New Topographics increasingly means color

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DREW WILEY

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awty - look up the work of the famous American painter Edward Hopper. That will give you a clue to the kind of influence behind all of this. And then certain "photo realist" painters became an ongoing contemporaneous influence. But it wasn't a one-way street. Even Degas, a major post-Impressionist painter, adopted a certain look and image cropping reminiscent of the photographs of his era. Surrealist painters admired Atget's photos. So it goes.
 
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jtk

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awty - look up the work of the famous American painter Edward Hopper. That will give you a clue to the kind of influence behind all of this. And then certain "photo realist" painters became an ongoing contemporaneous influence. But it wasn't a one-way street. Even Degas, a major post-Impressionist painter, adopted a certain look and image cropping reminiscent of the photographs of his era. Surrealist painters admired Atget's photos. So it goes.

Drew, those are interesting thoughts.

Perhaps as importantly, that label seems embraced by people who feel a need for labels.

What about their other labels? Film Vs Digital? Gender ? Politics? Sports team? Ford or Chevrolet?

Laboring to re-organize about 25 years of photos, I clearly recall that many are/were exercises in graphic simplicity and for that reason lack "meaning" and people.
I could probably assemble 100 prints that someone would call "New Topographic."

"Street photography" means avoidance human contact for some of us.

"New Topographic" may suggest something similar.
 

DREW WILEY

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Bluntly, New Topographics might just mean old topographics with some garbage, tire tracks, or other manmade clutter in the foreground. Gimmicks. Seen plenty of that kind of nonsense. But such stereotypes shouldn't condemn all that imagery which does have a lot more than superficial trendy content.
 

Arthurwg

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Bluntly, New Topographics might just mean old topographics with some garbage, tire tracks, or other manmade clutter in the foreground. Gimmicks. Seen plenty of that kind of nonsense. But such stereotypes shouldn't condemn all that imagery which does have a lot more than superficial trendy content.

Sorry Drew, but your understanding of New Topographics is shallow and uninformed, and perhaps rather hostile. There's a lot more to it than you suggest. If you are really interested, I suggest you have a look at "Lewis Baltz Texts," published by Steidel.
 

DREW WILEY

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I've read Balt'z own pretentious statements. Yeah, sure, for example, aim a camera allegedly randomly per predetermined direction at a subdivision development, print it. But the fact is, not only is the plan premeditated, but there is a selection process afterwards, with only a certain esthetic representations included. Sure sounds like someone fishing for some kind of grant or pat on the head from the academic art community to me. Maybe I'm not the one thinking shallowly. But I really don't care, cause this is all about taxonomic labels anyway. Call it "fishing for detritus with a lens" if you want. The "New Topo" got old half a century ago. Nothing to see here, folks, move along....
 

Arthurwg

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Why pretentious? That's just an insult. It's not about labels, it's about ideas. Those ideas are far reaching and very much alive today. Ideas seem to make you angry.
 

DREW WILEY

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Neither ideas nor photographs themselves need to be pigeonholed to be relevant. Taxonomy is a critic's or academic's profession; actual photographic expression often something else. And yes, I meant it as an insult - not an insult to any specific photographer, but to the parasitic trend which comes with the territory of an urge to generically classify things. Who needs to be caged into some old stereotype? Just do it, and don't worry what someone else calls it.
 

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Neither ideas nor photographs themselves need to be pigeonholed to be relevant. Taxonomy is a critic's or academic's profession; actual photographic expression often something else. And yes, I meant it as an insult - not an insult to any specific photographer, but to the parasitic trend which comes with the territory of an urge to generically classify things. Who needs to be caged into some old stereotype? Just do it, and don't worry what someone else calls it.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ – is a quotation from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, spoken by Juliet Capulet (Act 2, Scene 2) to herself whilst on her balcony, but overheard by Romeo Montague.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

 

DREW WILEY

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Yeah .... "new topographics" has a lovely poetic feel to it, doesn't it, really Shakespearean. Sound more like a label atop an insect collection box full of the smell of mothballs, and not roses. The quote itself is appropriate, and does reflect my own feelings. Thanks.
 

Arthurwg

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Amazing that folks have strong opinions about things they know nothing. But yes, they can substitute ridicule for knowledge. The point is, as you mention, that a photo should be "relevant." The problem is that many, if not most photos are irrelevant. The goal is to get beyond that.
 
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DREW WILEY

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Yeah, none of us ole geezers know nuthin'. Downright illiterut, we all. Never read an art history book in our whole dern lives, or ever visited a museum. Jes plain iggorunt. Get used to it. Ridicule has been around as long as art has. The funny thing is that ridicule itself often evolves into an art genre, like Dada or Pop Art - not ideal taxonomic pigeonholes either, but at least Pop is a suitable abbreviation for Poop Art.
Too bad William Wegman posed his hounds in a studio instead of in a new topo setting. Then he'd be twice as famous.
 

Arthurwg

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Twice and as famous, like you? Well DW, you can have the last word if you want. You're welcome to it.
 
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tomatojoe

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Wonderful thread! THANKS @Arthurwg and @jtk .
Man's mark on the environment is a fascinating subject and can be interpreted so many different ways.
Color or black and white, it is the EYES that see it.
I feel very sad for cubbyhole and pigeonhole thinkers.
 

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Wonderful thread! THANKS @Arthurwg and @jtk .
Man's mark on the environment is a fascinating subject and can be interpreted so many different ways.

I agree. Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke. True American treasures. Thank to their intelligence, acumen and mastery of the medium, American film photography is not just a bunch of old boring bearded men making saccharine large format prints of some ugly rockface in some California natural park - though with all shadows correctly placed in zone III.

I treasure my Steidl prints of 'From the Missouri West' and 'Cottonwoods'. Utter XX century photography masterpieces.
 
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Vaughn

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I agree. Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke. True American treasures. Thank to their intelligence, acumen and mastery of the medium, American film photography is not just a bunch of old boring bearded men making saccharine large format prints of some ugly rockface in some California natural park - though with all shadows correctly placed in zone III.

...

And thankfully American film photography is just not a bunch of old boring men.
 

lxdude

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Apparently he had a preference for the Palo Alto Kodak Kodachrome lab - he would often take his (developing included) Kodachrome into my Dad's Customer service department at the North Vancouver Kodak Canada lab and have it forwarded to Palo Alto for processing. Which of course made no logical sense, because Palo Alto and North Vancouver had almost identical technical benchmarks for Kodachrome processing. My Dad just shrugged it off as typical photographer eccentricity. He did remember him though, and not just because of the volume of Kodachrome he shot.
Well actually... with Kodachrome more than any other, the quality of processing depended on the quality of the people doing it. As I understand, Kodachrome processing required an on-site chemist.

In '77 I had some K64 come back from the L.A. lab dirty- crud was stuck to some of the slides, embedded in the emulsion. That was the last straw. I had been less than fully happy with them for a while, seeing some greenish color casts in neutral areas, purple skies, fluorescing of reds, and pinholes. My processing had been going out through a local shop, as back then Kodak picked it up, which I trusted more than mailers because it was very unlikely to get lost. I was in Southern California, so all my film went to the L.A. lab.
After that I was thoroughly disgusted with Kodak processing, so for a time I sent everything through my local shop to an independent called Fox Photo, who I had tried and found excellent results with, cheaper than Kodak. Their cutting and mounting was not as consistent as Kodak, though.

I decided to buy Kodak mailers and send them off to all the U.S. labs the mailers listed, and look for differences between them. I found quickly that the Palo Alto lab was a cut above. Consistent color, with neutral whites and shadows. Not saying others were bad (except L.A., they were bad), but Palo Alto was best. So I standardized on sending my film there. The lab in (if memory serves) Fair Lawn, N.J. was to my eye equal or close to it, but I still considered Palo Alto the best, plus my film didn't have to travel as far.

When I read criticisms of Kodachrome by people who tried it and didn't like it, especially when they mention odd color or color casts, I always wonder if they got bad processing.
 

MattKing

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As I understand, Kodachrome processing required an on-site chemist.

I don't think there was a chemist on-site at the North Vancouver lab, but at least half the management were engineers :smile:.
I believe that the quality control for all three Canadian Kodak labs was a company-wide (Canadian Kodak/Kodak Canada) effort. Although my Dad, as Customer Service manager, was part of the marketing division, he was frequently involved in country wide telephone meetings, all of which were scheduled on Toronto time (3 hours later). Those meetings involved marketing people, lab people, camera repair people, etc., etc.
 
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redbandit

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isnt this a derivitave of the german school of photography where they specialized in taking photographs of industrial things like water towers and grain elevators and making them art pieces?
 
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