The fine art photographer and third party prints

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by keith_laban, Dec 23, 2003.

  1. I’ve had a fair few prints made over the years, some by fine printers, but never really been satisfied with any of them. No surprise here, for how can anyone other than the person who created an image define how a print should look?
    I suppose what has really brought this home to me is being in the position where I can now do all my own printing digitally, or at least in the case of larger prints prepare the print file for output. The degree of control is simply awesome, though admittedly often at the expense of balanced mental health.
    Surely, fine art photographers who delegate this part of the creative process to others are selling themselves and their images short, only doing half the job?
    www.keithlaban.co.uk
     
  2. Keith said: "I suppose what has really brought this home to me is being in the position where I can now do all my own printing digitally, or at least in the case of larger prints prepare the print file for output. The degree of control is simply awesome, though admittedly often at the expense of balanced mental health.

    Surely, fine art photographers who delegate this part of the creative process to others are selling themselves and their images short, only doing half the job?"
    *************
    Digital printing will be a blessing to those who were previously unable, for whatever reason, to use a darkroom. Notwithstanding the issue of quality, at least Keith and others can now participate in the making of and the look of the final print.

    Are those delegating the printing to others only doing half the job? Don't know. I suppose it depends on how much value one puts on being responsible for the actual physical photograph, from either the photographer's perspective, or the viewer's. I know I'm MORE impressed by a wonderfully crafted print hanging on a wall if I know the photographer made the print himself. In my own work, I find it far more satisfying making my own prints because of the control factor. The final image shown to others is completely the result of my skills and talents (or lack thereof), and the viewer can judge for himself whether I succeeded in capturing the image and then producing it.

    On the other hand, when I used to shoot color, I always hired out the printmaking, simply because I found color printing too tedious and time consuming (also, critical temp control, short life of chemicals, etc). I never particularly valued the skill of rendering on paper what my chrome looked like, so I preferred other printers at labs doing it for me. In my black and white work, however, I've felt for many years I can produced a better print than even the better professional photo finishers. Why? Not because I'm more knowledgable, but because I CARE more. I'll go the extra steps and expose more paper to get the print exactly the way I want it. I'm more passionate about it, whereas the other guy has a business to run.
     
  3. Before I built my darkroom, I had a good relationship with a custom lab near here; I would make an enlarged xerox of a contact print and would make all sorts of notations on it about where to have the dodges and burns, how to split the contrat, etc. It was a relationship that grew over time and they could do a very nice job.

    Now that I am in the darkroom, one of the aspects that I value the most is not the ability to be obssively controlled but rather to see what the mistakes look like and to do off-the-top-of-the-head experiments. I find that the darkroom process can be much more improvisatory than I ever realized before. I see a mistake and suddenly realize that it opens a whole new interpretation of the image, one that NEVER would have occurred to me just by looking at the neg and recalling my original intention.
     
  4. Being a great photographer and being a great printer have no more relation to each other than being a great photographer and being a great car mechanic. Some people are multi-talented (Ansel Adams and Edward Weston might be classic examples), but there are many, many good photographers who don't know their way around a darkroom.

    The only trick is finding a printer who shares your vision and has excellent technical skills.
     
  5. I agree that letting someone else do the printing doesn't have to be a compromise of ones vision. For those who've seen War Photographer, think about the scenes in which Nachtwey gives precise direction for what his printer needed to do to deliver Nachtwey's vision for the image. Unfortunately, that kind of relationship (and that level of darkroom skill) isn't readily available when farming out printing work.
     
  6. I'm not convinced that a better printer couldn't make a better print from one of my negatives than I can, but why should someone else have all the fun? I enjoy printing at least as much as any other part of the process, and enjoy the feeling of continuity that printing my negatives affords. I don't believe as Bob Atkins does that photography doesn't include printing, but I understand that some photographers choose not to print their work for reasons of their own, and I respect their choices as artists.
     
  7. Ditto to Jay's thoughts. I am confident that there are a great many printers who could take my negatives and make a better print than I ever would. It might not be exactly what I had in mind- but if it's better, I don't know that it would matter to me a whole lot. If I felt I could print my prints better than anyone in the world, then I'd be very reluctant to let anyone else have a go.

    I recall from reading Roger Hick's articles that it is largely his wife that does the printing of his B&W pictures. There's no reason not to use a partnership like that if it is workable.
     
  8. I use a darkroom that I rent by the hour for my black and white work. There is a resident professional printer, and he is more efficent than me, and for a few really difficult negs, he might get better results than me. However he is very good at taking instructions and will deliver a print which matches the photographer's vision pretty well.

    If I was doing 16x20s for Exhibition I would get him to do them - using my 10x8 as a guide to what I want.

    If you just hand over a neg and say "Print this" you get the printer's vision of how the neg should look. Sometimes it matches, sometimes it doesn't, so if you really are a fine art photographer you should get to know the printer - just as if you are a sculptor working in bronze, you don't do your own casting, but you build up a relationship with the foundary. Or perhaps if you are a recording artist, the recording engineer is crucial.

    Personally I'm printing a lot less than I expected digitially. The print quality of B&W scans is just not the same (although some of the treatments I can do outweight that). For Colour (or tinted B&W) I find printing the files through a wet process lab gives be results equal to my inkjet (which is impressive on the part of the inkjet) but they are cheaper. For anyone in the UK Boots are doing 2 for the price of 1 and 50 6x4s for £5. Epson ink and paper cost more than that.
     
  9. I agree with the other posters who say great photographers and master printers are not necessarily one in the same. In fact many top photographers do not print their own work, but they do direct the work. The same is true for artists who make lithographs, silkscreens and the like. They often go to print specialists to who execute their work for them.

    The interesting question you raise, however, is how important is the hand of the artist in the final product? I would say all that matters to the viewer is the end result. While this may not satisfy some purists, in the visual arts the process is generally less important to the audience than it might be to the artist.
     
  10. The hand of the artist is very important when it comes to $$$$. An Ansel Adams print made by Ansel Adams commands 10x the price of an Ansel Adams negative printed (perhaps equally well) by one of his authorized printers.
     
  11. "Being a great photographer and being a great printer have no more relation to each other than being a great photographer and being a great car mechanic."
    Bob, are you saying that a great printer could have the same level of understanding of photography as the average car mechanic and still be a great printer?
    " I'm not convinced that a better printer couldn't make a better print from one of my negatives than I can"
    I agree that there are many fine printers who may well in technical terms make better versions of a photographer’s prints than the photographer themselves, but in terms of the photographers intent, vision and emotion I somehow doubt it?
    "The same is true for artists who make lithographs, silkscreens and the like. They often go to print specialists to who execute their work for them."
    The one overriding thing that I learnt when making lithograph and silk-screen prints at art college is that knowledge of the techniques and hands on experience are part and parcel of the creative process for the artist and their image.
    " how important is the hand of the artist in the final product? I would say all that matters to the viewer is the end result. While this may not satisfy some purists, in the visual arts the process is generally less important to the audience than it might be to the artist."
    I absolutely agree with you: this is my exactly my point.
    " The hand of the artist is very important when it comes to $$$$. An Ansel Adams print made by Ansel Adams commands 10x the price of an Ansel Adams negative printed (perhaps equally well) by one of his authorized printers."
    But why is this so, is it just about the hand of the artist adding to the value of a print, or could it actually be that buyers also value and appreciate that the hand, intent, vision and emotion that the artist brings to the print is simply beyond a third party.
    www.keithlaban.co.uk
     
  12. Keith,
    You seem to be suggesting that the photographer is more capable of expressing his vision by printing his own work, than a master printer, regardless of the photographer's printing skills. Just because it is the photographer's vision and intent that is important, doesn't mean that the photographer has the skill to acheive it in his darkroom. Why should he not defer to the skill of a master in order to fulfill his vision?
     
  13. "Keith, You seem to be suggesting that the photographer is more capable of expressing his vision by printing his own work, than a master printer, regardless of the photographer's printing skills."
    No, not at all, or at least certainly not technically. I realise that in the real world many photographers simply don't have the experience or facilities to undertake their own printing. I was in the same position myself until I took the bull by the horns by making my own prints digitally. This being the Philosophy of Photography Forum, it is perhaps more of a philosophical question and aimed at those that have the skills but for some reason don't make their own prints, or those such as Bob who believe that the two disciplines are quite separate. Having said that, unless the photographer works to gain the skills, how will they ever know the answer to this question?
    www.keithlaban.co.uk
     
  14. As I've written, for me it's a personal matter, and I happen to enjoy printing. I think that photographers who don't print their own work out of intimidation or a lack of understanding short change themselves. On the other hand, those who know the process and decide for their own reasons to have others print their work are certainly entitled to do so, but I think there is a penalty for it, fair or unfair.
     
  15. The fun happens when the Photographer is color blind; has only one eye; and likes the printer's color skewed duds; made before the machine was calibrated. Then one has to try to make more of these "dud" copies; that are missmatched by the printers eyes; but are "perfect" in the eye of the customer. This can happen where the original is pastel; the scanner or copy negative blows the blues; and/or the customer is colorblind; and sees the print in a different way than all the rest of us. With a color blind customer; the printers calibration sequence doesnt matter; if they dint like the print. Sometimes the prints can be taken in the back room; and juggled; and the customer will reverse his "best choice". The color temperature; type of lighting; and illumination level should be standardized; and or recorded to prevent one from chasing ones tail; in pleasing an "artist" type; and corporate logo stuff. These groups are abit more difficult to please sometimes. Framing glass; lamination; and choice of matte and color of matte also change a customers emotions and real feelings on what is the best copy to use.
     
  16. Bah. Plently of great photographers had other people print their work.

    Bresson, Kertesz, almost anyone who worked for National Geographic.

    Digital printing doesn't bring that much new to the game. Certain manipulations are
    now more repeatable, but this doesn't guarantee great or consistent prints. Just ask
    the color profiling people and the ink jet mavens about how hard it is to get real
    repeatability.
     
  17. Keith

    Surely, fine art photographers who delegate this part of the creative process to others are selling themselves and their images short, only doing half the job?

    --------------------------

    Many noted fine art photographers from the Weston's, Ansel Adams and Ruth Bernhard had assistants doing their printing for them. Michael Kenna spoke a bit about his printing experience while he worked with Ruth Bernhard in an interview "LensWork" did with him on pg 62, issue number 50.

    Whether or not they sold themselves short, I can't say but both Bernhard and Adams were really prickly about their images and I'm sure, considering the Westons and Adams hung out together, he was the same:)

    So it's a toss up, sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's not.

    Hope this helps.
     
  18. I'm well aware that many photographers past and present, great and small have delegated their printing. My argument is that a third party by definition cannot hope to match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer.
     
  19. Keith

    I'm well aware that many photographers past and present, great and small have delegated their printing. My argument is that a third party by definition cannot hope to match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer.

    ----------------------

    As picky and well known as Ansel Adams was for perfection in printing, I think he thought of this. The fact he had others printing for him, says that he thought it through and came to the conclusion it was good enough for him. Ruth Bernhard, she's as much of a printing stick as anybody, when it comes to her printing demands. She too came to a similar conclusion. So they both must feel that having a third party print an image for them, doesn't harm the creation process sufficently to not use somebody else to do their printing. Photographers aplenty have been using third party printers on a daily basis for decades.

    I'm only sharing what well know noteables did/do. You have to make the final decision what you feel comfortable with.
     
  20. Where did this discussion get sidetracked? Origianlly, I believe Keith was simply and enthusiastically describing his new found ability to control the look and feel of his prints, rather than relying on a third party to read his mind. That's simple enough to understand.

    Then, I thought he asked US, as fine art photographers, whether WE felt it important to be involved with the printing process as a means to fullfill a total creative process.

    It's rather obvious photographing an image and printing it are two distinct disciplines, isn't it? It's also quite obvious that some famous photographers used a third party to print their negatives. I don't think Keith asked Kertez, Adams, Bresson, etc their opinion (which would be hard to get a response in some cases), but he asked US. My original response earlier was an attempt to answer his question. Most other responses seem to want to demonstrate their knowledge of photographic celebrity.
     
  21. I really consider the printing of the black and white negative to be part of the overall process of photography. I enjoy this process immensely and wouldn't necessarily hand over my negatives to someone else to print without very good reason. But I never print a negative the same way twice. I don't enjoy the process of duplication. My enjoyment in the darkroom is continuously playing around with the negative and seeing how subtle changes during printing or using toners will look. If an art dealer called tomorrow (not a likely scenario for sure) and wanted me to print an edition of 50 identical photographs, he (and I) would be SOL. I have no interest in that. I would try to find a printer who would use my choice of a master print and duplicate it 50 times.
     
  22. Peter.

    Keith wrote;

    Surely, fine art photographers who delegate this part of the creative process to others are selling themselves and their images short, only doing half the job?

    ------------------------

    I thought the above quote by Keith was the original question:) So with that in mind, it would stand to reason to look at how other, top dog notable, fine art photographers handled the act of printing and the delegation there of. Fine art noteable's past behavior gives us a clue as to finding a viable answer to the question above.
     
  23. Being an artist with film and an atrist in the darkroom require two different skill sets. If you have both, great but to think that if you only have one you are somehow short changing the public or even yourself is just nonsense.

    It's nice to imagine how Bach would have played a particular organ piece but that doesn't mean that you can not get a great experience from listening to a contemporary recording of it. There are plenty of musicians today that can play pieces better than the orignal composers could play them. That's why we have musical notation (sheet music) in the first place. Ansel wanted students to have access to his negatives so they can use them to interpret a new. Ansel seemed very secure about what he did.

    Printing is an interpretive art form like dancing or being a musician. You can applaud the musician and the composer at the same time. And besides, why limit yourself to your own skills when you can get an expert to help you. Why think that you can not take pictures because you don't have darkroom skills? Just have a little fun and stop thinking like a prisoner in some cult.
     
  24. Peter, many thanks for trying, but they're still not getting it are they! :-}
     
  25. Keith

    Peter, many thanks for trying, but they're still not getting it are they! :-}

    ----------------------

    Maybe you can restate your question and help us:)
     
  26. "My argument is that a third party by definition cannot hope to match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer."

    ----------------------

    Can any print by anyone match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer????
     
  27. Steven B,


    There are a few factual and logical problems with your post. Could you provide a few names of modern musicians who can play a master's work better than the master could? The reason that we have musical notation is the same reason we have written language, to translate and organize sounds into a permanent and replicable form. I don't think anyone has suggested that one cannot make photographs without printing them, but that printing is a meaningful and important part of photographic expression, and that the photographer has a special relationship to his images that might be diluted by another printer's interpretation.
     
  28. "Can any print by anyone match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer????"
    Only the photographer.
     
  29. Keith

    "Can any print by anyone match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer????"
    Only the photographer.

    -----------------------

    Are you asking a question or making a statement?

    It seems that for you, based upon what I'm reading, it's not possible. I could be misunderstanding you. It seems that for others it's possible.

    Maybe a bit of a clarification would help.
     
  30. Jay

    .......but that printing is a meaningful and important part of photographic expression, and that the photographer has a special relationship to his images that might be diluted by another printer's interpretation.

    ------------------

    But some photographers feel others doing the printing for them are successful in their printing efforts to not distort the photographer's relationship with his images. Who's right? The one who's happy or the one who's not happy? Or, is there a third possibility that they're both right?

    Some people feel that no matter how hard they work, they never get the feel to the printed image. And this no matter who does the printing.

    What works for one won't always work for another.

    I guess I just don't see the dilemma. Why? Because to me, it's about happiness and personal satisfaction. If one's happy and the other isn't, they're still both right. So in the final analysis, I think that one needs to do what one needs to do to get the print completed to their personal satisfaction.
     
  31. Keith

    Sorry, got Ward's quote mixed up with your's. Oops! :)
     
  32. Thomas

    No problem:) and yes I agree, each to his/her own.
     
  33. There is no such thing as 'Fine Art Photography'. This is a misnomer for time exposures of water running over rocks.
     
  34. I attended a Howard Bond workshop some years ago in Michigan. It was all right, but he's really hung up on technique with all kinds of nerdy graphs and formulas. BUT the one thing I came away with during a critique session is a fine art photography acronymn...AWARP..."another water and rock picture."
     
  35. Thomas, I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong, just that there is a special relationship between a photographer and his image. I wrote that that relationship MIGHT be diluted by another printer, which implies that it might not in other instances. I don't see a dilema either, just a consideration.
     
  36. Hans and Peter

    I totally agree with you about the term "fine art photography". I used it here merely to differentiate between the photographer who sells non-commissioned prints and the commercial or jobbing photographer. Although I studied "fine art" at art college I have never seen an adequate definition.
     
  37. Jay

    Thomas, I'm not saying anyone is right or wrong, just that there is a special relationship between a photographer and his image. I wrote that that relationship MIGHT be diluted by another printer, which implies that it might not in other instances. I don't see a dilema either, just a consideration.

    ------------------------

    And a consideration it is indeedy:)

    Right now my frustration is the stupid sensor body (D30), not the final print. The sensor's lack of dynamic range is killing me. The two and a half stops it lacks, is just flat making my life miserable as a landscape photographer. What has to be done in PS, with shadow and highlight recovery is not always kind to the image quality. Also tired of seeing clipped off tops of histogram peaks. :) It's "almost" enough to push me back to the inconvenience of film and MF bodies:) Either which way, at minimum, there's a 1D in my very near future. If I can wrangle up the green, then it's a 1Ds and I'm not looking back.

    "Scottie, I need more dynamic range and I don't want to hear you say; Captain, that's all we got." :)

    I'm hoping the replacement sensor bodies Canon is rumored to be rolling out, at Feb's PMA, will address this issue.
     
  38. Is there any interest in hearing from a professional printer on the subject?

    Alexis

    www.alexisneel.com
     
  39. mg

    mg

    Please pardon me for not reading all the above posts in this thread, but I just felt it was necessary to answer this statement of yours:
    <p>
    "My argument is that a third party by definition cannot hope to match a print that exists solely in the mind of the photographer."
    <p>
    How does, for example, the preparation (by the photographer) of a digital file to be printed by an LED printer on a real photo paper (such as Kodak Royal for example) fit this statement ?
    <p>
    It seems to me the photographer can choose a color profile and do all the stuff he wants (dodging, burning, contrast adustment, you name it) and end up with exactly the photo he had on his mind. No...? Whether he owns the LED printer or not and whether he's the one clicking the "send print" button or not doesn't seem to make a whole lot of a difference to me...
    <p>
    Granted, conventional prints and all sorts of OTHER types of prints (for example cyanotypes, etc) can not be generated this way, but for your type of work, or at least mine, I suppose PS digital lab + LED printing is the way to go in order to keep control over the entire process, eventhough you may send the file out to a third party for output...
     
  40. Marc
    Thanks for your response. As I said in my original post "I suppose what has really brought this home to me is being in the position where I can now do all my own printing digitally, or at least in the case of larger prints prepare the print file for output." which if I understand you correctly covers the point you have made here.
    Alexis, yes much interest!
     
  41. I'd love the opportunity to tell it from a printers perspective, although from what I hear, the way I work and the way I ran my lab is a far cry from how most labs operate. But this is how I approach printing, my relationships with my clients, and photography and I hope it is both refreshing, and informative to you.

    A preface...I've been printing for about 33 years, beginning for just myself, and my jr. hi yearbook, and later at labs until my last job where I was the in-house printer and assistant for the largest commercial photographer in San Francisco. After 5 years there, I opened my own lab, at first just by myself, and then adding 3 employees and offering the full range of services. In those 11 years of owning my own business, I worked for almost every major
    commercial photographer in San Francisco, and some national and international ones that worked on assignment in SF. I also printed for the Oakland Museum (printing the archives of Dorothea Lange), and many of the local and State archive associations. My work has been in the Coccoran Gallery, the NYMOMA, SFMOMA, the Smithsonian
    Institution, the Bibliotheque National de Paris, Maison Europeen de la photographie, and a host of others I can't recall at the moment. The commercial advertising work has appeared in every nationally distributed magazine (Time, Newsweek, Vogue, Marie Clare, People, etc) and for just about any Fortune 500 company you can think of (Levi's, Gap, Apple, Microsoft, Palm, PeopleSoft, Bank of America, Border Books, Lexus, Acura, Saturn, etc). I've been consulted, and asked to create, styles of printing for campaigns for Levi's, Gap, Wilkes Bashford, Saturn, Palm, Wells Fargo Bank and others. If I haven't put you to sleep yet, good, cause the real opinion is next. :)

    Without going thru all the posts and replying to each point, but having read them, I must say, and I believe this was the key to my success, that I approached each image and photographer as something and someone special. From the beginning of any print, I talked with the photographer, while looking at the negative, and went thru with them what they wanted, asking if they wanted certain parts darker, lighter, whatever this or that detail was important, explained
    problems I saw either in their negatives or the technique they wanted to do. It is important to understand that sometimes it’s just impossible to make a print a photographer wants if the negative just doesn't have the contrast, density, information, etc in it. You can't make a "Moonrise over Hernandez" type of print from an under exposed negative. Its just not going to happen, period. Having worked in a professional photo studio, and being a photographer of sorts myself, helped in the communication process with the photographer, which is the key. I know what questions to ask, and what problems might arise, during the printing of the negative. I know how to ask what the photographer might want to achieve, and during this discussion, most if not all any miscommunication that can
    arise was dealt with.
    After a while of working this way, and treating the photographers, and their negatives, like they want to be treated, it came to a point where I very rarely even had to talk to the photographer. They gave me complete control of their images, and trusted me to know what to do to achieve what they themselves, had they anywhere near the amount of experience and ability I have, would do. This is of course a very good compliment of my ability and their trust in me. My work evolved into having the photographers giving me their negs and asking me to "make me look good" or "do your magic". Believe me, I was honored.

    Now during the printing process, some things just happen that you just don't expect and those nice little "wonders" can lead a photographer and his/her vision to concepts they hadn't thought of, or envisioned, before. This is where having an experienced and trusted printer, who does printing on a daily basis, can be a real benefit for the photographer who most often is shooting, or at least should be, daily. Take this example...look in the upper left of
    this page http://studioclement.com/portfolio/portfolio.html the image of the sepia toned girl. The photographer had a much different idea in mind for this, but while I was printing it, I "saw" this look and thought it best. Of course I could do what she wanted, but I felt this was a better rendition. When I gave her the print, she was at first a bit hesitant, because she was stuck on what she had in her minds eye and not the beauty of this print. She took it back
    to her studio, with the "let me think about it" line. 2 days later, not only did she call to tell me she loved it, but that it was her next national promotion piece and was going to be prominently placed on her site. (Her original use of this shot was just for a test of the model and she had no plans to use it in any widely distributed way).

    And while this is the norm for my relationships with my clients, there has been that occasion or two when we completely disagreed on how an image should look. While printing a portfolio for one client (66 images, 15 prints each image) there was one image of 2 girls in a wooden swing under a tree. The background was a brightly lit area of
    ground, bushes, etc. but the girls had a wonderful mid and lower range contrast to them. I printed the image with
    little or no detail in those blown out areas, concentrating on the beautiful range of tones within the area of the girls (they were prominent in the scene BTW). Upon delivering the portfolio, and going thru them with him, the only one he didn't like was that one. He wanted more detail in the blown out background. I begged to differ, explaining, as I'd seen in my initial tests for the print, that the amount of detail he wanted would distract from the girls and they wouldn't "stand out" as much. Well, for about 20 minutes we went back and forth, both holding our perspective vision. Finally I relented because, after all, it was his image. Telling him he was wrong, though, I kept my version for my book, and agreed to do the image the way he wanted. The resulting prints were what he wanted, but in my opinion, it was wrong. We still to this day argue about that one image, and that was 10 years ago. It just goes to
    show you that at some point, a printer must relent, but can still disagree. I guess because I put so much of myself into my work, that even though I didn't snap the shutter, I still feel a part of its creation, and treat my printing as such.

    One of the posts above talked of the "value" of a print done by someone other than the photographer. Its a good thing to bring up, and there are many opinions about the subject. Unfortunately for me, it has affected me on one occasion and relates to the issue as a whole. One of my favorite clients, the one who not only wanted me to explore so many new things with his images, but who also would come into the darkroom with me to watch, and try to learn, was showing at the SF photo fest event that happens every year. He had just decided to get a rep to sell his fine art work (he's very particular how his images are "shown to the public") and he was the most prominent photographer in the reps booth. (BTW, I "created" for this photog a specific look that I personally haven't seen before, although it is
    based on the Lith printing technique, but done much differently than any variation I've seen before). Having "invested" a lot of time and effort into this photog, his style and his work, I was pleased to see so many people looking at his images, admiring them and the way they were presented, meaning the printing. This one perspective buyer was talking to the rep and photog when he asked if he'd printed the image himself. The photog paused, glanced over to me a few feet away, looked back at the buyer and said "yes". I headed for the open bar. After a while, the photog found me and explained to me that the buyer wouldn't have bought the print, at $800, otherwise. He went on to explain that yes he'd lied, and in an effort to justify it, said that it would allow him to continue printing more images with me, etc. I made pleasant comments congratulating him on the sale and such, and left shortly thereafter. But the point, and damage, had been done. There is no way in hell that photographer could have ever printed the image the way I did. (Hell, because of the technique, I couldn't do it more than 3 times in a row, and not all being the same, without having to start all over from scratch with new chemicals.) And if he couldn't have printed it that way, would the buyer had even thought it interesting enough to give it a second thought? Personally I don't think so because of the technique. It adds so much more (and this coming from everyone who has seen it not just me) to the image, and the emotion the photographer wants to evoke. So if this is the case, why couldn't the photog just fess up and actually "enhance" the situation, and defend his reasoning for hiring a master printer to contribute and enhance his work, under his guidance of course. A simple explanation to an obviously ignorant-of-the-facts buyer IMHO would not only have been an education but a firm stance on what printers can and do bring into the creative process. This brings up the above mentioned fact that AA's prints, done by him, sell for more than ones done by his printers. I am of the opinion that this concept in the art buying world is complete and utter horsesh*t!
    Sorry to be so blunt, but because it hit home, I have a strong opinion on the matter. As an example, that little darling of the art world in the late 60's early 70's Andy Warhol for the most part didn't do one bit of the work that bears his name, AND YET, his work sold quite well, and for a lot of money. No one cared, and in fact, it might have been an enhancement that he didn't do most of it. Jeff Koons is an example of an artist today working in the same manner. Any sculpture by Rodin was never done by him, he worked with a foundry. Conductors of classic music are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to "interpret" the musical score of composers who died long ago. What was that Adams said about the negative and the print? My point is this, if some gallery owner or collector think that’s all that matters, whether the photographer printed the image or not (did the photog make the emulsion, coat the film, the paper, make the chemicals from scratch?) then IMO they are not seeing the big picture and are clinging to a very unsubstantiated concept that seems to be regulated to photography alone. Here in Europe, or at least Paris, a printer is given credit at any exhibition they print, right under the name of the photographer. In books too. The printer is understood to be a creative part of the process and a partner with the photographer in its creation. Its a given and is not in the least looked down upon. Every year there are articles on famous photographers, and within those articles, there is always a section by and with the printer. It is very different than in the states, where we are even having this discussion. This was one of my reasons/pros for moving to Paris was the recognition of the printer as an artist in their own rights.

    I hope this has been somewhat informative and not too long, although I can see there's a lot to read here. I wanted to explain it as if we were talking, and give background to the information and opinions I was giving, thinking that it would help with the understanding. Thank you for allowing me to join the discussion and excuse me if I wrote too much.

    Alexis

    www.alexisneel.com
     
  42. Alexis

    Thanks for your written efforts to help give insight to the question posed.
     
  43. Alexis, thanks very much for your response, much appreciated and really interesting. I do appreciate that the expertise and experience offered by a master printer could undoubtedly bring qualities and a quality to an image that are beyond the capabilities of the photographer. I would for instance have no hesitation employing the services of a third party printer for exhibition prints of commercial work. However I would argue that your input and intervention, despite involvement and consultation with the photographer, results in an hybrid work, the photographers image but your interpretation.
    As an artist, I and I alone realise the concept and execution of my paintings. I doubt most artists would question the validity and value of the work being ‘of the artist’. There are exceptions of course, the example of you have given of Andy Warhol for instance, indeed Warhol’s concept was of third party images and execution (sorry no pun intended!).
    I have no doubt that the prints you produce bring another dimension to the work of your clients, but herein lies my argument.
    Marc, as an addition to my previous response, the photographer who produces their own print file for third party output is producing their own print.
    Keith Laban Photography
     
  44. Keith - You seem set in your idea that a third party printer is an "intervention"
    in the creative process. But I thought I would offer up a few thoughts. My
    experiences are very similar to Alexis 's. One continuous experience that I
    have at our lab is the education of the photographer of what ALL the
    expressive possibilities are from their negatives. With this the first and most
    important question I ask a client is "what is the photograph about"? Meaning
    on all levels; emotionally, etc. From there an experienced printer can assist in
    the photographer in making even the most basic decissions (paper/developer
    combinations, surface,etc) An experienced printer can also introduce the
    photographer to techniques and materials, that the they might not have been
    aware of, that can inhance the photographers statement and vision. This
    happens more often than not. Perhaps you have never really worked with a
    true custom printer (few people really have), there are many people and
    places that refer to themselves as custom, but few that really are.
     
  45. Certainly Cartier-Bresson had no problem with others printing his negatives, as I studied under George Favre, CB's master printer for over 40 years, in Paris. If its good enough for CB, why should us inferiors have a problem with it?
     
  46. Keith: First of all, I have an issue with those who label themselves "fine art photographers" or artists. I know a lady down the street who calls herself an artist (She has an art degree) but makes some pretty horrible clay stuff...according to a repetitive formula. But..I recently watched a photographer just lose it completely at a local facility that had printed on of his photographs. (One each genuine 3-year old tempter tantrum) Obviously, it wasn't good enough, or didn't quite "fit" the mental model he had and what was handed to him across the counter. I think that some photographers are practical enough to delegate the printing process of their images to a competent party, while others will NEVER find somebody good enough to print THEIR ARTWORK...As for myself, I have had some images printed, but being inexperienced in the actual printing of pictures always accepted for what was returned to me. Now that I have my own equipment I can produce a wide variety and quality of images, but the expensive of this experimentation is daunting..the cost of the paper and the ink start to accumulate rapidly.
     

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