From: Richard Sullivan ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 07/04/05-09:18:49 AM Z
Message-id: <>

Just a note.

We still have room for more at APIS. We're off about 20% on the sign ups
this year but the convention people here in town tell me this is about par
for the course all over the country. Travel isn't much fun anymore. Duh!

It's not too late to hop a flight and come. We'll be able to take walk-ins.

Paul Lehman just rolled into to town and A bunch of the early arrivals had
fried chicken and beer at the Sullivan pad and we couldn't resist pulling
up Powerpoint on my laptop and going over Pauls presentation. Paul has
invented three, (not just one!) dichromated colloid processes. I have to
say I was blown away. Simple and elegant. He's talked about these before
but has made some recent functional mods to these processes.

I will be doing a presentation on The Center for Photographic History and
Technology. We're in the final throes (apologies to Mr. Rove) of getting
our tax exempt status. This will be the first major organization dedicated
to photographic history that will give serious thought to the underlying
technology and have a core of people with practical experience in historic
processes. Needless to say I am pretty excited about the Center. You will
be hearing more about it in the near future. I will be posting my
Powerpoint presentation shortly after the APIS symposium.

I am just starting a paper on the topic of photography and technology as it
applies to esthetics and I thought I throw the first part that is still in
rough form.\ but there are some ideas there that we can chew on.

>The Relation Between Technology and Art in Photography
>Knowledge is being lost.
>Early manuals on technique will often say “coat and dry in the normal
>manner.” Everyone in those days apprenticed to a master and knew what the
>“normal manner” was. Today we are going through a radical shift in
>photographic technology. One could easily transport a photographer from
>1890 to 1990, hand her a 4x5 camera, some film, print paper and chemicals,
>and expect her to produce some nice photographs with a small amount of
>updating of her knowledge. In many respects the technology was essentially
>the same, it only had changed in minor details. Film was faster, etc.
>However the paradigm has changed in the years since 1990 and our
>photographer would be totally amiss in the world of Photoshop, digital
>printers, and Macintosh or Windows computers.
>A return to photography’s roots.
>As the photographic paradigm shifts from chemical to digital, more and
>more photographers are reviving historical processes in service to
>photographic art. Many photographers feel that the older hand worked
>processes provide a more intimate and personal character to their prints.
>Others feel that the historic connection provides an added dimension to
>their work. Some radically modern contemporary photographers find there is
>a complimentary tension to be had with marrying their imagery with a
>traditional process. The contemporary artist/photographer Chuck Close has
>said “the photographer’s relation to the process is often more important
>than the content of the image.” Mr. Close also said that he will learn a
>process and let it lead him. This attitudes is quite the opposite of Minor
>White’s previsualization mantra. These avant garde fine art photographers
>working today will be providing some of the mental images of our world for
>future generations in much the same manner as Brady, Stieglitz, Adams or
>Gene Smith did for theirs.
>The synergy between art and technology.
>William Crawford has said in his seminal work, Keepers of Light, “…that
>every time a photographer solves an esthetic problem he has to solve an
>underlying technical problem.” Ansel Adams felt it necessary to solve some
>of the perplexing sensitometric issues of silver printing in order for his
>images to do justice to the majesty of the American landscape. Adams’s
>images would not exist as we know them without his sensitometric research
>and innovations. I fear that future generations will think that Adams just
>moved the contrast and brightness sliders around till he “got it right.”
>Some may say that the imnage itself is the be all and end all but those
>who know what Adams's challenges were will have a deeper understanding of
>his images.
>Back in the early 80’s Dick Arentz told me that he had sold his enlargers.
>Why I asked? “Because I can no longer think silver and platinum at the
>same time.“ he replied. This for me was a powerful Gestalt. Yes! This
>makes perfect sense. Minor and his folowers would have found this
>statement baffling because they had closed the walls of silver printing
>around them. Very little light was coming over those walls.
>Sally Mann is the flip side of Adams. She had to find the right image
>match for her new found fascination with the historic wet plate collodion
>process. Adams had to define a new technology to match his vision. Ms.
>Mann had to find a new vision match a technology.
>The relationship between art and technology in photography has
>historically been highly synergistic. There is however; a vein running
>through contemporary esthetic thinking that desires to divorce photography
>from its technology. The goal of the Center is to preserve, illuminate
>and integrate that intimate relationship that has historically existed
>between a photographer’s imagery and its technological foundation. Often
>it is necessary to understand the technology used to make an image before
>one can understand its visual syntax.

comments appreciated.

--Dick Sullivan
Received on Mon Jul 4 09:19:21 2005

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