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Wednesday, 06 January 2010


Congrats, Mike. Collecting photographs is better than sax.

I spent a few minutes wondering what the hell did that violin photo have to do with anything...until I figured out it wasn't a violin. And then yes, viola!, it all made sense.

Miserere's New Year's Resolutions 2010:

    1. Get smarter.
    3. Learn to count.

New Years resolutions? I think I've discovered the secret to them... don't make them. Solves the whole messy problem, especially the guilt of unresolved resolutions. I was enormously relieved to realize I had completely forgotten this year to make any. I'm thinking of applying that idea to other aspects of my life.

Dear Mike,

My New Year's resolution is to take one day each week when I do no work. Not even a half hour's worth. I'm very bad about taking full days off when I'm not traveling.

We'll see if I can honor the contract (self-imposed compromise to sell it to myself -- it doesn't have to take effect until after the print sale).

pax / Ctein

Mike, i was just… oh by the way LOL!! love your digression/new philosophy on NYRs!… where was i, oh right i was just at the National Gallery (D.C.) last week, saw Turner oils (Awesome glowing things that pull you in from two rooms away!!) Picassos i've never seen in person etc etc. Went to check out the "pre digital photography processes exhibit" which was cool, and as a result saw Robert Bergmans portraits that i learned about from TOP they were amazing! Thank you thank you… (this is what you get for starting a New Years post with a major digression, its sets the bar (lower?) as it were hee hee). So anyway, this is about your announcement about starting a collection, big bucks (lack thereof) and all that, so, in the NG gift store was this book… whose title is not coming to mind, its the first names of the couple that its about. They are a postal worker and a middle school teacher (remember the big bucks part… Not!) who put together a world class art collection. All the above is by way of saying don't be to quick to cross of those big names from your wish list. Unlike resolutions, which perhaps should be like water, i.e. seek the lowest point, aim high, in case you miss! As always love your blog, your humour and writing in general, looking forward to more fun in the new year. All the best John

Whew! For a moment there I thought your New Year's resolution was going to be to learn to play the viola! Maybe the jazz viola...

For a second there, I thought you were going to issue a call for prints. That would have interesting consequences.

While it might not be quite what you had in mind, I'll bet you could assemble an amazing photo collection just from those created by your readers, many of whom -- myself included -- would be happy to give you a print.

On a side note, can someone tell what is the difference between Dye transfer print and Cibachrome/Ilfordchrome ?

The later seems also to use dye (and to be extremely stable in time) but I can't find a description detailled enough to spot de difference.

It's eerie how much Zander's and my resolutions have in common. Smart kid, that one.

""So, the other day, I was sitting around in the living room with my son.

"Me: My New Year's resolution is to clean up the living room.

Zander: Have fun with that.

Me: Actually, I was planning on enlisting your help.

Zander: Sorry, but that would interfere with my New Year's resolution, which is 'Don't clean the living room so much.'" "

Maybe that's not setting my sights quite low enough."

---You both agree on something.

This is good; it helps your relationship.
Tell Zander I am on his side.

Here's my resolution:

Transferring">http://xkcd.com/331/">Transferring skills learned in online forums to real life.

As Arthur pointed out, I bet it would be an interesting experiment just to see how many of your readers would be willing donate one print (of either their or your choosing) to The Collection.


@John Taylor- The art collectors are Herb & Dorothy Vogel. PBS just did a film on them recently. Check http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/herb-and-dorothy/film.html
Absolutely fascinating!

BTW Mike, is print collecting the new direction that your photography is taking in 2010?

Also, what happened to the photo contest or other "event" for TOP that you alluded to in the Spring? :-)

Andy and Jeffrey et al.,
While that's a very interesting idea and a generous thought on both your parts, the result of a call for prints would be something quite different from a collection. A collection as I see it is an exercise in individual taste as well as a reflection of how intrepid and assiduous the collector is in finding and acquiring the objects of his (or her) pursuit.

To give you just one example, years ago I saw a small photograph in a commercial magazine--my memory was that it was a home or women's title that I saw on a coffee table at my Aunt's house--and I went to great lengths to hunt down the photographer and ask about purchasing a print, which turned out to be an 8x10 platinum contact print. I did locate the photographer (after considerable effort--this was before the WWW), and it turned out that he had limited the prints to an edition of 7 and the edition had "sold out." I wheedled with him, and he finally decided that since he had given several of the seven prints away, he could make one more without breaking the honor of his self-imposed "limit" by retroactively calling the giveaway prints "artist's proofs."

Only then did he name a price: $500.

And I did not have $500 at the time. (I think that was the mid-'80s, so think $1,000 or so today.)

It was quite embarrassing and ultimately frustrating, and this has been one of the reasons I've never tried seriously to collect photographs.

Now, I'm thinking the problem is quite different...I can locate pictures I want to buy on the web. But I still lack a crucial piece of information that I absolutely need, which is, what does the print look like? The web can only show you what the *picture* looks like, not the print.

In one case so far, the artist has apparently never printed the picture in the past, and he actually asked me how I'd like it to be printed. (He also knew me through TOP, and very generously offered to give me the print.) Now what do I do if I get the picture and don't like the print? Do I go back to the artist and try to get him to re-do it? It strikes me that this arrangement is absolutely fraught with potential for disappointment on one side or the other (buyer or artist).

I'm not prejudiced against inkjet prints, but I'm *very* skeptical of the ability of randomly encountered people to provide GOOD inkjet prints. This is not a slam on any individual. I know some people are expert printers. But I also know that some other people wouldn't know a good print if it bit them on the butt, and I've seen some absolutely terrible inkjets over the years. I guess this is part of the game for me if I want to use the web to find work to collect. But the lack of the ability to see exactly what you're buying is a major disjunct, and a clear advantage the traditional gallery system. Of course, there are two bigt disadvantages to the traditional gallery system as well: you can only see a very small amount of work (compared to what you can see on the web), and the prices are likely to be very high (because they have such high overhead, and as a consequence, are likely to handle only proven "names" that are likely to sell--the old dead artist sysndrome).

A general "call for prints" would impose on readers' generosity, and it wouldn't result in a collection, because I wouldn't be exercising my taste on the pictures as a group.


Mike, I am one of those who wouldn't know a good print if it bit me o the butt. But, I would like to know. How about a column on this subject?

We could each send you a file that you could play with and print to your taste.

Dear Guillaume,

All color print processes, except tri-color carbon/carbro, use dyes to form the image. I wrote this column back in 2008, summarizing the dye transfer process:

"Still Crazy (And Making Dye Transfer Prints) After All These Years" http://tinyurl.com/atqygq

In contrast, Ilfochrome is a much more conventional process: exposure to light creates a latent image in the print paper and subsequent chemical development destroys pre-existing dye in the paper wherever there was light (hence the name: dye-bleach). Papers like Ektacolor, Ektachrome, etc., frequently miscalled "Type C" or "Type R," are dye-creation processes-- the chemical reactions create dye in the paper where none existed. Hence the general category name, "chromogenic."

Ilfochromes and dye transfers have nothing in common, except that both were used for making prints from transparencies (dye transfer can also make prints from color negatives, which is what I most commonly do). The two have similar display lives, but very different dark-keeping lives: dye transfers are much more stable in the dark at room temperature, with a life of 300+ years (and unlike digital media, there's over 70 years of test data to support that conclusion).

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Well, that was cool. I learn stuff all the time from you, Ctein--even stuff I already learned, but forgot.


Since you need a new hobby about like you need a hole in the head, here's one for you: Helping photographers learn to make better prints. Find people who post online images you like and don't seem to have any print-selling plans, and encourage them by buying prints and criticizing them. Ideally making that the agreement beforehand, to weed out the people who don't want the input.

What you say about image vs print strikes home. There's this artist I'm very, very keen in getting a print from, and I truly love the images I've seen on the web, but he's not represented by any gallery on my continent and at $1,500-$2,000 a pop, I'd really worry about the print quality I'd be getting.

(That I can't afford a grand or two is besides the current point :))

Just be sure you get inspection/return privileges, and just don't keep the print unless you 100% love it. If you have any reservation as to its qualities, it's not worth it. I'm not necessarily talking about its technical quality; even a bad or damaged print can be "perfect" in the sense that you love it the way it is. But if you can't feel that feeling of acceptance of it, that sense of wholeness it should have, then you shouldn't keep it because you'll probably never get over that.


Mike; your son has a wonderful sense of humour.

The only New Year's resolution I ever kept was the one where I resolved not to make any more New Year's resolutions.

If I were to make one this year though, it would be the converse of yours, Mike. I'd like to begin to sell most of my collection. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that 99% of it is my own work...

"...I've seen some absolutely terrible inkjets over the years. "

I'm curious about what you mean, Mike. Were they terrible when compared to a large electronic version that you saw on a properly calibrated monitor, or were they just plain terrible? If it's the latter, it might just be a case of Garbage-In-Garbage-Out. If it's the former, well, there's really very little excuse.

There's a certain advantage in wet darkroom printing. The print is all that the buyer gets to see. If he likes it, and he can afford it, he buys it. In the digital process, via the web, you never really know what a buyer is seeing before they order a print, since the vast majority are looking at too-bright, uncalibrated screens. It's a crap shoot for both the artist and the buyer.

Dear Dave,

The answer is simpler-- most photographers are crappy printers. (For which I am grateful, or I'd have to find a new career!) By which I mean they have poor artistic judgment and little skill at figuring out how to make a print look like the photograph they envisioned.

This is not a technical problem, but wet darkroom printing involved enough technical knowledge that getting a well-crafted darkroom print meant the photographer had mastered some minimal skill set and it was more likely (hardly certain!) they knew something about making an artistically good print.

The great thing about digital printing is that it requires no great mastery of craft to produce a technically good print. I think that's a fine thing, myself, as it means that many more people can do technically good printing. Problem is it's no guide to actual quality. A crappy print is just as well-made as a masterful one.

You are conflating presentation with print, though. The issue is not whether or not it's a darkroom or a digital print, it's whether you're seeing the actual print or a reproduction of it. Poorly-done gallery and auction catalogs suffer from the same issues as bad websites. In fact, when I started selling my dye transfer (WET DARKROOM) prints online 15 years ago, I established a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy-- return it in 30 days and you get your money back, including return shipping costs, no argument or questions. I needed to do that to reassure buyers.

Mind you, I've only had to make good on that promise once-- I'm as skilled at making screen photographs as printed ones. But, while I may know that, my potental buyers don't. The idea is to make them feel comfortable enough to buy.

pax / Ctein

Ctein - "This is not a technical problem..."

OK. Got it.

It seems to me that on the continuum from neophyte printer to expert there are always printers who any one of us could consider "crappy" or "great" relative to our current position on that continuum. The point is to keep improving, moving forward and to be open to legitimate critique, instruction as well as exploration. Ctein's no questions asked policy is the best way, in my opinion, to give your buyer confidence or at least comfort.

I am really hoping you named your son after Zander Schloss.

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