The value of the handmade

From: Richard Sullivan ^lt;>
Date: 03/15/05-08:06:08 AM Z
Message-id: <>

I am reminded of the statement made by Walter Chappell made in the 1940's
that is quoted in one of Alan Coleman's tomes that photographers fall into
two basic categories, printmakers and image makers. Let's not quibble over
the obvious overlaps. Obviously I as most others here would fall into the
printmaking category. Of course image is important but for us, so is the
print. To paraphrase a quote from Chuck Close in the recent book on the
avant garde and alternative photography: "your relationship to the process
is often more important than the content of the image." I think that pretty
much says it.

If we are printmakers, as I suspect most here would label themselves then
the print becomes important and the means of its capture and encoding is
secondary. I have little problem with a well made carbon or platinum print
(or other processes of your choice) that are made from a digital negative
or captured digital image. Perhaps a Sally Mann platinum made from a 16x20
wetplate collodion is a bit more "authentic" but for us the essence lies in
the print itself.

I teach at a local college here and the first few classes deal extensively
with issues about the handmade. Students are strongly attracted to the
handmade but are a bit confused about why. Things like permanence, or image
detail come up but I quickly quash that line of talk as it leads to a dead
end. The handmade has an allure precisely because it is handmade. Not
because it is any more permanent or holds more detail, or any other
attribute. The example I sometimes use is to ask if anyone has a Rolex
watch. Usueally not but someone will have a Tag Heure or other expensive
watch but even not the point can still be made. I ask why it cost $3000.00.
Durability, accuracy, get thrown in. I then point out that I have a Timex
Radio watch on that costs $39.00 and keeps constant time to the 100th of a
second by logging into the atomic clock in Fort Collins Colorado. I then
toss it on the floor. In just about every quality one can ascribe to a
watch the Timex wins but no one will either toss their Rolex on the floor
or trade me for for the Timex. The Rolex has craft value. It is expensive
to make and takes a good deal of hand skills in it's manufacture. A
digitally >printed< image is in effect the Timex of the print world. A fine
handmade print is the Rolex.

As an aside it was a big issue that Bill Clinton was wearing a Timex at his
'92 inaugural. Horrors!

Just some ideas.

--Dick Sullivan

At 06:41 AM 3/15/2005, you wrote:
> >>> 03/15/05 12:08 AM >>>
> >>...that digital imaging is a new form of alternative process
>Bob Schramm<<
>I take issue with that terminology and would hate to see this list
>become overwhelmed by discussions of digital capture technologies and
>output devices. As marvelous as digital cameras, scanners, printers and
>inkjet prints are, the latter are not true photographic prints formed by
>the direct action of light but a rather different beast. There are
>other more appropriate forums for digital discourse related to capture
>and output IMO.
>Currently, when it comes to digital technologies, the list has confined
>itself largely to discussions of how to make a digital negative to be
>utilized in making an alternative process photographic print. I think
>that is as it should be since the final outcome from that process and
>light attenuator is an actual photograph.
Received on Tue Mar 15 09:17:30 2005

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