Dilemma; art and the post shutter production method

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livemoa

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OK, I have ethical and personal problems giving me the run around.

Am I still an artist (I know, the art word) if I have someone else develop and print my film?

Some background, I have an unrealistic fear of chemicals, bought on by various factors in my life (post traumatic stress after almost dying of the bends, getting poisoned working on a house in my early twenties and a raft of other things.) This makes working in the darkroom a real struggle on so many levels its not funny. I can get people to do the darkroom work, and I am starting to progresivly "de-sensitise" from these (irrational) problems.

I have a very clear vision of what I want to do, and the asistance of two very capabile photographers who will do my darkroom work, but I have this nagging feeling that I should "get over it" and do the work. People tell me that many artists have used outside help (Bresson, Maplethorpe, to name two) and that many painters used asisitants to paint background and clothes (Titian for example) under supervision. Then lets not even go near Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman (who I think are great) but....what do you all think? Can I seriously make this work, and be honest to myself and collectors?
 

Juraj Kovacik

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David, I don't think that what I can feel when I'm looking at my pictures is something more then you can feel when you are looking at your pictures, not only becouse my pictures were printed by me personaly ... Do your work in the best and even better way you can and don't let be disturbed with these "to be or not to be author" questions...

It would be great if I can see some of your works. Is there any address on the net where you post your images? JK
 

127

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I was kicking this idea around yesturday (much to the annoyance of my girlfriend who takes my accademic ponderings far too personally...), but this comes back to the idea of "who is the photographer"?

Cindy Sherman oftern didn't "press the button", so thats not it. On the other hand it's not the person who sets up the scene - that could often be a whole group of people (some acting unconsiously), that have led to that particular arangement of objects/light/people etc - I'm sure you'd claim that you street photographs are your's and not the work of the people walking past.

Simlarly the person printing the work is in a strictly technical sense "taking a photograph of your negative", so has as much claim to have "taken a photograph" of a found object, as you would claim to have if you took a photograph of something you saw in the street (or someone hired you to photograph their kids). They frame the image in a "viewfinder" of some kind, set the exposure, and take a picture, so they clearly have some rights.

The problem ultimatly is that we're looking for something that just doesn't exist. It's perhaps easier to draw parallels with the film industry. Lord of the Rings is seen as Peter jackson's work. But he took every scene from the book, he didn't write a word of the screenplay. Be didn't build any of the sets, he didn't appear in any of the shots (actually he might have had a cameo as a dwarf...). He didn't even OPERATE THE CAMERA. He also didn't actually do any of the editing, or perform any of the music.

Despite he almost complete LACK of an identifiable contribution we have no problems accepting that they are his work, because ultimatly he was RESPONSIBLE for every descision, even if he didn't make that decision himself. The director of a film is "where the buck stops" (at least creativly).

In practise a film is always the work of many people, who each make their own creative input. In some cases the director is just seen as an organiser, and these directors have long careers making relativly sucsessfull studio movies. In other cases the director is seen as an "auteur" who creates the movie out of his own will - Hitchcock, Kubrick, Lynch, Besson. These people often make more unique movies, though frequently less sucessful.

However even the great Auteurs are a myth of their own making - Cappra as seen as a political/humanist film maker, yet only 3 or so of his films were on this theme - all produced and created by one studio team. When he left this team his work faltered. The Auteurs succeed because of the team they put together.

There's a human need to create hero's - the auteur film director who struggles to get his vision on the screen, but its not like that. The Director is just the person who leads the team, making sure that they're all chasing the SAME vision. Of course the director shapes that vision, but its rarely his alone.

The same thing applies to the photographer. We'd like to imagine that the photographer is this tortured artist, creating work from nothing, but in practise there's usually more people involved - from the people that designed and built the camera, made the film, the model, the guy in the studio who say "why don't you try this?", through to the printer.

In photography things are muddied slightly as historically there are those who where the whole deal - that build their camera's, made their own wet plates, took the photo, and printed it. I don't think many people here can claim responsibility for the WHOLE process. I don't think may would actually want to do that (actually sounds like a fantastic project!). Certainly no one would look down on you for using a camera you didn't build yourself (except perhaps in the pinhole forum...).

Ultimatly the photographer is the person (or persons) that "creates the image". They WILL have people helping them. The degree will vary - embrace it. Work with the guys who want to help you - if they're great darkroom guys, then use that to help both of you. If between you, a great image is produced, then there's enough credit for everyone. Make it clear when taking credit, who did what (it makes you look better anyway!). Depending on the darkroom contribution that could be anything from equal billing to a simple thank you.

Adams said that printing a negative was like performing a score. Some people are singer/songwriters, others write of other performers. The composer and musician stand side by side. The Auteur photographer is a myth, just as it is in film.

Ian
 

sparx

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You are an artist. You composed your image, you set shutter speed and aperture to produce the effect you wanted, you chose your film speed, you can explain your vision to someone in the darkroom who is also an artist, just in a different, albeit related, medium.

I once heard a story about a famous and controversial artist here in the UK called Damien Hurst. A solicitor was a huge Hurst fan who bought his 'Spot' paintings (basically a load of different colored circles in row and columns) whenever he had a chance and decided he wanted to commision one for his new offices.
Hurst sent him several pots of different coloured paints, a set of compasses and a scale drawing of what colours to place where and the solicitor doe it himself. Got charged £12,000 for the priveledge but was well chuffed with his Damien Hurst original. The interveiwer (slightly speechless) asked what happens when he moves offices. The man replied that he has to paint over the spots and redo them on the new wall!
 

Ed Sukach

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livemoa said:
OK, I have ethical and personal problems giving me the run around.
Am I still an artist (I know, the art word) if I have someone else develop and print my film?
Some background, I have an unrealistic fear of chemicals, ..
I have a very clear vision of what I want to do, and the asistance of two very capabile photographers ...
Can I seriously make this work, and be honest to myself and collectors?

I don't think your fear of chemicals is all that unreasonable. There seems to be a fairly solid foundation for it if flawed logically: "Some chemicals hurt me; therefore, ALL chemicals will hurt me".

Somewhere around here, I have a "Product Safety Sheet" describing a compound that reacts *violently* with certain chemicals ... an overdose of it can cause the cessation of breathing, and death. OSHA recommends protective gear, including eye protection whenever it is used. The compound... WATER.

I have most of the Product Safety Sheets for the chemicals *I* use in the darkroom ... and without "mixing your own" the commercially prepared developers, including C-41 and RA-4, and E-6 color chemicals are not to be feared. The only item with a poison label is 28% Acetic Acid, which is diluted a *bunch* to make a working solution ... far below the acidity of table vinegar.

Now ... Ethically? I think that the really significant "core" of anyone's art is the CONCEPT (careful here -- there is *much* more than simple thought here - *"VISION*"-"soul", "psyche", "being" and many other factors that are best described as "aesthetic"). That concept is supported by technique.
You are asking if it is acceptable to have someone else HELP support your vision-concept.
Of course it is... We can always reduce a question like this to its lowest common denominator - is it "ethical" for a painter to use oils purchased ready-mixed in tubes - or must we restrict art to pigments ground by the artist and mixed, by her/him, with egg whites - tempura? Can the painter claim that he was "ethical" if someone else supported him/her by manufacturing his brush? Is the photographer "ethical" if s/he uses film manufactured by someone else ... or a camera lens, or tripod...?

I prefer to process my own work. I *need* the additional flexibility of "controlling my own", and the communication problems between me and someone else are too frustrating for me to handle - besides I am a rather severe introvert - preferring to "do things myself" as part of my "nature" - but I am by no means suggesting that as an absolute "right way" for everyone.

If we place an inviable requirement of "Must do own darkroom work" on all photographic art, we will eliminate an enormous body of work as "unethical."

Interesting - I just re-read the Camera and Darkroom interview with Jock Sturges -- (while I was waiting for the JOBO to turn). He *HATES* darkroom work and processes *none* of his own work.
 

photomc

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David,
It really does not matter what anyone thinks but you. Give yourself a break, when/if you are ready to go into a darkroom and print you will. Everyone will have some comment if THEY think you are or are not an artist, just becuase someone else printed your work. Like Joe said - Get on with it, go make images and use all this energy to make art, not worries.
 

Ka

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livemoa, no worries. We all do what we can. I'm actually claustrophobic. Completely dark, enclosed spaces give me the super skin-crawling creepies. For that reason, I Never actually process my own film, which is too bad really. But, I am ok with that. I know and accept my own limitations, respecting myself for my abilities instead.

I only do my own black and white printing. Safe-light, you know.

ka
 

127

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Ed Sukach said:
Now ... Ethically? I think that the really significant "core" of anyone's art is the CONCEPT... That concept is supported by technique.
You are asking if it is acceptable to have someone else HELP support your vision-concept.

While I agree with most of what you say, I don't think it goes far enough. I don't think it goes far enough. I don't beleive that work is ever one persons vision. The other people involved not only help support your vision, but shape and refine it, into a final form. Perhaps in rare cases someone knows EXACTLY what they want, and can give completly unambiguous instructions, controlling every aspect, but in most cases that work is unlikly to be interesting (and the person creating it likely to be a complete jerk - consider the music of the beatles as a band to the DIRE rubbish they produced on their own, when each had total control of their vision).

Let's suppose you want to do a figure shoot - so you go to an agency to book a model. You describe EXACTLY what you want, and the person there says "I know someone who'd be perfect...". They show you a portfolio, and its great - better than you hoped: guess what, someone just shaped your vision.

On the shoot you describe what you want from the model. They interpret it. If its working well (and unless you're a total control freak), the model should be able to interpret what you're asking for in ways that are CREATIVE. Once again your vision is not just being supported by anothers contribution, but developed, and shaped.

These are both examples of GOOD THINGS. A good model (and agent) should be pushing to create the best work they can - thats why you hire them. If a model just did exactly as they were told and absolutly no more it would be a very tedious shoot.

Ed Sukach said:
is it "ethical" for a painter to use oils purchased ready-mixed in tubes.

ANY form of contribution is ethical - provided its recognised and credited. It would be unethical to claim you made the paints if you bought them. On the other hand provided you say that you bought them, no one will think any less of you.

At a higher level it's unethical to claim that a vision is entirely yours when others contributed to it. The degree of contribution will vary, and the necessary creditation should be considered on a case by case basis. In most cases explicit creative credit may not be necessary, a technical credit sufficing (with the creative input being implicit in doing a good job), but it should never be denied. It's more or less necessary for a photograph to be credited as the work of a photographer, but thats a myth that the photographer themselves shouldn't believe in too much.

Colaboration is ALWAYS a good thing, and is always ethical (provided its recognised) - its better to make a small contribution to a great work, than take total claim for a mediocre one.

Ian
 

Tom Duffy

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Many of the best photographers of the 20th century didn't do their own printing. Evans, HCB, Maplethorpe. More so when you consider color. One of my favorite Maplethorpe works is a now out of print book of portraits. All taken in 2 1/4 square, with a normal or short telephoto lens. Quite extraordinary.
Not doing your own printing would let you concentrate on the "vision" side of photography and eliminates the very real danger of becoming preoccupied with the craft side of things at the expense of saying something.
 

blansky

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Livemoa:

There is an "oriental wisdom" saying the means somethinig like this. If you till the soil, plant the seed, nurture the growth and make the harvest, then prepare and cook the food yourself, the food will taste better and nurture you better than anything that is storebought.

In photography there is something about the satisfaction gained by doing the work yourself that can never be achieved by farming parts of it out.

In your case, do what you have to do, until you can do what you want to do.


This disertation brought to you through the thoughtful guidance of Sensei Donald.




Michael McBlane
 

Donald Miller

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This disertation brought to you through the thoughtful guidance of Sensei Donald.




Michael McBlane

Michael,

Enough already...my monestary is overflowing with aspirants. When will I ever have time to till the soil and plant the food? Let alone put in the Koi pool and jacuzzi...
 

Aggie

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Ed Sukach said:
livemoa said:
Somewhere around here, I have a "Product Safety Sheet" describing a compound that reacts *violently* with certain chemicals ... an overdose of it can cause the cessation of breathing, and death. OSHA recommends protective gear, including eye protection whenever it is used. The compound... WATER.

It made the news this past weekend when a Southern California town was up in arms about the usage of this new evil chemical. It turned out to be the topic of a movement to ban it. *Dihydromonoxide* is just another name for water.

Livemoa You live in a world of chemicals. I understand your fear, and Like many have said, you do what you need to do for now. I would rather see you have the processing part done by others, than your images not processed at all. They can make contact sheets and work prints. From those you can decide which one to print, and how to crop/not crop what burning dodging etc that should be done to it. You can still make choices even if you don't actually get your gloved/non gloved hands in the trays.

Photography for most of us here is to enjoy. Have fun with it, and at your own pace ease into what you feel comfortable with.
 
OP
OP

livemoa

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Thanks for all the comments, wow, I am overwhelmed.

Part of my problem, i will admit, is desire to control the whole process, the other part of the problem is mixing dry chemicals..... (I use ABC Pyro and shoot mainly 10x8).

One day I will get over it (I have managed to get over worse things, I mean I can swim now... the water as a hazardous substance is true, especialy if you come up through it to quickly, as i found out..) but in the short term, i feel better about using "technicians" to do the "dirty" stuff. I will no doubt be able to get into the darkroom again sometime, but in the meantime I will make images that others will develop and print for me and credit them as part of the process.
 

CPorter

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If you can ever get your hands on a book called "Black and White Photgraphic Printing Work Shop" by Larry Bartlett and Jon Tarrant, you will see that all the photographs are taken by different photographers, but all are printed by Larry Bartlet. The book showcases Larry Bartlett's printing style with multigrade RC papers. The point here being that, in this example, I view the printer as an artists in the mastery of his craft, even though he did not take the photographs himself.
 

roy

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Chuck1 said:
I view the printer as an artists in the mastery of his craft, even though he did not take the photographs himself.

Quite right. The finished product and how you were involved with it is the key. Why try to define what exactly constitutes an artist ?
 
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