Subject Matter and Contact Printing

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ldh

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What do people think here about subject matter and contact printing...does anybody feel that there are certain subject matter or style that may not be fitting for this procedure...not speaking from a practical or workflow sense, just esthetically. For example do you think images from the reportage or social documentary spectrum be might be somehow inappropriate. I would love to see some examples of contacted images that werent landscape, still life or flower or tree studies. Maybe I dont get out enough.
 

Donald Miller

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I think that this is a matter of personal taste. Also it depends a great deal with the film format. When I was photographing with 12X20 inch film I found my subject matter to be more landscape oriented. I think that landscapes, by and large, are best suited to larger prints. With 8X10 I photograph landscapes and abstracts. My tastes for contact prints are more in keeping with more intimate subject matter. For me that would be abstracts in which sense of scale is not apparent. This is particularly true with 4X5 negatives. The small contact prints, when properly presented, draw viewers into the image.
 

jp80874

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I am just beginning to work with platinum contact printing. Having had the opportunity to briefly work as a student of Lois Conner, Bob Herbst and Andrea Modica I have realized that subject matter should best be decided by my inner interest, drives and passions.

My feeling is that the process chosen can augment some aspect of these subjects. For instance since tonal ranges in platinum are so much greater than silver I am looking for subject matter that benefits from that tonal range. Examples: Lois Conner shot in the mountains of China. The fog and the layering of distance shown in these mountains pictures became much more dramatic through the extended tonal range of platinum. I could not burn and dodge silver to produce that range. Bob Herbst has used this extended range to echo the cathedral stone work of Frederick Evans. In more modern architecture he has captured the reflections and tonal quality of glass and metal sided buildings in sun and moon light. Andrea Modica has made her emotionally charged pictures more dramatic through the extended range of shadows and draped fabric.

Go where your heart is. Because of that passion you already exceed the average competitor’s capability. Then let the technical benefits of your chosen medium add its improvements.

John Powers
Downtown Bath, Ohio

Examples:
Lois Conner: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/conner_exhibition2.htm
Bob Herbst: http://www.bobherbst.com/
Andrea Modica: http://www.edelmangallery.com/modica.htm
 

Max

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Like Donald touched on, I think LF tends to get used for static subjects more just because it's a little harder to get reportage-type shots from under the darkcloth.

4x5 does make it easier (think Weegee), but many people just think a 4x5 contact print is too small.

Having said that, though, I photograph my infant daughter with a 4x5 and I like the little contact prints.
 

lee

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I generally use 5x7 and 8x10 for portraiture. I have tried to learn to be a landscape shooter but I like things a little more intimate. Largeformat suits my purposes for what I do.

lee\c
 

matt miller

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ldh said:
What do people think here about subject matter and contact printing...does anybody feel that there are certain subject matter or style that may not be fitting for this procedure...not speaking from a practical or workflow sense, just esthetically. For example do you think images from the reportage or social documentary spectrum be might be somehow inappropriate.

Contact printing is very appropriate for any subject, as long as you're willing to live with smaller prints for certain subjects. Enlarging negatives digitally is another option. One I will consider in the future.


ldh said:
I would love to see some examples of contacted images that werent landscape, still life or flower or tree studies. Maybe I dont get out enough.

The size of the negative has a lot to do with the subject being photographed. It is just a lot easier to chose stationary subjects (landscapes, abstracts, & still lifes) for LF work. Obviously not the only choices for subject matter, just simpler when using LF. I force myself to make a portion of my LF work "non-traditional". I try to make photos with the 8x10 that I'd normally choose a smaller format for. It's a difficult task though.
 

rbarker

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If one wants nice large contact prints of PJ-style images, one could always use an old Gowland 8x10 TLR. Unfortunately, not everyone can lift them. :wink:
 

Deckled Edge

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The question, "How big is a picture?" is kinda like "How long is a rope?"
The photograph hanging on the wall of the Smithsonian would be too big for the back bathroom. The intimate print of whatever in your den, would get lost in a long hallway at work.
These are givens, but the question of content depends upon who's looking, and what are they looking for. A 4x5 contact print is too small if it can't convey the required information--30 kids at a birthday party and I'm looking for mine; the Class of '88 standing in front of the Coloseum; or Jason Giambi is picked off at third in a close call.
What a contact print brings to the table is SHARP. What it demands is a larger negative, and there's the trade-off. No sports or wildlife photographer uses big film anymore because of the hassles. Sharp is not the necessary commodity. Quick and handy are what counts.
If you must have sharp, contact print. If you must have sharp of the hockey game (not NHL, of course) you will be the only guy in the stands with an 8x10.
 

arkoshkobash

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I only contact print, so I treat all subject matter the same, as far as printing goes. I have access to a few different formats, and given the luxury, I will choose the format that I feel best suits the subject matter. If not, I try to work within the constraints of the format I'm using. I find that smaller formats require simple, bold compositions, that do not rely on an exhaustive revelation of detail. Larger formats permit compositions within compositions, and favor exquisite detail. I'm not interested in enlarging at this point in my education.
 

juan

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I also only contact print. I find myself shooting large, traditional landscapes and urbanscapes with my 8x10 - and shooting small, intimate abstracts with my 2x3. I don't know why - it just seems correct to me.
juan
 

George Losse

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ldh said:
I would love to see some examples of contacted images that werent landscape, still life or flower or tree studies. Maybe I dont get out enough.

ldh,
Contact printing is not limited to any type of photography. A LF negative can be made of any subject. Most people just find it easier to use other cameras to do those tasks and think a LF camera can't. What limits LF camera use is the photographer not the camera.

I once had a graphic shutter back for an 8x10 camera which had a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. I could have stopped a moving train with that back. I ended up doing that with the 4x5 speed graphic instead, because I found it easier to work with.

I have shot portraits and nudes with 8x10, 11x14 and 8x20 cameras. I may not have as much mobility to move around the subjects as someone shooting with a 35mm or even a MF camera, but I have tried to use that to my advantage rather then be limited by it.
 
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