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Monthly Archives: July 2012
I just read an interesting post from one of my favorite blogs, The Visual Science Lab in which Kirk Tuck expresses his thoughts that we’ve basically become programmed by the camera industry to feel like we have to upgrade to the latest and greatest gear each time a new camera is announced. Then you read all the reviews on line, the lines of resolution, the ISO performance, and you start to feel this antsy feeling that maybe you need this camera – after all, it’s got a buzillion more megapixels than my ____ (fill in the blank). I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve had my D7000 for not much over a year, and I’ve already been salivating over the D800 and rumors of the D600 full-frame cameras.
But does more resolution result in better photos, or better art? Or is it a distraction from accomplishing that? While I’ve never always agreed with Kirk’s philosophies and beliefs, most of the time he’s correct in the way he sees thing (when I say correct, that’s from my perspective, of course), and this post was no exception. Getting a new D600 or 800 isn’t going to help my picture taking capabilities a bit (with the possible exception of being able to crop tighter, which just tells me I need better picture taking capabilities) .
Some part of me has subconsciously recognized this. Lately, I’ve found myself drawn more to publications that discuss current artists and their output, artistic philosophy, style, composition, historical photographers, etc, as opposed to new equipment. B&W Magazine and Lenswork are my two primary inspirations. I find jumping off the new equipment roulette wheel an exciting, liberating prospect.
And I plan to do that right after I get a new D600.
I’ve recently made a discovery – getting ready for your first show eats time like there’s no tomorrow. I’m preparing for my initial show in October, following by my second in early November (I figure if I have to get ready for one, how hard can it be to prepare for two?). As a result, my planned consistency in posting has taken a back seat. So…no promises, I’ll just post when I can. But please check in once in a while!
Last week I brought up the subject of rather ambiguous definitions of exactly what fine art and fine art printing are, and though the post was supposed to be about fine art printing it sort of went astray and ended up discussing primarily the definition of fine art. The general consensus seems to be, if you think it’s art, it is, and I largely agree with this. I attended an Arts and Crafts fair in Edwards Colorado yesterday, and it seems the definition of “art” continuously expands, throwing an ever wider net over what qualifies. Since art is in the eye of the beholder, I guess it reflects the changing tastes and values of the society we live in. I’m not sure everything, at least in my mind, should be labeled art – for example, do an online search for “Pink Gristle” sometime and take a look at the resulting piece of “art” which can be yours for $9k. Sorry, not in this lifetime!
If this is the case with the definition of art, then what about the definition of “fine art printing”? Right now, I think it’s defined by certain elements in the printing process, for example, using a fine art archival quality paper, inks, and subsequently mounting it using archival quality matting and mounting materials. Usually it involves a great deal of printing and reprinting to ensure the correct tonal qualities and sharpness (artist’s perception). When it’s finally right only then does the artist sign and number the print on the back. If it’s a matted piece, the matt is signed as well, but the printed image itself is left unspoiled. Given that art’s definition is becoming more loose as time passes I wonder how long it’ll be until the fine art printing net’s widened as well, and an 8×10 glossy from Walgreen’s photo lab is signed and declared fine art?
The images above are yet a couple more from my recent trip to western Nebraska. Unfortunate, but abandoned farmhouses dot the landscape, historical markers in their own right. They remind us of an era that appears to be coming to an end, as more and more people move to cities and leave the farming to large corporate entities. Another sad testament to those who struggled so valiantly before us. This house has a date on it – 1901. Inside, junk – tires, an old bookcase, boxes, mattresses and assorted remnants of a past life; along with an ominous warning that kept me on the outside looking in!
Thanks for reading,
Fine Art Printing is an agony, a joy, a frustration, an exquisite pain, a tone, a quality of paper, a thought, a question, an answer, and when done right, a dream. Fine Art Printing is where our scattered images gather – rocks, corroded steel, enchanting women, rugged men, the deserted, the urban, the wild. (Apologies to John Steinbeck!)
But what Fine Art Photography and printing isn’t, is in the ease of defining. I checked Wikipedia to find a definition – the first line of the entry reads: “Fine art photography refers to photographs that are created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer as artist.” That seems simple enough, until you read further along and you run into some not-so-succinct definitions, such as: “A picture that is produced for sale or display rather than one that is produced in response to a commercial commission” (from Fine art photography: creating beautiful images for sale and display by Terry Hope), or “A frequently used but somewhat vague term. The idea underlying it is that the producer of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression” from Cassell’s cyclopaedia of photography.
Perhaps the most in-depth attempt at a definition, that I’ve seen at any rate, comes from landscape photographer, Alain Briot’s book “Marketing Fine Art Photography” – rockynook 2011, with no less than 14 points describing the “artistic aspects” of fine art photography, including such ideas as the photographer must first think of himself or herself as an artist, the artist my control the creative process, the photograph is done with the creation of art as a goal, along with 11 other items, each of which he describes. He then continues with 12 points covering the technical aspect of a fine art photograph, which includes post-processing to express the artist’s vision, technical mastery requirements, the work is signed and dated by the artist and so on down to the way the image is captured (RAW format). While I don’t agree with his complete definition, there is a great deal of merit in what he outlines.
What it does do is at least give us a baseline in which to start. We can mold the definition to what we consider accurate, though certain things do seem to be inflexible, such as the creative intent and technical mastery aspects.
But this piece started out with a subject of Fine Art Printing as opposed to Fine Art Photography. Presumably, before even starting down the road to printing a photo as fine art, you already have an image that qualifies. The photography part, the post-processing part is a journey of discovery and enjoyment for me. The printing part is, well, more like the first line. It can be an agony. What paper to use (fine art, matt, semi-gloss, glossy?), what settings beyond the defaults that will bring out the contrast and tones you seek, how many test prints will I end up with (wasted paper, wasted ink) before I get the result I seek? What size suits the image? Warm? White? Brighten? Should I recalibrate my monitor, I keep having to set the brightness up to 25? Is the image crisp enough? Tonal gradients okay? Is that a dust spot on the image I print that I don’t see on the image as displayed?
But when you get it right – that’s the dream. I’m looking at a print of “Mound and Rocks” that I took at Toadstool Park (see my blog entry “ The Colorless Land – Revisited ” from my June 27th post, and the more I look, the more impressed I am with this image’s print. It’s simply beautiful. So is “Barren” and “Toadstool Landscape”. I’m very happy with the prints. The experimentation to get to this state though…oh, my. At least 25 prints (total) before I got the look I wanted. I ended up using a luster paper (Arctic Polar Luster) from Red River paper to get that look. The paper isn’t the most expensive around, but until I test some of the Epson papers (on their way to me now) I’m very impressed.
Okay – so I guess there may be some people wondering about that first paragraph. I borrowed heavily from John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”, one of my favorite novels. Why? We’re going to be in Monterey, California for a few days in September and Cannery Row will be one of the places I want to visit – hopefully, 800 Ocean View Avenue (now 800 Cannery Row), which is the setting for “Pacific Biological Labs” in the book. Maybe the ghosts of Doc, Mack, Dora, Frankie, Lee Chong and all the other characters will appear. Or maybe it’ll just be tourists. Time will tell.
Thanks for reading,
Old deserted homes and buildings are a popular subject for photographers such as myself. We’re drawn to the beauty that can be found in these dilapidated dwellings. They give rise to questions, such as why are they discarded, where did the owners go, or maybe at what point did the owner finally say to themselves the time had come to walk away? Along with the emptiness comes the aroma of decay, the dry dusty smell of age. You feel like you’re trespassing on someone’s long dead dreams as you quietly and carefully enter the decrepit building. It seems like there’s always a wind blowing whenever I’m in one of these structures – the wind whistles with a mournful, haunting sound. You can almost feel the presence of those who went before. I touch nothing – accepting what I see as what I should photograph, and treating the place with a respect that one might show the dead. It is dead, after all.
These are the range of feelings that coursed through me when I found this building – I’m not sure if it was a church, a school or quite possibly both – while on my way to Toadstool Park a couple of weeks ago. I felt as if I was, well, intruding, is the word that comes to mind. I’d been on the road all day and by the time I arrived here I was fairly fatigued so that may have contributed to my state of mind. Yet, I could almost feel eyes on me. Okay I’ll admit it, it was a little spooky. Nevertheless, I got a few images including the HDR shot you see above. The strange thing is, once I began photographing I got into the moment, my concentration zeroed in on the process and the disquiet I had been experiencing diminished putting me more at ease.
We had company last night and I was unable to post a July 4th image – I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable holiday.
Thanks for reading,