RE: Actual photograph-reply

From: Robert W. Schramm ^lt;>
Date: 03/17/05-09:06:46 PM Z
Message-id: <BAY21-F50A28FE79007822B08C8FD04A0@phx.gbl>


   Be aware that there are members of this list who would ban all save
technical details of alternative processes and related topics. Also they
suggest that the listminders be thought police. I, however, agree with you.
A little philosophic discussion about what we do is good for us.
    Mostly I use digital imaging for practical work like restoration of old
photographs and preperation of art for commercial uses but every once in a
while I go banannas and do something creative. However, even though
Photoshop allows one almost infinate possibilities as to control over the
image, I still don't find it as satisfying as making a platinum print or a
    I was once asked what it was that appealed to me about alternative
process printing as opposed to ordinary silver/gel photography. My answer
was that with the alternative processes I felt that I was much more involved
with the creation of the final image. Ordinary photography is very
formalized as regards exposures, film and paper speed, development
temperature, etc. etc. It is therefore very repeatable and that is a good
thing. However, the alternative processes rely on intuition, experience and
much more in the way of artistic judgement.
    For example, when I first started making gum prints I asked some
experienced gum printers how much pigment should be added to the gum. I
wanted them to tell me how many ccs or grams should be used with a certain
number of ccs of gum. Of course I never got an answer in those terms. What I
did get was a subjective statement about the appearance and texture of the
pigment-gum mixture and how that was a function of the hue of the pigment. I
realized that if I was going to be a success at gum printing I had to stop
thinking like a scientist and start thinking like an artist. I could make
some similar statements about such things as, for example, how you know that
a daguerreotype plate has been properly fumed.
     I used to tell my students that with modern auto-everything cameras and
commercial processiing, any fool could TAKE a picture but one really needs
to understand and be a master of the process in order to MAKE a photograph.
     I have seen a lot of digital images in shows made by people who take an
image and apply one or two Photoshop filters and think they have created a
photographic masterpiece. Again, I do digital
imaging and sometimes turn out something artistic, after a lot of work, but
there is an awful lot of electronics and mechanical devices between me and
the final image so its hard to get a feeling that it is my personal
      One last comment. Two years ago I endowed a fine art photography award
for a local photography club annual photo show. The only criteria was that
the photographer had to have printed his or her own images (in a darkroom).
In two years no one ever met the criteria so they gave the award to
commercially made prints and digital prints. I subsequently withdrew my
support for this award.

Best wishes,

Bob Schramm

Check out my web page at:

&gt;From: Joe Smigiel &lt;;
&gt;Subject: RE: Actual photograph-reply
&gt;Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 14:22:59 -0500
&gt; &gt;&gt;&gt; 03/17/05 11:03 AM &gt;&gt;&gt;
&gt; &gt;&gt;You have some interesting ideas I would like to explore further
&gt;you off list.&lt;&lt;
&gt;I'd like that Bob, either on or offlist. I don't know what else I could
&gt;add though without getting too whiney about the whole thing though.
&gt;Someone suggested the list might do well with the occasional diversion
&gt;from technical topics to more philosophical ones, and I tend to agree
&gt;with that. So, I pursued the onlist discussion a bit more insistently
&gt;than I normally would for that reason. Hopefully, others found it food
&gt;for thought and a pleasant diversion. I'd like to see more of the same
&gt;in the future but if there are objections I'd be happy to continue
&gt;Philosophically, I also find it interesting that those of us with a
&gt;background in the sciences may find ourselves embracing the historic
&gt;photographic processes along with or at the exclusion of the new
&gt;technologies. I know I have tried the digital path and found that I
&gt;just don't enjoy it like I do with the handmade print processes.
&gt;There's no value judgement there. Its just like my preference for
&gt;painting in oils to watercolors. Part of my enjoyment in that medium is
&gt;investigating Old Masters' techniques and materials (white lead &amp;
&gt;oil, etc.) in an age of latex and acrylic and &quot;painting&quot;
software. I
&gt;guess that's just the scientist/alchemist in me balancing the cavorting
&gt;internal artist. For me, the creation of the artwork in terms of
&gt;process is more rewarding than the finished piece.
&gt;In the past few months I've made a couple of the best technical
&gt;alternative process prints I've ever made. But, they were in part
&gt;digitally accomplished and in spite of their appearance and appeal to
&gt;others, they somehow leave me affectively flat. On the other hand, the
&gt;most minor well-executed brushstroke on a huge canvas can mesmerize me.
Received on Thu Mar 17 21:06:55 2005

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