I just don't find hand printing color as interesting as BW, or worth the cost and trouble. I think that I'll begin having more interest shooting color when I get a DSLR and a nice Epson printer.

    John Sexton is a good example of someone who is an accomplished photographer and printer. He's always been a favorite of mine. Here's a link to the Kodak site article

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/features/legendsV5Q2/intro.jhtml

    Here are some great John Sexton quotes from photoquotes.com :

    "A photographer needs to be a good editor of negatives and prints! In fact, most of the prints I make are for my eyes only, and they are no good. I find the single most valuable tool in the darkroom is my trash can - that's where most of my prints end up."

    "The difference between RC-paper and fiber-based paper is the same as the difference between vinyl and leather."
     

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