Carrie or Peter Jacobson on thu 3 feb 00
I have only been in a couple of shows, but I have dealt with many
photographers; in fact, I am married to one. I do understand that, when it
comes to entering pots in shows, the quality of the photo matters -- but are
we selling short the people at the other end? Don't you all think they can
see the pot through the photo?
Certainly, a better photo can enhance a pot, and a terrible photo can
detract from one, but the people who look at these slides are experts, no?
They might drift from time to time, but I would think they'd have the
capacity and desire to see what is really there, instead of being distracted
by the presentation.
On another photographic topic, the idea of electronically altering photos
disturbs me. On one easily reachable level, a photo is supposed to be a
representation of what is there, what is seen. If you don't want it there,
(whatever it is) take it out before you shoot the photo, or shoot the photo
somewhere else, no?
Yes, photogs dodge and burn, and correct for color, though with slides, the
options in those areas are limited. And those tactics, in my book, are not
the same as subtracting things or adding things electronically. If you
alter the content of the photo, then, for me at least, that is the
equivalent of lying. It's like the difference between a piece that you wrote
and then gave to an editor, and a piece that was ghost-written.
Finally, NCECA. I've never been. I hope I can go next year, when it's on the
East Coast. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of whining on this list
about NCECA. Don't you people know how lucky you are? To have any conference
like this at all seems so spectacular, such an immense opportunity, yikes.
Perhaps it could be better -- what can't, eh? -- but for heaven's sake, all
you naysayers are missing the point here, and that is that this conference
exists at all.
Just my three cents' worth.
any flames or hate mail will not be read until Monday; I am away for the
Bruce Girrell on fri 4 feb 00
>On another photographic topic, the idea of electronically altering photos
>disturbs me. On one easily reachable level, a photo is supposed to be a
>representation of what is there, what is seen. If you don't want it there,
>(whatever it is) take it out before you shoot the photo, or shoot the photo
>somewhere else, no?
>Yes, photogs dodge and burn, and correct for color, though with slides, the
>options in those areas are limited. And those tactics, in my book, are not
>the same as subtracting things or adding things electronically. If you
>alter the content of the photo, then, for me at least, that is the
>equivalent of lying. It's like the difference between a piece that you
>and then gave to an editor, and a piece that was ghost-written.
Second paragraph first:
There are a couple of different things that have to be addressed here.
1) One reason for adding or removing things from photographs is that the
artist is simply making a new artistic statement, using the medium of
photography as part of the process. A photograph doesn't have to be
representational at all. Such creations should always be labeled as
digitally enhanced or collages. As long as no one is lead to believe that
such a piece of art was created with a single shutter click, I see nothing
wrong. It is not much different from creating collages through darkroom
2) Another reason is that the an object may be very damaging to a
composition. I remember reading about a photo great (Paul Strand?). The
author was raving about the degree to which this person would go to produce
a perfect print. What I remember about the article is that the photographer
used a piece of string to dodge out a telephone line that was visually
distracting in the upper portion of the photo. Was this lying? Should the
artist have printed his photo with a disclaimer saying that he removed the
phone line? Ansel Adams has also used "creative" darkroom techniques to
improve his photos (though I can't quote a specific example at this
instant). He has written that the "negative is the score and the print is
the performance." Adams did a lot of darkroom magic. Should we throw out all
Ansel Adams prints that have been darkroom modified?
3) As you say, the control that a photographer has over certain aspects of
slide results is quite limited. Improving those things - color balance,
saturation, exposure, contrast, etc. through software is simply using what
tools you have at your disposal to present the best possible image. If a
photo is bad, you're not going to make it great through software. But
software is a wonderful tool for saving an "almost great" photo.
Back to the first paragraph:
You do not always have the option of removing unwanted items before snapping
the picture or taking the photo somewhere else.
1) One case I recently saw was a photo of a Buddha in a temple. The area was
very crowded and apparently the thing to do at this place was to touch the
Buddha. The photographer envisioned a photo, but was unable to take it
because of the people in the way, constantly approaching and touching the
statue. The photographer shot several shots and was able to digitally
recombine them as the photo that s/he had envisioned, much as NASA creates a
cloudless Earth mosaic. This photo was clearly labeled as a composite.
2) Film has a very limited range compared to human vision. What appears on
the film is very definitely _not_ what the photographer saw. Film is too
sensitive to blue, drops off way too quickly in the shadows, and blocks up
in the highlights. Shooting several photos at different exposures and
recombining them to extend the contrast range is simply a way to extend the
usefulness of the photographic medium. Such photos, despite being
composites, better represent what the photographer saw. Galen Rowell, a
well-known nature photographer whose photos have appeared in many National
Geographics issues, has used this technique. No way do I consider this
lying. I would not expect such a photo to be labeled as digitally enhanced.
What is recorded on the film inside a camera is not sacred. What is
important, at least in our context - that of photos of pots - is that what
appears before a jury is the best representation of our pots. I had to
modify the background color of every slide that I took for last year's
entries. I used a Varitone #9 (black to white gradation) as a background. I
used tungsten-balanced film and the proper color temperature bulbs. The
background turned out blue. I shot outside in the shade with daylight
(Velvia) film. The background turned out blue. I shot under a white canopy
(to act as a diffuser) in partial sunlight using daylight film. The
background turned out blue. Should I submit my slides with a blue background
because that's what's on the film? You can, but I won't. The background was
black and Photoshop was able to render it properly.
I did one other thing on one of the pots. Upon examining the slides, I
noticed a few white spots on the pot. Looking at the digitized photo, I
could tell that the spots were not artifacts - there must have been white
spots on the pot, though I didn't remember any glaze defects. I went back
and got the pot. Sure enough, there were white spots on it - spatters of
dried glaze from when the pot had been sitting too near where work was being
done. I wiped the glaze spatters off the pot, went back upstairs and removed
the white spots from the digital image. Which image is more representational
of the pot - the one that came out of the camera or the one that I
ultimately submitted without the spots?
Bruce "it's not all that simple" Girrell
Ray Aldridge on fri 4 feb 00
At 01:18 PM 2/3/00 EST, you wrote:
>I have only been in a couple of shows, but I have dealt with many
>photographers; in fact, I am married to one. I do understand that, when it
>comes to entering pots in shows, the quality of the photo matters -- but are
>we selling short the people at the other end? Don't you all think they can
>see the pot through the photo?
>Certainly, a better photo can enhance a pot, and a terrible photo can
>detract from one, but the people who look at these slides are experts, no?
>They might drift from time to time, but I would think they'd have the
>capacity and desire to see what is really there, instead of being distracted
>by the presentation.
Unfortunately, I think you are overly optimistic in this regard, though you
certainly ought to be able to expect a fair look, after having paid an
exorbitant jurying fee.
Every potter on Clayart who has been juried into prestigious shows could
probably testify to the difference in results between amateurish slides and
professional quality slides. Somewhere I recently read a statement from a
juror that she did not even look seriously at slides with non-standard
backgrounds, on the grounds that she could not properly evaluate those pots
against those photgraphed against a less-distracting background.
The problem is that jurors are seeing hundreds, if not thousands of pots
flash across the screen in a relatively short time. If they don't have an
immediate positive reaction, they go on to the next set of slides. The
potter, having held the pot in her hands, sees the pot itself, even in a
poor slide, and ignores the distractions. The juror sees what he sees--
and if it's not what he expects of an artist of a certain professional
level, he rejects it without looking very closely.
When I was an optimistic young potter, I'd set my pots on a stump by the
woodpile and take the picture. That would get me into shows that were only
trying to keep buy-sell vendors out, but it wouldn't do for shows where
there was fierce competition for a limited number of spots in each
category. I expect that hasn't changed much.
Aldridge Porcelain and Stoneware