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Thread: Changing methods...

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2006
    trying to escape Michigan and Illinois

    Changing methods...

    After chasing the mythical magic bullet for a few years, I've decided to give up the search altogether. Werewolves, after all (even those guarding the realization of one's vision in the proverbial flesh, as it were), are killed by silver bullets. And yes, the pun is very much intended.

    I have a friend who collects and sells, among other things, old photographs. Some I've seen and handled actually date back to the civil war. It was that damnable Hollywood still that drove in the final nail, although the hammer belongs to the images of Herman Leonard, a tome of which I recently purchased. The print was from the 30s or 40s, and I know not one of the subjects forming the crowd in the image. But the paper was thin and very crisp, the lighting superb, and the elements of the image looked as though they were tiny dolls, eternally trapped in an invisible ether...

    These experiences led be back to the dark (read: bath) room to make contact prints of some 5x7 images I was particularly fond of, but had thus far only scanned and printed. Thus, the die has been cast. Don't get me wrong, I really like what I've been getting from scanning film and printing in black and white. But, when compared, even at comparable sizes, with chemical prints, I find I am severely underwhelmed by them.

    Then there is the question of whether or not potential clients care about the process. My experience has convinced me that the vast, vast majority definitely do not. But I am doing this for me as much as for the viewing public. As a visual fine artist and illustrator, I always preferred quill pens to Rapidographs, but used both. I always preferred oils to acrylics, but used both. I always wished, however, that I'd produced my favorite images using my favorite media. In other words, I have some acrylic paintings that I wish I'd done in oil. And some images, done with technical pens, I wish I'd done instead with a quill pen. My reasons for using "second choice" media always had to do with convenience. It is much easier and far less messy to paint with acrylics, which clean up with water, than to deal with the solvents and accompanying fumes that painting with oils always entail.

    It is far easier to scan and print digitally, in my opinion, than to do it the old fashioned way. And the results I've seen, even from those more adept, perhaps, with scanning and printing than I, always fall short, in my opinion, when compared with silver versions (well executed, of course) of the same images.

    This diatribe is not intended to fuel debate...I just wonder: who agrees?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Kaneohe, Hawaii

    Re: Changing methods...

    Reminds me of an article I read last week in Maui magazine. The images were by a well known National Geographic photographer, retired. The images were flat and lifeless - I know they were all shot on a DSLR. None of his previous advertising or magazine work was as bad as this. I'm not saying the photographer or his equipment were at fault, but something in the process is broken, when such poor quality images can get by with being published.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    May 2002

    Re: Changing methods...

    This diatribe is not intended to fuel debate...I just wonder: who agrees?

    Wow, this sounds like a no-win. Whether we agree or disagree, we're sort of debating, aren't we?

    BTW, what was the question?

  4. #4
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Re: Changing methods...

    To avoid debate, can I both agree and disagree?

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Changing methods...

    I never left the darkroom. For some reason having a tactile experience with the print instead of a machine means a lot to me. I think it makes for better prints but that is my own personal issue. For some its a non-issue (and thats quite OK with me!)

    Does the process really matter to your clients? I wouldn't know, but if it does make sure they pay extra for it
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  6. #6
    Rio Oso shooter
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Changing methods...

    This response is from one that is not at all on your level of art. I do however have an opinion on quality. I have found in many endeavors in my life that true quality finds its own level. It may be that when you start down the road that you about to go you will feel a satisfaction and inner connection that will make your art sell better. People may pick up on your tone, your posture, or just some intangible quality that is not definable. I have been lucky in this life to be able to look around me and see that I am surrounded by quality individuals. They are the armor that has always protected and rewarded me when times are good and when things get tough.

    Just a thought,

  7. #7
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: Changing methods...

    Quote Originally Posted by cobalt View Post
    It is far easier to scan and print digitally, in my opinion, than to do it the old fashioned way. And the results I've seen, even from those more adept, perhaps, with scanning and printing than I, always fall short, in my opinion, when compared with silver versions (well executed, of course) of the same images.
    I would amend this statement by saying it is just as easy (if not easier) to scan and create a mediocre print digitally, as it is to do it the old fashion way.

    It is possible to make a very very beautiful monochromatic inkjet print...I saw two on Satuday night. Each image was made from three scanned 11x14 negatives, perfectly stitched together and printed at actual size (14x33 and 11x42). The finest paper was used with a pigment ink set by a master printer (not the photographer). No digital "artifacts" and the light coming from the prints were amazing.

    But digital prints of this quality are rare -- the inkjet printer used for these prints is beyond 99% of the photographers' budgets, and the operator is a meticulous artist/photographer himself.

    So I guess my point is that it is easier to produce a fine silver print than it is a fine digital print. Making a fine contact print does not require the monetary outlay that a fine digital print does, thus the fine digital print (of equal quality to the silver print) is often out-of-reach of the average photographer.

    But I do agree with you. I would not get the same satifaction from producing a fine digital print (from a camera neg or digital capture) that I get making a carbon or a platinum print with my own hands from my camera negative. I would not even get the the same satisfaction from a print I made from digitally enlarged negative of mine.

    A friend scanned one of my 5x7 negs and produced a perfect enlarged digital print from it -- it looks as good as my platinum print from the negative, only larger. He gave me the print, but I do not know what to do with it. Its my image, but I did not make the print -- there is no connection between me and the print. A very odd feeling (or lack of feeling, really).


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Plymouth, MA, USA

    Re: Changing methods...

    After making B&W prints in a darkroom for about 50 years, I found myself in a situation where a darkroom was no longer feasible. Quite skeptically, I dipped my toes into scanning and printing digitally. Though I was initially underwhelmed by the results from MF B&W negatives, it was especially exciting to be able to make high quality enlargements of color slides that had been stuffed away in boxes.

    Recent changes in technology have radically changed my stance on digitally-produced B&W prints: the combination of Epson K3 pigment ink printers and Crane's Museo Silver Rag paper is absolutely astonishing in its resemblance to the finest silver prints I've seen. True, there's not the tactile involvement with toxic chemicals and wet paper, but the ability to exercise such great control over the image and the archival quality of the resulting print has made me a devolted convert!

    With a tabloid-size flatbed scanner, I've been able to resurrect old prints and give them a new lease on life and a multi-format dedicated film scanner has enabled me to make new, and better, prints from older negatives and slides than would have been possible in the darkroom. As a recent convert to LF photography with the purchase of a Wista45RF, I've also been scanning the negatives on the flatbed. Sure, there are times when I somewhat wistfully recall the magic of seeing an image emerge from a sheet of paper in the developer tray, but my satisfaction with the results is at least as great as it ever was.

  9. #9
    Ted Harris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    New Hampshire

    Re: Changing methods...

    Can we list all the threads where this topic has been beatn to death over the past several years?

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    St. Louis, Missouri

    Re: Changing methods...

    I suspect that the argument about digital vs. silver will continue for decades. To me, an interesting aspect of this argument has always been that the digital advocates are always claiming to be “as good as” the silver equivalents.

    I side with you on this issue. To me it’s not a debate over what’s better. I just prefer the experience of working with large format film cameras and darkroom printing. And a good silver print is more meaningful to me than a digital print.

    This may seam unrelated but I think it is at the core of what you are describing. I recently bought a Noguchi coffee table. For those who don’t know about such things, it was designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1944. It is a classic and has been copied by many companies but the original is made by Knoll and bears a replica of Noguchi’s signature on the edge of the glass top. I bought the Knoll version because, even though it costs considerably more, it is the real thing. Most of my friends and family don’t or wouldn’t know the difference but I do and I don’t care whether they care or not. I feel good having it and I wouldn’t have that feeling owning a cheap or even a good immation.

    As for potential clients caring about the process, your experience is the same as mine. It’s a white bread world. Like you, I photograph for myself. If other people like what I do, that’s wonderful, but it isn’t why I do it.


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