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Thread: Cartier-Bresson

  1. #31

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Richards View Post
    Someone asked whether we would still revere C-B if the prints were lousy. Ever seen an Arbus exhibition? I saw an exhibit at the Gerry of Arbus and was shocked at how bad the prints were, at least technically.

    The A-Gallery in New Orleans (a wonderful photo gallery) had a show with a number of C-B and AA prints together. It was a great illustration of the limited importance of sharpness or drama in the prints, as compared to the subject matter. AA prints were often of mundane subjects that were transformed by the light and the printing. C-B's prints were competent, but in no way was their power related to the printing, only the image.

    BTW, there is a great documentary film about C-B that includes some shots of him working with his printer.
    I've never seen an Arbus original but I'm very surprised to learn they were bad. Her husband did all her darkroom work at least until their divorce and I think for some time afterwards. He was a very fine, and very picky, printer. In her biography the author talks about how aggravated she sometimes became with him as he spent an entire night in the darkroom working on one print.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  2. #32

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Calwell View Post
    This is a real eye opener for me. I just always assumed that all the great photographers did their own processing and printing. I'm amazed to learn that Walker Evans, one of my favorite photographers, didn't do his own darkroom work. It somehow doesn't seem right.
    It seems to me that for those who did not do their own printing, then their printers should get some recognition in exhibitions. Such as "photograph by Walker Evans; print produced by so-and-so."
    Taking photographs and then processing and printing the film, to me, are so intertwined.
    It would be like Matisse, using his artist's eye, picking out a scene and then hiring another painter to paint it. "Here are some tubes of paint, brushes and a canvas -- go to it. But I'm going to get credit for the painting."
    Silly, I know.
    In the days before photography, when etchings and other forms of printing were the norm, the printer did get equal recognition. When you see two names at the bottom of an old etching (using the term loosely) one is the artist, the other is the printer ("printer" meaning the person who did the woodcut or whatever the material was).

    Actually your Matisse analogy isn't that far-fetched. Some of the well-known (so well known I can't think of their names right now : - )) contemporary photographer/artists come up with the concept and then hire teams of laborers (or use graduate students, if the photographer/artist teaches) to do the work of putting it together.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #33

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ellis View Post
    I think you're perhaps confusing more labor with more complexity. No question developing film involves a lot more physical labor than processing a digital image (though there's much more to that too than "clicking a button" but we won't go there). But more complex? I don't think so. Once you've processed film for a while you can pretty much do it in your sleep just so someone is around to wake you up when the allotted time for each step is at hand. If processing film was a complex matter photographers who had the money to hire a darkroom assistant wouldn't have done so.
    I'm not confusing it, I never thought processing film was complex. I was simply referring both to the amount of physical labor AND the amount of time required to get a set of contact prints from the moment of handing the roll/card to the technician. I don't think HCB would've been too concerned with complexity because he was having others do that work for him anyway.

    As I said, I did my fair share of both and I find it both easier and faster to do with a computer. While computer is undeniably more complex, it is possible and rather straightforward to automatize a set of tasks required to produce and print a set of "contacts" almost with a click of a button or a flick of the mouse. No more than a few clicks anyway.

    But as you said, let's not go there, that was just a sidenote, a response to one of someone else's little jabs, and completely irrelevant to this topic.

  4. #34
    Michael Alpert
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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Calwell View Post
    This is a real eye opener for me. I just always assumed that all the great photographers did their own processing and printing. I'm amazed to learn that Walker Evans, one of my favorite photographers, didn't do his own darkroom work. It somehow doesn't seem right. . . .
    Ben,

    Both Cartier-Bresson and Evans knew how to print. They, in fact, knew quite a lot about darkroom work. I've seen beautiful, fine prints made personally by both Cartier-Bresson and Evans. This whole discussion has been laced with misinformation. (It is true that some of Evans' negatives are uneven to the point of being unprintable, but he often processed film in the field. If anyone else had made those negatives, they probably would not have been preserved.) As each of these photographers became older, they wanted to spend more of their time finding new photographs, not endlessly repeating what they had already done. (I don't know how old you are; if you are still a youngster, you'll learn only too soon about this perspective.)

    If one sees photography as a print-making activity, like intaglio or hand lithography, having master printers make prints (after the artist has established a finished print to be copied) is not dishonest or unethical. The printers are in a "work for hire" situation and are important but not central to the whole process.

    I find awkward prints personally made by artists such as Josef Sudek or Edward Weston to be more compelling as art than prints that seem more mechanically perfect made by master printers. (In those dumbbell "Master Printer" instruction books, I usually like the "before" pictures better than the "after.") Still, a stunning George Tice print is really a pleasure (George is his own master printer); I guess it all depends on the artist.

    Just one more thought, the late prints of Cartier-Bresson really are terrible. Cartier-Bresson lost the printer he had worked with for decades, so in old age he was at a loss about what to do. I don't think he was at his best when he signed those poorly-made prints.

  5. #35

    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Funny how craft is often looked at a different level. Toil does not make an image better. The only analogy I feel fits well is architecture. The architect does not build the building or structure with his/her bare hands, yet when we think of the result their name is on it. Decisive moment to me is simply releasing the shutter, and no matter what comes after, that aspect has the greatest impact on the image results.

    Whether it is Photoshopped within an inch of its' life later, dodged and burned for hours in a darkroom, or steeped in an odd chemical brew of the users choosing, that starting point of releasing the shutter was still the primary driver of the resulting image. There are master Photoshop, and master darkroom, technicians, and their skills should be highly valued, but without a compelling start, all the skill and craft possible will not elevate a mediocre image to vaulted heights.

    I enjoy photographic images in books nearly as much as I enjoy display prints. While most would agree that display prints are their preferred viewing choice, I think few would deny the impact of compelling images in a nicely (machine) printed book. Take a look at Albert Watson's book Cyclops, which is duotone B/W press printed, and the result in my opinion conveys the power of his images. In a similar manner, I can enjoy images seen on the internet, despite that there is little technical mastery in showing those images.

    Ciao!

    Gordon Moat Photography

  6. #36

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Albert Watson's images are great, but his website is doing him great disservice by resizing the window without asking the user. The only reason I did not click away and left the site at the very first frame was that I wanted to take look in the context of this thread.

    Any work that attempts to force a certain way of looking at it is essentially telling me that I am too stupid to decide that for myself. Definitely not a very good way to get and keep my attention. Especially when it's done using the media intended by its very nature to be controlled by the end user.

  7. #37

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Alpert View Post
    Ben,

    Both Cartier-Bresson and Evans knew how to print. They, in fact, knew quite a lot about darkroom work. I've seen beautiful, fine prints made personally by both Cartier-Bresson and Evans.
    Bresson has never substantiated this, in fact he is quoted as not liking darkroom printing and development because he was incompetent at darkroom work (his words). Making the photograph was the most important part of the creative process since he was in complete control of that.

    Where can these fine prints made by Bresson can be found?

    No one is exactly sure how many photographs he made in his lifetime. The estimate is in excess of 15,000 rolls of 35mm B&W. Many of the rolls he never actually saw the prints and did editing personally being sent away from the field to some distant lab, this was particularly true after he became a Magnum photographer.

    He also shot some medium format, using both B&W & color film to complete commercial & magazine assignements. In the end he didn't care much for his color work nor the MF camera. He always preferred his beloved Leicas.

    Don Bryant


    Don Bryant

  8. #38

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    When I was very young I was an assistant to an institutional collector and there were prints made by the greats of photography like HCB and Bill Brandt. They would never have counted as good printers. Very soft and almost greenish gray prints on luster paper of first years after the WW 2 vintage. I think no one ever gets to see those bad prints any more.

  9. #39

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    Re: Cartier-Bresson

    Quote Originally Posted by Gudmundur Ingolfsson View Post
    When I was very young I was an assistant to an institutional collector and there were prints made by the greats of photography like HCB and Bill Brandt. They would never have counted as good printers. Very soft and almost greenish gray prints on luster paper of first years after the WW 2 vintage. I think no one ever gets to see those bad prints any more.
    Gudmundur,

    Bresson's darkroom efforts were much earlier than the 40s and possibly the 30s. Much of the early gelatin silver prints made for Bresson were low contrast and flat, which may have been done to support reproduction in news journals via copy negs.

    Later as printing styles and tastes changed the prints made for Bresson became more contrasty. Looking at his post WWII work, circa 1946-1949 it's obvious that film technology had evolved. Prints from that era started looking modern. Which is sort of a curious thing since Bresson described the 1930s as the decade the 19th century ended. So culturally and technologically a major change can be seen in Bresson's work after WWII.

    Don

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