Mark Tucker : Journal

Run The Other Way

Posted in Personal by marktucker on February 23, 2012

(Yellow highlighter emphasis is mine).

I saw a link on Facebook yesterday, posted by Jan Ellis, about the massive increase in the number of photographs being taken in the last few years. This is of course due to the cell phone cameras and other P/S digital consumer cameras. But it does make me wonder about the mind-numbing effect of seeing that many images, all around me. And also the effect that it has on society at large. For me, as a photographer for over thirty years, it sends a chill up my spine, and makes me want to run the other way. Below is a key graph from the article, and here is the URL for the complete story.

I start thinking about alternative approaches to image-making at times like this. People like Adam Fuss, Richard Learoyd, Abelardo Morell, the wet-plate practitioners, and John Chiara’s camera built on a utility trailer, Chris McCaw’s 30×40 inch view camera on location, or maybe the craziest of all — Dennis Manarchy’s mammoth view camera that rides in a trailer.

I don’t know all the details, but the fascinating thing about Learoyd’s work is that there is no camera involved. It’s basically a pinhole camera, with him in one room, and the model in the other, and he tapes “positive paper” to the wall. No camera, no negative — the paper is sent straight to the lab, and every image is a 1/1 original. Same thing with much of Adam Fuss’ work; most of his are photograms — no camera involved. Same is true for Morell’s work — he rents a hotel room across the street from a famous scene, and then blacks out the room, and then turns the hotel room into a giant pinhole camera! Stunning work from all these men mentioned.

© Richard Learoyd. All Rights Reserved.

© Adam Fuss. All Rights Reserved.

5 Responses

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  1. jcsphotographs said, on February 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Mark,

    I just had a conversation with the guy who owns my studio building this morning about this. Lately I’ve been switching my cameras to ‘one shot’, and gravitating towards my 4×5 and alternative printing. I, like many others, rely on digital work to pay the bills, but when I think of the most rewarding work that I do, it surely isn’t hammering out 11 fps at the side of a basketball court or lacrosse field.

    Thanks for your insights. Love the link to Learoyd’s work.

  2. Francesco Fragomeni said, on February 23, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    I strongly agree with Mark on this. Proportionally, the ratio of the quantity of work to the quality of work being produced today is heavily HEAVILY skewed toward quantity. A major side effect of the diffusion of digital technology is the almost entirely unacknowledged change in how people view work. The majority of images today are viewed on a computer screen via the internet. Viewing all of this work on a screen not only standardizes everything we see in regard to size and presentation but it also serves only as a representation of the work, not the work itself (with the exception of work designed to be viewed specifically in this manner). People seemed to have forgotten about the experience of seeing a fine print hanging in front of them. The screen is incapable of rendering the subtle nuances of paper choice, how silver sits in gelatin, how platinum embeds itself in the fibers of a paper, even how ink lays on a quality rag paper. The screen fails at all of this but those things are undeniably critical characteristics of a finished fine print and they absolutely influence the success and emotional impact of an image on a viewer. An image is not just an image; a fine art print is a physical object characterized by far more then simply a picture. Every bit of the physical presence, size, printing choices, and the indescribable soul of a fine print is lost when it is only seen on a screen. Honestly, I don’t believe the majority of people today are even aware of this and this is HUGE! For people interested in seeing great work and for those who’s work is influenced by what they see on the internet, it is critical that they understand the limitations of what a computer screen is capable of rendering and presenting. The same always held true for images in print in books and magazines except people (including publishers) seemed to be much more aware of the differences in these cases and made that clear. The phenomena of seeing uber-standardized images everywhere and almost never seeing the real tangible thing (as far as fine art goes) has clearly influenced the quality of work being produced today.
    The internet is possibly the greatest tool ever created by man and while it brings an immense amount of information to our finger tips, it is not a substitute for tangible reality. We have a responsibility to not allow access to information to blind us to the importance of the physical object and presence of art.

  3. Max Hirshfeld said, on February 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I saw two of Learoyd’s prints in Miami during Art Basel and was blown away. Aside from the flawlessness of the imagery and the timelessness of the subject matter/work, there is almost a sense of walking around INSIDE the photo that is equally powerful and almost incomparable.
    Thanks for mentioning him and for this topic thread.

  4. Forrest MacCormack said, on February 24, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Mark – as usual – very thought provoking and insightful post. The thing is, with all those billions (trillions?) of images being made.. most of them are not going to last. The devices they are stored upon are basically “disposable” or are technological inventions waiting for their built-in obsolescence to occur(which in the digital world happens really, really fast). Most people don’t think about backing up their files or give it a second thought. Cell phones break and the files on them die with the phone. Computers get upgraded and the files don’t get backed up. I’m really talking about the teeming masses here. Most photographers are a bit better about backing up files than the teeming masses. (emphasis on most).

    The real images will last. The images made with care, precision, thought and meaning, the images of historical significance. Just because it was made on Instagram and looks cool..doesn’t mean it will last. The junk will eventually wind up in the waste basket. I agree there is a ton of imagery out there.

    I’m enjoying going back and working with the large format 8×10 camera now. I expose maybe 6-8 sheets of film on an outing. With digital.. I photograph nearly everything. I’m working on finding something to photograph that will have a purpose and meaning.

  5. Virgil Mlesnita said, on February 26, 2012 at 5:03 am

    “Running the other way” is running/seeking refuge in Quality, which, in most of the cases is obtained at a slow pace. But of course, just thinking about the huge amount of imagery produced nowadays can determine a limitation in one’s photographic output.
    I see there is some kind of revival in the old, alternative techniques, especially in the States. I see in this rather a desire for novelty, for uniqueness in general. Mastering such difficult processes seems to be equaled to highly qualitative art photography. Technique alone however cannot replace art photography, no matter which gear is used.
    Then there is another aspect: digital is very accessible from the financial point of view. Once you buy the camera you can focus on growing as a photographer. I wish I could use large format but for the moment that is way beyond my financial possibilities… But I promise to never go beyond 36 shots a day :))
    Also, thank you very much for mentioning all these photographers. I only knew Abelardo Morell. Adam Fuss was a new revelation!


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