RE: Actual photograph

From: Richard Sullivan ^lt;>
Date: 03/17/05-08:08:23 AM Z
Message-id: <>

Keep talking Joe. I don't agree with everything, but much of what you say
is valuable. I tend to focus more on the "Why" that the "What." I do find
that students when they come to my class for the first time are a bit
confused about their motives. Sure some just want to have "fun," but there
are plenty who are really attracted to making photographs the hard way.
Almost all are bucking the trend. Friends tell them, "Hey don't bother with
all of that crap. You don't even need a darkroom and you needn't get your
hands dirty." They're not buying in to it but they're not quite sure why
they're not.

I think there is some justified fear that the bad art (digital) will drive
out the good, but I am not so sure. There is lots of entry level digital
work being sold but the not much at the top. The mid to low level gallery
where the prices top out at $5000.00 seem to sell some but after that not
much sells. Of course the real test of value is in the auction sales. I
scan the catalogs frequently and see very little on the block.

My son Kevin teaches with me and he has worked out his own simplified
method of making a Photoshop adjustment curve to fit to a process and the
processes variables like paper, concentration of chemicals, etc. Sort of
like calibrating in the zone system. Obviously built on the work of
Burkholder, Herbst and others but with his own additions, and
simplifications to the process. Last night we generated negatives and made
prints at school. In Van Dyke! You would not believe the beauty. They
looked like very warm toned platinums. Sigfried Halus, studied with Walker
Evans, etc" is the head of the art dept and he came by. He is a
photographer and has taught "alt processes" and Van Dyke and he was
stunned. He could not believe they were Van Dykes. The process has a very
short tonal range and I believe that it is almost impossible to generate a
normal silver neg that fits the process. I've looked at and made Van Dykes
off and on for 35 years now and never seen anything quite like this. One of
the students had done some close ups of back lit Iris flowers and they
looked like the very best made pts. Perhaps I shouldn't be talking like


At 07:28 AM 3/17/2005, you wrote:
> >>> 03/16/05 10:12 PM >>>
> >>Joe,
>I think its a matter of semantics...
>Bob Schramm<<
>Hi Bob,
>Yes. I think a large part of this philosophical discussion about what
>is photography is precisely about the meaning and interpretation of the
>The reason I have persisted in this discussion is because I feel that
>Photography is being redefined, and in my opinion erroniously so, as
>digital at the expense of conventional silver halide and historic
>processes. Now, one could pooh-pooh that trend as being something not
>to worry about, justified as technology marches on, etc., and my
>reaction as, well, reactionary and very old school, academic, etc., but
>I think there is a real danger in terms of potential loss of materials.
>Witness the reduced availability and production of certain films and
>papers, while at the same time the popular photographic literature has
>swung over to being primarily about digital capture and output devices.
>The part that I find scary is that the printmaking aspect of photography
>is somehow morphing into encompassing primarily inkjet prints and other
>things which, IMO, have much less intrinsic value because they lack the
>handmade aspects that Dick, myself, and others have commented on. I
>believe there is a growing acceptance by galleries to label such prints
>as "photographs" and, if calling them photographs isn't bad enough, they
>are also trying to call them things which lead the uninformed audience
>that they are getting a traditional photograph (ala "carbon print" or
>"platinum giclee" or "pigment print") when they are getting a different
>type of printed image, more mechanical and less handcrafted. (Perhaps
>conventional and alternative photographic processes will eventually and
>finally be accepted as truly valid art forms rather than "some bastard
>stepchild of the Arts" when "digital photography" totally captures
>hearts of the greater unwashed. I'd say that would be "a good thing,"
>but I'm afraid they try to lock me up.)
>Scarier still is the perception that Photography now is that image on
>the cell phone or the LCD/CRT on your desk. To me, there is a
>difference between being a camera operator and a photographer. The
>latter denotes a professional artist or imaging professional and
>printmaker, and I want to keep that distinction alive. There is also
>a difference between a picture and a print and a photographic print and
>a lithograph and I want to keep that distinction also.
>Several years ago I was involved in a committee at school to develop
>"New Media" courses and programs. One of the vice-presidents of the
>college in charge of "technology" seriously asserted that we could
>provide inexpensive point-and-shoot 2-megapixel cameras to students in a
>proposed digital photography course and have them output their work to
>the computer screen or color xerox and that would be all we needed to
>run the course and everyone would be doing "photography." That's scary
>to me because that person held the purse strings.
>While I won't go into details, I will say that I and others were
>successful in convincing the committee that Photography encompassed so
>much more than web graphics and I also designed, implimented and taught
>a course in Digital Photography for a year at the college. I approached
>it as a Fine Art Printmaking course. So, I'm not against inkjet prints
>or digital cameras or scanners, I just think they fall under a broader
>category than Photography, that there is a great danger in not
>redefining these new technologies properly, and that the output should
>be called what it is. Is there really something wrong with calling the
>output a "pigment inkjet print" or "dye-sublimation print" ? Call them
>what they are.
>I'll shut up now.
Received on Thu Mar 17 09:21:48 2005

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