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Thread: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

  1. #1

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    Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    I'll start a thread that folks can use to re-direct us to excellent examples of 'soft focus' from history past that they run across on the 'web'. Doesn't have to be from 'shorpy' but they posted a wonderful example of Soft Focus at it's zenith, 100 years ago. This one by Arnold Genthe.


    Does not get much better than that. Didn't Genthe have a connection some how with Weston's wife Charis Wilson? The picture is the link to shorpy.

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Around here Genthe is better known for his classic Chinatown street photography, which was definitely in a different style, not soft-focus. I ran into a bunch of his
    prints cheap at a rare book show once, and should have bought some up, but you know... had too many prints to store already. It would be interested to see some
    typical examples of EW's own portrait studio work (which he detested), since he was himself a master of semi-soft pictorialism, despite his dialectic condemnation of
    it in later f64 manifestos.

  3. #3

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Weston's earliest soft focus work (1917 - ish) is mesmerizing. Just beautiful. He definitely had the talent to swing either way. The winds of the '20's blew towards realism. Ansel on the other had kind of sucked at soft focus, so it was a natural and necessary war for him.

  4. #4
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Frankly, I prefer EW's earlier work to his later style. BW, just the opposite. AA's pictorial or soft-focus phase was relatively brief, though the "feel" of it carried over
    onto his early "parmelian" mtn prints, which sometimes had an atmospheric quality that took him a couple more decades the fully revive in its more clinical zone system form. Perhaps the most flexible switch hitter of all was Steichen, though I've never bothered to research the actual lenses he used for his more "pictorial" portrait sessions. He managed to give real theatrical "punch" to his portraits, while still including the best of semi-soft technique. I enjoy that kind of thing, but never
    try to emulate it myself.

  5. #5

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    I've always liked these by Karl Struss:




  6. #6

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    . Perhaps the most flexible switch hitter of all was Steichen, though I've never bothered to research the actual lenses he used for his more "pictorial" portrait sessions. He managed to give real theatrical "punch" to his portraits, while still including the best of semi-soft technique.
    The early Steichen works are pretty amazing - they kind of blew my mind when I first saw them.

    Robert Demachy is also a champ for early pictorialist work.

    Both of them used Gum for a good portion of their early works - how much of the "look" was the choice of lens vs the chosen medium could probably be debated (obviously their individual talent trumped both).

  7. #7

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Sweden's biggest pictorialist name was Henry B. Goodwin. There's no single best archive of his work, but plenty online, including early pictorialist portraits of Greta Garbo. I did turn up the flickr account of the Preus Museum in Norway, which has some excellent sets of Scandinavian and international photographers. What are now regarded as typical Goodwin portraits are on this page:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/preusmu...detail/?page=3

    Part of me wishes I could stop myself buying lenses, and start buying things like his portrait of Sibelius instead:

    http://auktionsverket.se/auction/con.../1116-henry-b/

    Oh well. Just *one* more, and then I'll stop....

  8. #8

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    I also love the early Steichen work. Stieglitz bought his best pictorialist pieces and later donated them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My favorite is The Flatiron, a gum over platinum print. There are three versions from the same negative and they're all stunning--true masterpieces of photography. Steichen revealed very little technical information about his equipment or processes, but he had a very deep mastery of the technical aspects of photography and process work. His first job was as an apprentice lithographer and he later worked in a photographic lab in Paris. The Flatiron is printed from an enlarged negative, since there's no evidence Steichen ever shot with any format larger than 8x10. We do know he had at least one early P&S Semi-Achromat, purchased at around the same time as his friend F. Holland Day.


  9. #9

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    Quote Originally Posted by BarryS View Post
    I also love the early Steichen work. Stieglitz bought his best pictorialist pieces and later donated them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My favorite is The Flatiron, a gum over platinum print. There are three versions from the same negative and they're all stunning--true masterpieces of photography. Steichen revealed very little technical information about his equipment or processes, but he had a very deep mastery of the technical aspects of photography and process work. His first job was as an apprentice lithographer and he later worked in a photographic lab in Paris. The Flatiron is printed from an enlarged negative, since there's no evidence Steichen ever shot with any format larger than 8x10. We do know he had at least one early P&S Semi-Achromat, purchased at around the same time as his friend F. Holland Day.
    It seems to me that I have viewed a different version of the Flatiron Building photograph. In this one I can not see any detail of the carriage but in the other one I remember seeing the horse, wheels, driver's coat, etc.

  10. #10

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    Re: Soft Focus on "SHORPY" but not limited....post some excellent examples

    "SHORPY"? educate me...

    Jim, your link doesn't work for me.... (all others do)

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