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Thursday, 30 August 2012


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A better translation of "Marchand de panier de fil de fer" would be "(iron) wire basket salesman" [rather than "merchant of baskets and wire"].

But then I'm not French. However we have several of these baskets in regular use.

If Atget walked streets searching for compositions, how did he carry the equipment needed to expose such large glass negatives? I believe at the time he made the above photograph, he was already a middle age dude. One of the best.

I think this is an educational way to display the negative. It is, after all, a glass plate and a rather large one at that.
How many of the current digital generation have ever seen any sort of negative -let alone glass?
Prints have and can continue to be made from this plate so nothing is lost. Seems additive to me.

The reminds me of the great book by John Loengard "Celebrating the Negative". I bought it 20 odd years ago when it was first published, and at the time it seemed quite topical. Today it reads like oh-so-last-century.

I don't know, I would choose for my negs to be in MoMA's collection rather than a cardboard box sitting out at the curb when I'm gone which is most likely the fate of most of our negatives.

Ben's comment reminds me to ask: does anyone have an answer to Ctein's question from the previous post regarding the fate of Ansel Adam's negatives? Are they being used by students as per his bequest? It would be a shame if they are being hoarded "archived" by the estate to maintain the price of "authorized" AA prints.

Living in a place with a strong underlying Buddhist belief in the impermanence of all things, the best possible fate of any photographic negative is depressing enough. And then digital files . . . sigh.

I think there are two issues in "best fate" for a negative. One is its use/presentation, and the other is survival. Whether a negative should be shown as the Atget one, stored and ignored, used for printing, or ?? is an individual issue for each negative, involving subject, photographer, and many other issues. What is valued today may not be of interest in a decade or two. Sic transit gloria mundi....
Survival is a problem of physics and interest. All glass plates, film and other chemically based negatives will degrade over time without special storage and care. If we wish to keep them intact and available, there are currently two ways - Copy negatives and digitizing. Copy negatives may not always be exactly faithful to the original. Well done digitizing can come closer, but even that is not a permanent solution. Digital media do degrade over time, and for many current storage formats, obselesence is only years away. Copying digital files is normally very accurate, but do we have the interest to do this routinely? Decisions, decisions....

I shoot a lot at night, and my exposures are often very, very, very dark, so it can be hard to tell what's going on when I'm processing files. My solution has been to create b/w negatives to really see what's happening in 3/4 tones and shadows.

I never shot film seriously, haven't touched the stuff in at least 15 years, never shot black and white, never set foot in a dark room, and love color...but I've found that some of those thin negs I make in Photoshop are quite beautiful.

Yes, they're an intermediate step. Yes, they weren't intended to be "the" art. But that doesn't stop them from being striking images in their own right.

All I can say, is that I wish I had my father's negatives... alas....

There is real merit in showing how it was done in the old days, and particularly beneficial to those who've only known imaging in the digital era.

Besides, glass plate negatives are truly beautiful artifacts in their own right, and worth demonstrating. The idea of selling prints made from the negative, even scanned and digitally reproduced, is an excellent way to stimulate curiosity and educate viewers.

OTOH, if the plate on display really is an historic negative, it's a bit worrisome from a preservation perspective. Images are relatively fragile and subject to degradation from light, heat and other forces. Wouldn't prolonged backlit exposure hasten degradation of the glass-plate negative?

The article didn't say, possibly it's a copy on display. If it is an original, it really makes me wonder if it is a good idea.

I could be wrong, and they've got it all under control. But still, I can't help feeling our heritage is irreplaceable. Interest in an epoch of photography history comes and goes, but is bound to reemerge at a future time.

Quoting an old Paul Simon song: "You have a photograph. Preserve your memories, it's all that's left you".


Best case for a negative would to be bought by Berenice Abbott, at least in this case.
In general the best case for the preservation and presentation of art is to get famous.

It would seem to me that the value of an image in any form could be 1) as art, 2) representative of a process or 3) historical interest, or perhaps some combination of these.
Most photographs have no value, except perhaps to the one taking it, and someday they will be discarded. Others may also suffer a similar fate unless an appropriate organization (people alone are too transient) accepts their care.
I have already donated the appropriate images from my collection (most 40-60 yrs old) and have seen them used in a half-dozen books and articles. The rest, I am certain, will be tossed in the trash as either prints and negatives or obsolete hard drives.
So be it!

Australian readers: the Art Gallery of New South Wales exhibition of 200 prints by Atget runs until November 4. It is the first time that Vintage Atget has been shown in Australia and the exhibition will not be touring to other galleries.


Hells bells, Kodak have just put the film business up for sale and negatives are already a museum exhibit....

I'm within shooting distance of NSW. If the curator of photography uses the same level of gallery lighting for the Atget show as she did for the Steiglitz one last year shooting might be an idea.

It was not possible in the dimness to see the rails in "The Hand of Man".

I emailed the head of photography and told her that a cheap Taschen book showed these rails clearly and was told that if I preferred prints in books to real artists' prints then stick to them.

A skilled art photographer who prints in platinum agreed that the light level was extreme over reaction to conservation issues.

Next time I'll take a torch (flashlight to the Americans)

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