Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Off the deep end

The latest issue of LensWork has an article by Brooks Jensen about traditional darkroom prints, used to print one-off or a limited number of special edition prints, and new highend lithographic prints, used for photographic book and magazine production. Well, among the fine art and large format photographers, this has created a small firestorm, or to some a small burning bush in the desert - see discussion on LF forum, either something worthy of thought, a mere noting the obvious, or a waste of time and paper.

Ok, I'm an ordinary photographer, and while I've started learning and doing large format photography, I clearly will not get into the realm and world of fine art photography, or at least until I spend a lot more time at the computer and printer. But then all my production is focused on digital printing, and most of that is for photo cards with individually printed 4x6 prints. Definitely not fine art.

I long since abandoned the darkroom. When I was learning photography in the early 1970's I worked after hours at a photo lab on base. I was paid in film to help with the lab, and they let me produce some of my on prints for photo classes I was taking at a local community college. After just over a year I kept working at the lab but decided I hate being in the darkroom. I love taking photo than producing them.

And while since retiring I've learned to enjoy producing prints, it's still not what I like the most with and in photography. It's still being out there with the camera. All too often I view the slides, negatives or (digital) images, say, "Ok.", and plan my next photo trip. That's changing to sit in front of the computer and with the printer more as I learn that people like my cards, and follow my simple rule - use them or give them away to people who will, but don't let them collect dust.

Anyway, I can understand the idea of comparing a traditional darkroom print with a digital or lithographic print, and even understand the thought against it. They're different methods and all the technical analysis won't change the issue that it's about personal choice and content (film photograph or digital image). The rest is production and presentation, and totally within the control of the photographer. The beauty of being one today with all the choices and technology at hand.

And my point? Well, reading some of the comments, and as some forum posts get, some either misunderstood the article, decided to discuss another topic, or just wandered off in another direction. But the point that bothered me the most is the perspective and tone of some of the posts. Granted I highly respect and admire the craft and work to produce fine art prints, some of them are missing one issue.

They're standing at the one yard line of one end of the field forgetting the rest of the photography world is playing in the other 99 yards, and for the most part, really don't care about fine art prints - not being collectors - or about the opinion of fine art photographers. They may admire the work in galleries on occasion, but 99+% of their viewing of photography is done through computers, magazine or books.

Standing in front of a traditional print is awesome, and I really advise folks to view them at galleries, cafes, or wherever they're presented or displaying. But it's just another way to present photographs today, and it's not the pinnacle for many people anymore. Some think it stil is. It is in a small world of photography, but not the mainstream photographers or people viewing photographs.

No one disputes the value and importance of fine art prints. And I really like LensWork magazine. The issues aren't about the equipment, it's about the photographer and their endeavor to produce a breath taking portfolio. If I ever strive to learn enough to produce one (portfolio) to submit, I'll be happy, which is about 100 to 1 submitted to accepted as I understand it. In the meantime I'll stick with my simple production and standards.

And while I like listening to the wisdom and experience of fine art photographers, I'll keep my feet in the real world of my photography.

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