boy, oh boy. i bet the suspense has been killing you! all this time, stuck on number two... well, the wait is over. it would seem that a few sick friends and family members, along with a pregnancy and the fullness of our daily lives, has been enough to derail us for more than a month. but have no fear, we're coming back. we've got an all black & white series coming up, a series on buildings and architecture, and the month of august will be dedicated to a pic a day of summer! sorry for the delay, and without further procrastination:
she said: i like this one because i could never imagine taking this kind of picture!
it's entirely by coincidence that i had said in the last post, on Sudek and Koudelka, that my real black & white perspective started with their work, because if it starts with them, it ends with Moriyama. his work is gritty and dark, the contrast pushed to the breaking point. his presentation is the antithesis of what most people consider fine-art b & w photography.
when you first step into a darkroom, these are the easiest kinds of prints to turn out. it takes very little skill to blow out the contrast on a picture and make it look "artsy." it's much harder to produce a fine-grain image with a full balance of contrast and depth. high contrast work like Moriyama's, in lesser hands, tends to look flat, especially in contrast to a properly and masterfully printed silver gelatin print. seen in person, it will practically glow. when done on the level of a master printer, the prints are so well balanced in tone (showing a full range of black-to-gray-to-white gradation), they will almost appear to be three-dimensional. they pop.
many an art school photographer has been overheard pleading his or her case to a professor regarding the blown-out, high contrast images they may be currently producing. the ones that can make the argument stick are the ones for whom both the subject matter and an already proven ability to print "properly" has been established- before Picasso painted people's noses on their heads and their ears around their waists, he learned to paint them where they belong, and in an anatomically accurate way. so too, with photography. before you start getting your "art" on, you need to learn some basics.
in this digital age of photoshop and after effects, it's easy to let the crutch of technology take over your work. but if you talk to any working photographer, most will tell you that the best images are the ones you have to mess with the least. everybody color-corrects, or adjusts exposure levels, or tweaks details here and there, but any edits should be minimal. i emailed with a photographer whose work i found compelling, and he basically said what i think any good, or capable photographer has figured out. simply put, the image comes first. if you don't have a compelling image, any effort you put into it will fall short. get it correct, in-camera, and keep your post production to a minimum. minimal cropping, minimal adjustments.
i think it was Henri Cartier Bresson who admitted that he framed all of his images in-camera, and never cropped or centered during the printing process. with so many variables, to be worth anything as a photographer, i think you need to do the most you can on the basic levels of framing and light. after that, you're at the mercy of lens quirks, shutter lag, and a whole host of things you simply have no control over.
this of course brings us to the complicated issue of "image" making versus "print" production in photography. because presentation of the image can be so subjective and so much can be done to alter the original picture after the fact, a more mature photographer regards the taking of the picture and the production of a print, or final image, as two entirely different processes, which they are. some photographers treat a negative as a "sketch" of an image, and use the developing process as a way to flesh out their intent. others shoot what they consider to be fully formed images and use the developing process to simply polish. so much emphasis is placed on the process of print production that there are Master Print Makers whose sole trade is to produce high quality, superbly balanced prints from professional and artistic photographer's negatives. photographers that choose to print their own work can spend a lifetime learning the process and fine-tuning it to their work.
Moriyama's presentation, compared to the work of a Master Print Maker, looks hasty and almost amateurish, but is in actuality a deliberate style and not a lack of skill. by framing and choosing his subject matter carefully and thoughtfully he avoids being both one-dimensional, as well as common and boring. his images may not "pop" in the way that other photographer's images do, but when you look at his work it's hard not to get drawn in to what he's showing you, and the way in which he chooses to do it.
alright, this finally concludes our photographers/photos we like series- i hope people liked it and found it really drawn out. i mean, interesting. it was a lot of fun!
next up is, coincidentally, some black & whites- check back tomorrow when we kick that off!