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Thread: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

  1. #1

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    If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    ...why then do people think they are the best printers of their own negatives?

    Why isn't having expert printers making prints the standard?

    (Just finishing the first part of printing a big project and waiting for the prints to finish...)

    --Darin

  2. #2
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Quote Originally Posted by Darin Boville View Post
    Why isn't having expert printers making prints the standard?
    For the same reason you don't have expert photographers making the negatives.

    Would you load your camera, then hand it to someone else to shoot the roll, yet claim the shots to be yours?

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    For the same reason you don't have expert photographers making the negatives.

    Would you load your camera, then hand it to someone else to shoot the roll, yet claim the shots to be yours?

    - Leigh
    I don't understand your interpretation of the analogy. I assume a composer create the score. By analogy, the photographer creates the negative (score).

    Why would someone else create the negative? Why wouldn't the composer create the score?

    --Darin

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    (Whatever, Leigh.)

    For those actually interested in the topic here, I just came across a closely related article. After I posted the above I went over to the online photographer and followed Mike's WSJ link to:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...260992254.html

    And there in the first sentence is Ansel's analogy. Weird, huh? The article looks at the analogy from the perspective of considering how it may or may not apply to posthumous work, such as that by Vivian Maier and Gary Winograd. But wrapped all up in the "others printing" question.

    --Darin

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    And then, reading more of Woodward's work, we come across this article in the Atlantic, 2003, where he talks about a "Benjamin Walter" (!) who was making new prints from Man Ray's negatives. Accusations of forgery.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...-thing/302751/

    Related to the question here, Woodward asks:

    "If someone makes a contemporary print from the original negative and then falsely sells that print as vintage, is this thing a "forgery"? Or should it be called something else—something less damning?"

    Perhaps that term should be "performance"?

    --Darin

  6. #6

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh View Post
    Yes. And Adams was a professional musician, so the analogy makes sense in that context.

    You're not. ...

    - Leigh
    I'll chime in here, since I am a professional musician (20 year career as an opera singer, attended UofO, UT and the Vienna Academy, DMA in vocal pedagogy and musicology and I teach at a conservatory in Vienna, Austria - enough credentials...) and feel that I can speak, at least somewhat, authoritatively to the subject.

    Adams' analogy makes a point in the sense that there are a number of different ways to interpret a negative, just as there are many ways to interpret a musical score.

    The issue is, who do you want to do the interpreting? This is where Adams' analogy becomes somewhat more complex. I'll elaborate a bit on it.

    In the past, say, in the 18th century, it was unheard of for people to make a business of interpreting other people's scores. Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart would have hardly entrusted their works to others to conduct if they had had the choice. Sure, there were times back then when works were performed/transcribed/pirated by others, but the norm was: the composer performs or conducts the work.

    That is still the case with most art photographs. The photographer knows his intent and usually feels the need to interpret the negative him/herself.

    With the advent of our "museum" concert culture that features mostly works of dead people, an interpreter is necessary. Oftentimes, the composers intention goes lost. Every "interpreter" believes they have an insight in to the intent of the composer, but with the myriad interpretations out there, who can say anymore what the composer really wanted.

    The photographic analogy to this would be others printing the negatives of Adams, Strand, Weston(s), Brady, etc., etc. Something that happens rather regularly. But, without an Adams/Strand/Weston print as a guide, the printer is on his own. That's usually not the case, but it is with music before the age of recording. This is one reason why musical interpretation has become so important.

    More modern composers, not skilled in handling an orchestra or playing the instruments they compose for (starting notably with Berlioz, who could play nothing) are also relegated to relying on others to perform their works. That said, I don't know of that many performances of works by living composers that weren't either directly overseen by the composer, had the composer as consultant, or had another, recent and definitive interpretation of the work overseen by the composer as a model. John Williams conducts his own film scores, Bernstein conducted his own works when living, Adams, Blacher, von Einem, Corigliano Penderecki, etc., etc. all conduct(ed)/oversee(saw) the performances of their own work when they could.

    Still, there is a photographic equivalent to that as well. Bob Carnie prints a lot of work for other photographers. Robert Mapplethorpe had his work printed by others. There are more lots more, especially in the area of color printing.

    So, in answer to the original question: I think I am the best printer of my negatives for two reasons. I know better than anyone else what I want from my photographs. Second, I print well enough to realize my vision; in other words, I can perform my scores satisfyingly, and sometimes virtuosically, enough to make another performer superfluous. For those that don't print well, and don't want to learn, by all means, seek out a good printer.

    And boys; please no more fighting in the back seat!

    Best,

    Doremus

  7. #7
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    So, in answer to the original question: I think I am the best printer of my negatives for two reasons. I know better than anyone else what I want from my photographs.
    To my mind, that is the critical factor.

    While an expert printer may be able to produce a "better" print (by his standards) than the photographer, it may not be the "best" presentation of the image as envisioned by the photographer.

    When I print a "good" scene, I try to remember why I thought it was good when I shot it.
    Then I try to transfer that mental image to the print.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder View Post
    Adams' analogy makes a point in the sense that there are a number of different ways to interpret a negative, just as there are many ways to interpret a musical score.
    I have a photo of Adams seated in front of two very different prints of Moonrise, Hernandez.

    He commented that his vision of the scene and the impact of the print changed over time.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

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    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Quote Originally Posted by Darin Boville View Post
    "If someone makes a contemporary print from the original negative and then falsely sells that print as vintage, is this thing a "forgery"? Or should it be called something else—something less damning?"
    If the printer clearly identifies the print as his own work, I don't see any problem.

    On the other hand, if the printer states or suggests that the print is original, there is certainly fraudulent intent.

    - Leigh
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    Darin I don't think the premise you suggest in this thread is Adams' premise, it's more Henri Cartier-Bresson's.

    IMO the premise as used by Adams was used to help people understand that creating a negative was part of a whole that included printing, a perfect negative is not the goal.

    In my mind it isn't that I can make the best print from my negative, it is that I am the only one that can make "my print" from "my negative".
    You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. ~ Mark Twain

  10. #10

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    Re: If the negative is the score and the print the performance....

    You can lean either way on this. W. Eugene Smith farmed his printing out. I attended a talk by him when I was in college in the early seventies and he told us that himself. I doubt if many people consider his less of an artist for that. Prints of his images still bring thousands of dollars. In later life, Ansel turned over printing of his negatives to trusted assistants. While the prints by assistants don't bring as much as one printed by the man, they are still well beyond my ability to afford. And they are still amazing works of art. Is it the printer that gets the credit? If you suck at printing, let somebody else do it. If you suck at creating an image, take up pottery.
    Michael W. Graves
    Michael's Pub

    If it ain't broke....don't fix it!

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