Re: The value of the handmade

From: Richard Sullivan ^lt;>
Date: 03/16/05-09:27:53 AM Z
Message-id: <>


In context:

At 12:13 PM 3/15/2005, you wrote:
>Dick said:
> >The one argument I hear referring to a digitally printed imageis "It took
> >me hours and hours to make that print" Some how this is an attempt to
> >relate the work to a hand made image.
>Which part of the get-the-image-onto-paper process took hours and hours?
>If they are describing decisions they made in Photoshop, then I
>personally feel that time is just as worthy as the time a classic printer
>might spend exploring different interpretations under an enlarger or UV
>lightsource as they play with contrast, diffusion, flashing,
>burning/dodging, toning, etc. John Sexton once said it was not uncommon
>for him to spend 40 hours on a new negative until he had resolved the
>first fine print. On the other hand, if the "hours and hours to make the
>print" is owing to a poorly calibrated monitor or lousy printer profile,
>that's another story and certainly has nothing to do with skill or
>artistic exploration.

>Did these digital printers tell you "my hours and hours of work make my
>prints relate to a handmade image" or is this your interpretation? It's
>hardly a "digital" phenomenon for someone to correlate effort with value.
>A few years ago a student of Jack Spencer (the terrific southern
>photographer) brought work to me for a critique. She showed me a finished
>silver print that had lots of problems. She then showed me the mask
>(emulating the methods that Jack uses so expertly in his own silver
>printing) that she used to make the print. "I spent 20 hours on this
>mask" she proudly exclaimed. Since she was already making handmade prints
>(silver gelatin) it was hardly "an attempt to relate the work to a
>handmade image." Rather, she was suggesting, since she'd spent so much
>time and effort on the image, that somehow this made it "better" than if
>she'd been able to make it quickly. Of course, it didn't. A bad print is
>a bad print no matter how long it takes.

A point well taken. The silver gelatin print in my mind is not quite a
handmade print. Been there and done that, but in terms of handmadeness not
to the level of most hand coated processes. I don't get the same
satisfaction of having made something from an enlarged silver print as I do
with a hand coated one. This is is a highly subjective feeling but one I
get similar feedback from students on. My comment was in terms of the sweat
equity that goes into the print or in the example the rug. Obviously a bad
rug with a lot of sweat equity in it is still a bad rug.

We teach digital photography in the Fine Art Photography Department and
they teach it down the hall in New Media Arts. Both units have their own
galleries For what it is worth the differences in output is stunning.
Everyone over there is Jerry Uelsmann. Media Art's work is largely
combinational images or images that have had lots of detail removed, lots
of smoothing over, or applied filters-- in a word its Photoshopped to
death. They teach Photoshop, we teach digital photography. I am an old
fuddy duddy and believe that much of art comes from imposed restraints. The
painter has to deal with the fact that the canvas has edges and that it is
not infinite. My other complaint is that much of the work is related to
building an image that has internal conflicts or things out of context. I
once mentioned this to a friend of mine visiting, not knowing she had moved
to digital work. The first print she showed me was "Fish in Outer Space."
This mind you is a two year college so the we are really still down at the
basics. For me I expect students to work first in a traditional way, learn
to deal with the constraints of a straight image and not have the luxury of
digging through a box of crummy negatives and becoming the next Jerry

> > I find the distortions of gelatin silver that carries
> >through to the printing process to be natural looking whereas I think
> >younger folks adapt more readily to the more linear images one can pull of
> >an inkjet printer. To me there is a sense of sterility to the "perfect"
> >inkjet image.
>Couldn't agree with you more about the silver print. More silver gelatin
>prints take my breath away than prints from any other process. As for
>sterility, I know what you mean. It's much like the static
>I'll-put-my-camera-here-because-nothing-will-move look that infects so
>much large format photography. "I lugged this big camera up the mountain
>for hours and hours so it must be a great photograph." You know what I

You bet!

> >I am also appalled at the historic ignorance of folks who keep insisting on
> >calling inkjet prints carbon prints or pigment prints. Not to name names,
> >but I have corrected a number of photographers on this issue but they
> >continue the practice. There was even a set of cartridges being sold as
> >"platinum black" and Patrick Alt informed me that a gallery in Elay was
> >selling the prints as platinum prints. Seems the guy had even put brush
> >marks on them with Photoshop.
>When I was struggling over what to call my
>non-handmade-inkjet-printer-produced prints, a gallery owner I respect
>had sound advice. I'd already explained my reluctance to call them
>"giclee" because that term is just a smidge too fancy and besides, it's
>already being over-used to describe everything involving ink on paper.
>She said DO NOT call them "inkjet prints" because this sounds too much
>like you went down to Office Max, grabbed a $49 printer and started
>cranking out prints. I adopted her "Pigmented Ink Print" terminology
>because it's accurate, non-pejoritive and has a nice ring to it without
>getting flowery.
>I don't have a problem with an ink manufaturer's calling a product
>"platinum black" any more than with Grumbacker's calling a color "Ivory
>Black." It's a decriptive device and nothing more. On the other hand, if
>someone sells prints from those inks and has the gall to call them
>"platinum prints," they should have sensitive body parts squeezed firmly
>in a bench vise.

Can I have the first turn at the screw?


>For what it's worth.
Received on Wed Mar 16 10:39:45 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : 04/08/05-09:31:01 AM Z CST