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Thread: More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

  1. #1

    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    Tom Westbrook's recent post concerning the look of inkjet prints that he viewed at a show was posted under the "digital" category but I wonder if its not really more about artistic judgement. Here is a thread from photo.net that might be interesting to read:

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00AhWS

    Instead of commenting on the lack of quality of inkjet prints being shown, this thread is about darkroom prints and printed magazine reproductions of questionable quality. (sort of Holgaish large format prints with brutal burning techniques) As far as I can tell this is how this guy prints - its his chosen style. (not my cup of tea!) There are links to his site in the thread at photo.net linked above if you want to go see for yourself.

    I've settled for myself, long ago, that the print is the final answer on whether it is "good" or not. The method of reproduction is not important to me - you take your pick and make great prints or not.

  2. #2
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    Most of the arguments in that thread suffer from the serious fallacy that somehow seeing reproductions in print or on the web are a substitute for viewing the original prints directly. As far as I can tell, none of the participants in that discussion (myself included--so I am refraining from judgment here either way) have actually seen the work. They are trying to judge 8x10" and 11x14" contact prints on the basis of tiny reproductions in _LensWork_ and what look to be particularly bad scans.

    Sometimes a magazine or a book or a website is all we have access to, but we really haven't experienced the work until we've seen the original.

  3. #3

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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    Merial's work seems to be flawed on purpose. Perhaps he is trying to be ironic by doing the overly obvious dodging and burning of classic photo subjects as a response to today's Photoshop-faked reality? And he is driving home the point that even older, traditional darkroom techniques distort "reality" as much as Photoshop does today.

    At least that's my hopeful thought, having not studied his article or website. Otherwise, his work is bizzare and no better than many second week students in a ten week Photo 101 course.

  4. #4

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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    The French Impressionists broke away from the traditional "Academy" style in favor of techniques that clearly showed the artist's brushstrokes and work. Their intent was not to produce a reproduction but to give an impression of what the artist saw and felt. Perhaps Merial has a similar intent? His burning and dodging is not amateurish but is clearly purposeful. I think his work is effective as a whole, though certainly not acceptable by the rigid F64 orthodoxy. It is arrogant to say that all large format practioners must observe particular rules to be be artists.

  5. #5

    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    David, I agree with you about the web and print viewing danger. But if one has work reproduced in whatever medium would one's choice be for it to look great or crappy? Again, I start at the assumption that what is shown, is on its face, what the maker meant to show. Of course viewing different mediums requires some translation on the part of the viewer but that surely needs to be taken into account by the maker.

    If my post above was translated into Chinese and the meaning came out different we would have a problem! I'd have severe reservations about having a poor translation distort what I wrote and the reader would misunderstand my intention!

    I think its very important to look after your creation all the way through its translations to various media so that nothing is lost or mis-translated. If I serve someone a big steaming bowl of SPOILED soup its not their fault they spit it out! And it would not matter the kind of pan I made the soup in.

    So I'm saying that if one shows photos in whatever manner, thought needs to be given to the quality of the presentation. Posting crappy pictures to a website is approximately equivalent to hanging crappy prints in a gallery or bad reproduction in a magazine.

    I'll add that I have been guilty of doing otherwise and that I'm not throwing rocks at anyone.

  6. #6

    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    I agree a web or magazine reproduction might not show the subtle qualities of a print. But I think most of us here have seen what is a good print and went through the burning and dodging learning process once upon a time, and have prints like this to show.
    It does not take superb reproduction to know these prints are ugly.....merely an attempt to be "different" or "contemporary". I know, I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but c'mon guys, lets stop being PC for a moment and call a spade a spade....No wonder this issue did not want to come out....

  7. #7

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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    When a photographer submits work for publication in a journal, one assumes he is familiar enough with the journal's past publications to be comfortable, even eager, in having them reproduce his work for possibly the widest audience to see that work. And as most readers will never see the originals, the photographer has made a deliberate, informed decision that the reproductions are to be satisfactory substitute for viewing the original works.

    I'm a subscriber to Lenswork, and have looked at the reproductions. There are some very muddy highlights and mid-tones (see the statue, center left, plate 41), and apparently (yes, to the point of being deliberately) clumsy burning and dodging. Other images seem fairly well printed (in the traditional large format sense.) The text says little about the issues at hand, commenting only on the photographs being "dramatic and moody" and "surrealistic," and having "a sense of chiaroscuro."

    It's worth noting that Meriel leaves the border showing the outline of the filmholder marks, an arguably overused device that either functions as an aesthetic framing device or a pedigree of using large format, or both. And while the text states Meriel uses "mostly 11x14" format," the proportions (yes, I just measured the first few out of curiosity) and the size of the film retaining strips along the edges suggest 4x5 or 8x10.

    Is Meriel playing his version of a joke on a supposedly sophisticated readership? Is LenWork in on it? Or were these the best prints Meriel could make, and do they convey exactly what he earnestly desired them to? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

    All is, in the final analysis, not unmeaningless...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  8. #8

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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    AAAGhh, he got published and i didn't!
    This is what i seem to read in between the lines of the postings of the people whoare tearing this guy in pieces.
    For some people the standard of printing techniques was given by Adams , and nobody Must get away from his teachings, they think...
    If i like Meriel's work or not is not important, but i will say that one of the masters of photography, Giacometti, brought his dodging and burning much further than this poor crucified collegue is doing.
    let's leave some space to people who have the courage to express themselves in their own terms , and even though we don't like their work, let's admire them for it....

  9. #9

    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    Gotta disagree Domenico. I have not sent any work to Lenswork, and if this is the direction the magazine is taking I might not send any at all. I dont think anybody here holds Adams' technique as the end all of printing, one can admire a technique that compliments the vison of the photographer, mordašange comes to mind, but to "admire" someone simply because they put forth something that is clearly a gimmick in an attempt to be different and got lucky to be published is more than I can do.

    Sawyer might be right and this is a parody of the usual, but someohow I doubt it given that this guy has a web site dedicated to this kind of printing.

    I hope this does not becoma a fad, just like the filed negative holder or the "distressed" negative did.

  10. #10
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    More on print quality, techniques and esthetics

    I don't think it's just PC to refrain from judgments about tonality issues without seeing the prints.

    I've seen very few reproductions in any form that look anything like the originals. Go to the art history section of a library, and try to find two vaguely similar reproductions of any well known painting, and you'll have a very difficult time of it. This is part of the reason I don't really collect photo books. They only serve to distort one's memory of the prints, if one has had the good fortune to see them. Scans are even worse as I think most of us know, particularly those who have been participating in internet-based print exchanges, where there is an opportunity to compare prints from many hands to scans on the web.

    I don't disagree that the photographer should really try to work out these issues as best he can in the process of publication or putting up a website, but I also acknowledge that in some cases, these issues can't really be resolved. I have the issue of _LensWork_ in question, and while I agree that most of the prints seem a bit overdramatic in the magazine, I still feel that I can't make such a harsh judgment without seeing the prints. The change in format alone is enough to change the effect of the work in a substantial way.

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