"He has good tone" was supposedly Louis Armstrong's highest compliment to another musician. As a black-and-white printer I was very particular about tone, like most good black-and-white printers are. I would say one in every ten black-and-white pictures I see have acceptable tone, and one in one hundred have good tone.
Fashion photography is not my bag, so I don't know much about its practice or its practitioners. But Patrick Demarchelier sure has good tone. Every now and then over the years one of his pictures will bowl me over.
Many good printers keep "reference prints" around, the purpose of which is to "season the eye" for good tone. Wish I had a print of this.
(P.S. I feel relaxed and happy today, but I think I might be suffering the effects of exposure somewhat. It was 8°F at the football game last night, with a wind chill of –9°F. That was at kickoff. It got colder as the game wore on. And I'm not used to being outdoors. I've been taking it easy all day. Back in the saddle tomorrow....)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Ray Hunter: "August, 2013 issue of Deutsch Vogue was devoted to Ms. Kidman and contained a portfolio of images that spanned the gamut of concept and presentation."
Jeff (partial comment): "Funny you mention tone today. I went to D.C. on Saturday to catch a couple of exhibitions, including one at the Phillips Collection. There I saw a Walker Evans print of an Alabama landowner. The screen version is unremarkable, but I tell you that the range of grey tones and print quality was so wonderful that I've been thinking about that print for days now. I've been fortunate to own a couple of Evans' prints, but I wish I had this one on my wall."
David Bostedo: "Probably asking too much, but I would love to see a critique of good and bad tone with examples or reasoning of what makes it good or bad. I don't get it, and would like to."
Mike replies: And I'd love to explore it some time, as it's a subject near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately it probably demands a more in-depth treatment than the pace of a daily blog can permit. Maybe when I "retire" I'll switch to writing one long article every month, and I can cover it then. :-)
Mike Chisholm: "Great tones, indeed, but I find that spectral, missing cigarette in her left hand deeply distracting. Or maybe I just still miss cigarettes....
"A good photo teacher I once had, Mike Skipper, used to say that the 'silver' in a print was not just the chemistry—good tones should be burnished as if the print were made of the stuff."
Mike replies: When I was the lab manager at the Corcoran School of Art one summer, filling in for a friend who'd been in a motorcycle accident, a museum patron showed up at the school wanting to know what a "silver print" was. She'd seen some prints on view upstairs in the Museum and she wanted to know by what secret alchemy they were made. I had to explain to her that they were ordinary black-and-white prints made on ordinary materials...just made very well. She wouldn't believe it at first!
Aaron: "Mike, Does it change your comment that from the look of a brief behind-the-scenes video of the shoot, Patrick is shooting digitally?"
Mike replies: Nope. This doesn't look like digital to me, and I'm sure Patrick uses all sorts of techniques, but no, it doesn't matter. The results matter.