Printed Prints

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Curt, May 21, 2007.

  1. Curt

    Curt Member

    Sep 22, 2005
    Pacific Nort
    Multi Format
    This last Saturday I had the pleasure to attend the Paul Strand exhibition of photographs at the Tacoma Art Museum
    in Tacoma Washington. The photographs were not large, some being very small, and all matted and framed in white
    metal. I had been looking forward to seeing the prints since the first of the year and finally made there. The
    other showing was of Frida Kalho, her life though photographs, which included many famous photographers
    photographing great artist. This was simply spectacular.

    Several Paul Strand photographs appeared darker than I had imagined and upon asking I was told they were
    illuminated correctly. Two photographs especially bothered me. I have seen them reproduced in books and the vast
    shadow areas contain a lot of details. The two photographs in the show had no shadow details in very large areas
    of the images. At the show were two books by Strand, Photographs of the Southwest. I opened it up to the two
    photographs, walked over to them and held the book up and compared. The actual photographs were void of shadow
    detail but the book reproductions had the shadow detail. In my mind it should have been the other way around. A
    reproduction usually, but not always, would lose detail and not gain it.

    I ordered two books by Paul Strand, which are on the way, and will be eager to see the prints in the books. Anyone
    who can't get to the galleries due to location, time, or other reasons, get some books and don't feel that you are
    missing everything there is to offer. I have found that a couple of printings of an image can give you a very good
    impression. Apparently the printing is the performance as Adams would say.

    Because of the lack of quality of Verizon DSL I had to compose in text and cut and paste into the thread.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2007
  2. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura Member

    Nov 21, 2005
    San Clemente, California
    Multi Format
    The display by museums of gelatin silver prints under inadequate illumination is epidemic today. Photographers invariably printed for much higher viewing light levels, but curators defer to conservators and the lumens get severely restricted. Low value details are then obscured, just as you observed.

    When books are printed, modern controls can be applied and the process is optimized for expected viewing conditions. After attending Weston and Strand museum shows during the last few years, I agree that books are a better way to see the work. Only if a private collector is willing to display prints under "vintage" illumination levels can one more fully appreciate the images.
  3. George Collier

    George Collier Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    Richmond, VA
    Multi Format
    So the prints were illuminated "correctly" (did Strand leave instructions?), or by what standard? I think I agree with the comment about conservators' recommendations, if they are original artist produced prints.
    About the books, I have seen this in the past also. Makes me wonder if the original negs were scanned and carefully P-shopped to emulate the prints, with speculated "improvements"...
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

    May 17, 2006
    Northern Aqu
    35mm RF
    Dear Curt,

    I have often seen the same thing. I first became aware of this almost 40 years ago with a Bill Brandt exhibition at Dartington Hall. Since then I've been disappointed by (in particular) Ansel Adams, Karsh of Ottawa and Aleksandr Rodchenko exhibitions -- to name only the worst. In my steadily growing experience, prints in repro often raise unrealistic expectations for originals.


  5. Mark H

    Mark H Member

    Oct 28, 2003
    A few years ago I was scheduled to have a show of my photos and chose my favorite (which I was quite proud of) to have printed on the post card invitations. When I saw the postcards, I was quite humbled, as they managed to capture that elusive glow which the original only hinted at. I was petrified that anyone attending would be disappointed that the prints didn't live up to the postcard! So I went and reprinted that photo --many times--until I felt it was worthy.
    It did help me improve my printing skills...