PDA

View Full Version : Ansel and his PhaseOne back ????



Ron Bose
12-Dec-2003, 12:26
Does anyone doubt that Ansel Adams or Edward Weston would have embraced digital had they been alive today ?

How would you speculate the flavour of their work to change ?

Gem Singer
12-Dec-2003, 12:52
Yes Ron,

I seriously doubt that Ansel or Edward would have embraced digital, had they been alive today. If both of them were still alive and active, they would certainly realize that digitally produced (inkjet printed) B&W prints do not come up to the high standards that they set with the prints that they produced in their wet darkrooms.

The future remains to be seen.

Martin Reekie
12-Dec-2003, 13:27
Ron,

Well yes and no!

I don’t agree with Eugene here. Ansel talked on many occasions about what the future would hold and when discussing what might be done with his negatives at the Center for Creative Photography thought that they might be digitally manipulated (back to the old score and performance thing again – negative and print, Bach played on an electronic organ!). So my guess would be that old Ansel would be down at Point Lobos with his Phase one back – probably with an 18 year old assistant that knew how to use it! The subject matter would probably be much the same, maybe he’d just tweak it a bit to make the image even more perfect!!!!

Edward, on the other hand, I guess would stick to good old black and white contacts. He did try out colour transparency that Kodak gave him and impressive results he got too. But he left that for Cole to master.

The great thing about these questions is everyone is correct, they’re both dead and we’ll never know.

Paul Schilliger
12-Dec-2003, 13:27
The little I know about AA makes me think that he would have. He was a very innovative photographer always experimenting new cameras, films and processes and in fact, he saw the computer era profiling itself with the greatest interest. I think seriously that if he had a computer and the means we have today, he would have dropped B&W and be mainly a color photographer! He said he didn't like color photography because he could not control and master the print the way he did with monochrome prints. Maybe he was a precursor of today's digital photography in this sense.

Eric Woodbury
12-Dec-2003, 13:32
As if this has makes any difference...

I was at a lecture where AA spoke. It was the '80s. Someone asked what avenue AA would take if he were just starting out in photography and he said he was very interested in the computer/digital revolution that was starting and that he would persue that.

Geoffrey Swenson
12-Dec-2003, 13:33
I’m sure they would have, especially in color. As for B&W, there will be a way to make superb digital prints soon.

By the way, if I remember correctly AA did remark on his interest in digital. He mainly admired the controls available (sorry to some). Although I don’t want to start an argument on this, however, looking at the sharp increase of digital today it is possible that they would not have a choice in a few years….at least not too much.

And forget the Inkjet. Not everything produced digitally is that, but I realize that it is a good put-down. At any rate, a sensible printer like AA would make his prints the way that they make the most sense. Traditional today (in B&W), digital tomorrow (B&W and Color).

David A. Goldfarb
12-Dec-2003, 13:38
Adams tried all kinds of processes and said he was very impressed by what could be done with the scanning and digital technology he had seen in the printing industry.

Weston used and refined a narrow range of techniques during his entire career so that the techinque became transparent and he could work on intuition alone. Given that he managed to avoid using the enlarger for all those years, I doubt he would be interested in the computer.

Geoffrey Swenson
12-Dec-2003, 13:40
When try to hypothesize on what someone of yesteryear would use today, then keep in mind that the Three Musketeers would ride motorcycles today and not horses :-))

Geoffrey Swenson
12-Dec-2003, 13:56
Some would ride horses only even today as a personal choice, and that is fine as well. Still it is hard to know what someone else would do when we do change our minds often. Never say never! Who knows?

Jorge Gasteazoro
12-Dec-2003, 14:02
When try to hypothesize on what someone of yesteryear would use today, then keep in mind that the Three Musketeers would ride motorcycles today and not horses :-))

yeah, and they would be called "hells angels" and would probably be in jail....:-)



Funny Geoffrey, when comparisson like this come up, you ask me to "let it slide" yet here you are as frequently as me voicing your opinion in favor of digital.



Adams probably would have looked into it and waited until a good output method was created. Weston definitly not, he managed to create beautiful prints with a light bulb and contact paper, nothing ever done with digital has yet to compare to one of his prints.



Ultimately, who cares?

Jon_2416
12-Dec-2003, 14:13
>I seriously doubt that Ansel or Edward would have embraced digital, had they been alive today. If both of them were still alive and active, they would certainly realize that digitally produced (inkjet printed) B&W prints do not come up to the high standards that they set with the prints that they produced in their wet darkrooms.

>The future remains to be seen.

>--Eugene Singer, 2003-12-12 12:52:16

Pffft. Please, try not to foist your belief system onto those no longer alive. The evidence is that AA used the tools available to him--and he experimented. It is highly probable that he would be a Photoshop wiz and would be making stunning prints on an inkjet--just like many are doing now.

Wet silver printing will become an 'alternative' process--just like the processes it replaced did. I'm sure there were whiners wailing and gnashing their teeth when that awful, low-standard, imitation silver gelatin process replaced earlier ones.

I seriously doubt that Ansel or Edward would be that narrow minded.

Micah Marty
12-Dec-2003, 14:40
I think Weston would be the one more likely to have the 18-year-old assistant.

Gem Singer
12-Dec-2003, 14:42
Jon, Are you saying that the black and white prints that we are able to digitally output with todays tools are equal to the black and white prints that Ansel and Edward produced?? If that's what you are saying, I say Pfft.(whatever that means) to you too!!

Yes I am narrow minded when it comes to silver gelatin prints. For fifty-five years, I have been attempting to duplicate the tonal quality and luminoscity in my prints that those men were able to obtain in their silver gelatin prints, and I have not been sucessful, as yet. But, I haven't given up trying. Black and white digital printing still has a way to go. Ansel and Edward would have realized that fact, even though you don't..

Michael Chmilar
12-Dec-2003, 14:52
Given that Adams:

<UL>
<LI>Shot El Capitan, Winter Sunrise using Polaroid B&W instant negative material.
<LI>Apparently sent over three thousand memos to Polaroid regarding their instant films.
</UL>

it would appear that he was interested in exploring, and even guiding development of, new technologies. Most other established photographers did not take much, or any, interest in Polaroid, preferring to stick with their tried-and-true methods.



It seems likely he would take a great deal of interest in digital, and possibly work with developers of the technology, as he did with Polaroid.



Whether he would use it, in practice, would depend on whether it fulfilled his goals. With Polaroid it appears that, ultimately, it did not offer sufficient advantages over non-instant film to become his preferred medium.

Frank Petronio
12-Dec-2003, 14:58
I don't know, I read that Ansel was a randy old fellow too, so I wouldn't disallow him the probability of a cute 18 year assistant. He almost dumped his family for one in the 1930s...

The real question is would they would both be using Viagra?

Geoffrey Swenson
12-Dec-2003, 16:10
“Funny Geoffrey, when comparisson like this come up, you ask me to "let it slide" yet here you are as frequently as me voicing your opinion in favor of digital. ”

Jorge, it seems like you have a point here but you don’t :-)) See what the original question was;

“Does anyone doubt that Ansel Adams or Edward Weston would have embraced digital had they been alive today ?
How would you speculate the flavour of their work to change ? ”

I also said, keeping exactly YOU in mind;

“Some would ride horses only even today as a personal choice, and that is fine as well. ”

I still say, despite anything that was said today or before that digital is not a panacea for everything. At least not for B&W today, but color is a lost war already :-((

Again, I don’t care for the technique but the result, and most photographers have their problem exactly with that!

QT Luong
12-Dec-2003, 17:30
By an eerie coincidence, today this question was asked on nothing less than

Slashdot (http://slashdot.org/articles/03/12/12/1651200.shtml?tid=126&tid=152&tid=185) (the ultimate geek news site for those not in the know).

Ed Burlew
12-Dec-2003, 18:42
The question poses the tease of film verses digital , that is a flase premise, there is a purpose for each and the film vs. digital arguement is no more valid than the arguement of color vs. B&W or 4x5 vs. 20x24 Polariod. Each has its purpose depending on the application and the subject. To do one at the exclusion of the other is just plain ridiculous, like saying that I will eat only some things when the world is full of wonderful food. The "fight" between the two methods of recording a visual image is just so much posturing like saying I will date only blondes to the exclusion of redheads. That is a self indulgent arguement for the mentaly challenged and is facile from an emotional prespective. So get digital and get film and shoot both and get over it! Like get Life, Duh!

John Hennessy
12-Dec-2003, 18:43
The topic du jour evidently:

http://www.fortune.com/fortune/ontech/0,15704,560361,00.html

As for my two cents, Ansel would have been lent all the latest technology by the manufactures (just was he received Poloriod material from Land for instance) and if it suited his purposes he would have used it and written about.

Peter Rip
12-Dec-2003, 19:27
At first I thought this was an inane question -- kind of like what car would Jesus drive? But it stayed with me; so maybe it isn't.

I am firmly of the POV that Adams was both a scientist and an experimenter, as well as an artist. This is the impression I have from the people I have known who knew him reasonably well. So my line of thought was "what would Adams have DONE in the digital domain?" I have come to the opinion that he would have first concentrated on profiling methodologies. After all, the Zone System is essentially a profiling system for mapping capture and rendering technologies in an analog world. The reason it doesn't transfer as well to color is the limited control over the color space that you have in color chemistry. You can't chemically expand or re-map the color space predictably like you can in the b&w domain. But digital color is a different animal. I bet that's where he would have started to innovate.

Henry Ambrose
12-Dec-2003, 20:49
One of Adams' major accomplishments was his insistence on producing the finest printed reproductions of photographs possible. He writes about this in one if his books. He worked with printers who used digital equipment to make great reproductions. He wrote that he was very interested in the possibilities of digital.

Chris Partti
12-Dec-2003, 22:17
Perhaps Ansel Adams is the best authority on this question:

"I eagerly await new concepts and processes. I believe that the electronic image will be the next major advance. Such systems will have their own inherent and inescapable structural characteristics, and the artist and functional practitioner will again strive to comprehend and control them."

From the Introduction to The Negative (1981).

Martin Reekie
13-Dec-2003, 01:14
It's interesting that a few of you have assumed that my reference to an 18 year old assistant pointed to a good looking female one. My comment was that only young folk seem to know how to work anything to do with computer software or digital imaging.

Edward might be the one to be with the 18 year old but she would be his model(and lover?), not his assistant! And he'd be using black and white film. Ansel over the road would be the one visiting with the digital images!

Jorge Gasteazoro
13-Dec-2003, 03:58
Jorge, it seems like you have a point here but you don’t :-)) See what the original question was;
“Does anyone doubt that Ansel Adams or Edward Weston would have embraced digital had they been alive today ? How would you speculate the flavour of their work to change ? ”



Ah, then perhaps it is another Geoffrey who wrote this in this thread:



digital tomorrow (B&W and Color).



everytime you post on this threads you say we all will be using PS in the future. BTW rather than buggies and cars I prefer to think some of us prefer fine wine as opposed to Gallo pink wine.



OTOH Adams would have no choice but to use digital at some point, I am sure all the makers of PS, digital backs, printers etc would be throwing stuff at his feet so he could try it and hopefully endorse it. Then again I can just see him at a workshop talking about proper exposure and people going "why bother, we can fix it in PS, we have so much more "control""....:-)

neil poulsen
13-Dec-2003, 05:02
"Digitally produced . . . B&W prints do not come up to the high standards that they set with the prints that they [Adams & Weston] produced in their wet darkrooms." (From Eugene Singer.)

This is my belief as well. For my personal taste, nothing rivals a well made black and white silver print.

However, I imagine that digital b&w can be beautiful in its own way. I've seen some excellent art produced with quad-tone printing. After all, ink-based processes have a long history. What I find interesting is that, I don't believe digital necessarily has to rival silver-based images in order to replace them.

Tim Curry
13-Dec-2003, 05:33
From looking at these posts and thinking back on reading, I think Adams would have loved to have had access to the newer technologies, but in their inception. He was, as already stated, deeply involved with the Polaroid process from the beginning. He found it to be a superb teaching tool, as it provided instant feedback to the beginner, with respect to exposure and subsequent print values. I think he would have been directly involved in its development and would have used his input to "push the limits" of its abilities for creative manipulation and output.

Weston on the other hand, would have been excluded to a large degree by financel considerations. He did not have the money to invest in newer technologies and untried processes. He knew what worked for him and would have used digital if 1) he could afford it and 2) it could be shown that the final product was superior to current results and methods.

Funny, but in some respects Weston was the conservative photographer (aside from somewhat bohemian tendencies) and Adams was a bit more of a maverick when it came to technology (albeit a bit more conservative with respect to family matters). Curious juxtaposition of two icons.

This was a much better question than I had thought when I first read it. Thanks, and more food for thought is always appreciated.

Kevin Kemner
13-Dec-2003, 09:05
Well, I'll give this one a go too. What I've read of AA lends me to think he would embrace the digital workflow and in trying to think how it would affect his work would offer the following:

1) He might have gravitated towards digital medium format rather than LF digital capture. He had begun to use more MF later in his career and the advantages of digital MF in the field may have convinced him follow this route over LF. As much as it pains me to say this, the perspective corrections and depth of field controls that we all tout as LF advantages become somewhat moot when considering the greater depth of field of small formats and the perspective corrections available in Photoshop.

2) AA might have shot more images (!). From essays on his working habits its clear Adams shot a lot when he was in the field. The recent essay in view camera reinforces this and in some of his own writings he talks about running out of film. From discussions with other photographers who are making the transition to digital it is remarkable how many more images they shoot when the physical cost of film is no longer present. I could only imagine that when AA focused on a subject that he would have had a similar liberation to shoot more.

3) Outflow. My gut reaction is that AA would not have shot more color. In his writings he is pretty clear that the choice to shoot B&W was an artistic one. The method he would choose to produce these images is less clear. Given their impermanence, I don't think he would have used inkjet. I know that several manufacturers claim permanence for their products but I have a pile of supposedly "permanent" prints that tell me otherwise. Rather, for his fine art prints AA might have pursued the digital negative workflow ultimately producing a traditional contact printed silver print. With regard to mass production, an area that Adams dedicated considerable effort to improving, I imagine he might have followed a path similar to that of Lenswork with increased production values but on a mass scale.

As for Weston, my feeling is that method was part of his art and that he probably would not have embraced the digital workflow. Anyway, those are my thoughts. Take them FWIW. Great Discussion.

KK

Robert A. Zeichner
13-Dec-2003, 09:28
Page 33 of the latest issue of Photo Techniques has an interesting article on exactly this topic. I would venture to guess that Ansel would have embraced the latest digital technology. In his autobiography (published near the end of his life) he wrote that if he were around in twenty years he would expect that many of his most expressive prints would be reproduced by some electronic means that would extract more information from his negatives than he ever could with the tools he had. His keen interest in the early development of the Polaroid process is also evidence of his forward-looking approach. I can't find it, but I remember he also wrote that he wished he could be around to witness the emerging technologies, or words to that effect. Check out http://www.phototechmag.com/current.htm

Ellis Vener
13-Dec-2003, 10:12
I dunno. Let me ask the group aasimilar Would Matthew Brady & Eugene Atget have embraced film over glass plates?

Ron Bose
13-Dec-2003, 11:46
Thanks all for the thoughtful responses, I had hoped that the question was read in the spirit in which I had posed it i.e a question of embracing a particular medium and squeezing the best out of it - this is my interpretation of AA's philosophy, but I really wasn't sure about Edward Weston ...

Also, at what point would a particular medium be left behind to pursue another due better results and not ease of use.

It certainly wasn't meant to be a 'would AA or EW use film or digital' or put another way 'Nikon or Canon ....'

For me this folded in with the 'Chasing the Magic Bullet' article and my own personal philosophy, where photography helps me to find my own path to Nirvana ... anyways, whether it's digital/film, Nikon/Canon, each to his own.

Guy Tal
13-Dec-2003, 15:52
Ron,

You may want to re-read The Print, in which Adams is discussing a laser print made from a drum scan he witnessed in 1983:

"The result is exceptional image resolution and greater control of the tonalities. The dot pattern created by the laser beam is distinctly sharper than that of a contact screen in a process camera. The scanner also permits selective enhancement of values; it is possible to reveal subtle separation of values at either end of the scale which may even exceed those attained by the photographer in the original print!"

Good thing we don't have to guess on that one, eh?

Guy

Neal Shields
14-Dec-2003, 08:49
A better question might be not: would he, but could he".

I have seen a print of Moonrise over Hernandez in our local museum.

As I remember you could have enlarged the photograph of the moon and sold it as a map of the moon's craters.

In the photograph, the moon is about 1/50th the height of the photograph. That means that with a 6 meg digital SLR you would have to resolve the features with about 40 lines of pixels.

Next time they display that photograph, that will be me, in the museum with the 40 power loop, that he guard is showing to the door.

Beyond all that, Ansel Adams sold prints for a living, why would he embrace a technology that would put him out of business?

Jorge Gasteazoro
14-Dec-2003, 10:17
Beyond all that, Ansel Adams sold prints for a living, why would he embrace a technology that would put him out of business?



I dont know that it would put him out of business Neal, Clyde Butcher is selling both his silver prints and ink jet prints. The ink jets are at a reduced price but I guess this makes his images available to those who cannot afford or do not want to spend much money in a photograph. I see this as no different than buying an AA image made from one of his negatives printed by other people which are sold really cheap.



OTOH if the silver prints made with a light jet printer become a popular and affordable technique, then this might be a reason to seriously look at digital as a better method to make silver prints. The control offered by PS in conjunction with the "look" and "feel" of a silver paper will be something, I think, impossible to beat.

John Kasaian
15-Dec-2003, 08:07
If Adams and Weston had digital, I'd bet that their images would be very, very good ones! Then again, if Chief Joseph had F-18s...??? Or better yet, if Michealangelo had fiberglass chop would the marble quarries at Tuscany discontiue production of 8x10 slabs and invest in resin R&D??

Jim Galli
15-Dec-2003, 12:48
Ansel was acutely aware of improving technology for reproductions. He was a businessman. He was totally aware of the difference between a reproduction and an original. That's where folks here get confused. Things made by computers are facsimiles of originals. Fabulous for making 1.6 billion "moon rise Hernandes" for the poster shops to sell. Edward, no interest at all.

Geoffrey Swenson
15-Dec-2003, 15:46
Jorge

You are one lost puppy!…sometimes :-))

“everytime you post on this threads you say we all will be using PS in the future”

No, I am not saying that, nor should that be the case. Just as an example, what would happen to you if we all did?

"why bother, we can fix it in PS, we have so much more "control""....:-)

No, just the incompetent would do that!

Guess, you are the new Edward Weston of the 21st. century. If he were alive today, the two of would be coating your own film stock together :-))

“ OTOH if the silver prints made with a light jet printer become a popular and affordable technique, then this might be a reason to seriously look at digital as a better method to make silver prints. The control offered by PS in conjunction with the "look" and "feel" of a silver paper will be something, I think, impossible to beat. ”

Now you are talking!!!

Sergio Caetano
15-Dec-2003, 18:17
I doubt that Adams and Weston , after decades of experience, researching, tuning an retuning their work, would embrace a technique with inferior quality than that they practiced. High definition (bw) means good balance over tonal scale, graininess, resolution and acutance; digital can't win analog in any one of these variables. But commercial business is another thing. Kodak executives are warming their brains, thinking about their main goal : money, not art. Stockholders don't bother about quality. Butcher is selling inkjet-printer images with lower prices as an option of his products. For sure Butcher knows the difference between prints HE MAKES in wet process and computer prints monitored by his employees.

Jorge Gasteazoro
15-Dec-2003, 19:24
You are one lost puppy!…sometimes :-))



I think not bubba! If anything it is you who is lost and blinded by the shine of your new toys....I have been doing this for quite a while and have seen the best of both methods, and although I keep an open mind I dont follow the rest like a lemming....you are welcome to jump of the cliff if that rocks your boat.



Guess, you are the new Edward Weston of the 21st. century. If he were alive today, the two of would be coating your own film stock together :-))

If that is what is required to produce the work I like, then yes I would. You on the other hand are in the company of countless millions of unknowns. I rather be in Weston's company.



Now you are talking!!!



Please remember I said IF and when this technique becomes available, so far it is only rumors and nobody has seen a print yet.....it might turn out to be crap....

Ellis Vener
16-Dec-2003, 12:22
I doubt that Adams and Weston , after decades of experience, researching, tuning an retuning their work, would embrace a technique with inferior quality than that they practiced.

Digital tools and processes are not inherently inferior to chemistry based media and processes. At best that is a romantic nostalgic notion.

For sure Butcher knows the difference between prints HE MAKES in wet process and computer prints monitored by his employees.

You areignoring the power of marketing a limited edition print.. Clyde's pricing strategy has nothing to do with inherent quality, although it might have quite a bit to do with the specific quality of the prints they are producing. It probably also has quite a bit to do with the expense and time involved in making a single (or editions of) print in a wet darkroom.

Jonathan Brewer
16-Dec-2003, 16:50
In purely visual terms nothing has matched the luminance and beauty of a Dagerreotype, of course later film processes/digital were faster/easier to handle.

Geoffrey Swenson
18-Dec-2003, 15:15
“Digital tools and processes are not inherently inferior to chemistry based media and processes. At best that is a romantic nostalgic notion. ”

Luckily it wasn’t me who said this to upset Jorge and other Hopeless Romantics. However, Ellis is right! Tools are only tools and not much more, but good photographs are extremely rare in both camps. What a pity!

Show me an excellent image, (printed competently) and forget the manufacturing method!

Doug Dolde
26-Dec-2003, 20:54
Jesus would drive a Mercedes.