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Wednesday, 09 July 2014


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Gordon Parks did a similar image long before this one. Coming from an African-American photographer, who was the first black photographer to become famous from his work, Parks's image had more power.

[Off the top of my head, I don't know what image you're referring to. Can you point to it? And I would say your honor goes to James Van Der Zee, unless you count James Presley Ball. And several were contemporaries of Parks, including Teenie Harris and Roy De Carava. --Mike]

It is truly amazing how much more information is contained on a negative compared to what can be extracted on a silver print. I have been scanning old negatives from the 60's and 70's and finding images I am truly proud of, that never were never properly printed before. Some of them could have been printed fairly nicely, but several would not have yielded a print comparable to what is possible with digital technology. I am glad this old dog was willing to learn new tricks, and similarly it is wonderful that Ctein has been able to unlock the image that David always knew was there

I like the wine bottles in the background. Looking at images and drinking some wine, ohh the countless hours and great conversations I have been fortunate to be part off.

As Elisabeth Spector said, the perspective corrected image is odd. The left and right side are not corrected to the same degree, so it feels like if the image is tilted in some weird way. I too think that a slight vertical correction and less cropping would have produced a more balanced and powerful image. Having said that, I love the subject and the tonality of this image.

I thought I'd be alone in preferring the uncropped, uncloned original.

I'll go on record as joining Elizabeth Spector as a "voice of two" in much preferring the drum scan version of this print over the final version. Elizabeth nails it much more eloquently than I can as to why I prefer the drum scan, and her comments sum it up for me perfectly. I find the drum scan version to be a much more interesting because these "imperfections", the rope barrier, the slight keystoning, the ladder in the background, the stairs leading to the memorial provide for me the essential context of the photo, and as such, the photograph reads as in a much more genuine way to me than the final version.

This is really an interesting post and example, because I often apply perspective corrections, or will edit out "distracting" elements in my own photographs, but now this photo makes me realize that I really have to rethink all of that in terms of how those edits will impact the final image.

Gosh, I'm with you, Elisabeth! While I like the "corrected" version (which I bought) I REALLY like the original composition and would have chosen it if given a choice. My own preferences are towards images that feature more information and a less edited message. This is also one instance where, in my opinion, correcting the perspective actually slightly diminished the image's power by making Lincoln into an architectural element rather than a towering conceptual edifice.

"The ropes seem important to me, too. They give a better sense of this particular place and its purpose, and suggest ideas relating to dividing lines within society and of people allowed in vs. being kept out." Absolutely, Elisabeth. Right on! (Ooops, my age popped out. Scuze me.) Cropping those ropes cropped some powerful visual metaphors! And cropping the tip of the ladder also removed a powerful visual metaphor. Ouch!

I am satisfied that I bought the "final" version. But, like Elisabeth, I sure wish I had not seen the much more powerful "original". It's a classic example of technology, skills, and good intentions turning a great image into a very good one.

To end with a smile (or at least a self-soothing grin) I see the final image as the "Gordon Parks" version of the scene, with its rather refined but slightly monotonic message. The original image, however is what Bruce Davidson would have printed with all its lovely imperfections and lush ambiguities.

Moral of the story for DD-B: Never, NEVER show your contact sheets or, today, the other versions of a print unless you're absolutely, positively certain that you made unassailable choices! (Which = NEVER!)

All chiding and back-seat printing aside this is still an outstanding image, David. We should all be so lucky to have at least one such image under our belts before we die. Thank you for offering it for a low-cost sale. (Now go print the other version and offer it for a high-priced sale1)

Yikes, didn't realize it was that dangerous to pull back the curtain.

The bit people particularly seem to pick on is the bit I'm most sure of in this case, the perspective fix. I kind of agree about the chain and its support, except that for the formality I want it can't be partial, and it isn't complete in the negative.

Can't say for sure about composing based on the verticals at left, it was 40 years ago. It does seem likely, for that early stage in my history. I've learned better since -- use a grid viewfinder and pick something more in the middle to line up.

I'm all caught up with today's "Intention and Integrity" discussion, but I wanted to go back to this talk about the two versions of the original and cast a vote for the pre-cropped version. While I appreciate the straightened verticals, especially the line down the right side of the frame, to my eye, those dark steps in the bottom left really anchor the entire frame.

When I question the composition of any photo, I sometimes find it useful to view an image as a thumbnail. That can reveal the broad shapes that aren't obvious at larger sizes. And as a thumbnail, I really miss the steps that are cropped out in the final version. I don't care one way or another about the perspective, I can live without the ladder, the ropes don't do anything for me, but the dark lines of those steps make a difference to my eye. The image has no base.

If I'd been in the studio with Ctein and DD-B as they worked on the image, I would have piped up. I'm sure I would have been outvoted.

I can see some virtues to backing up about 10 feet, stealing the ladder and standing about 2/3 up it, and shooting *that* shot. Because many of the things people say they like in the original version I see some virtues in, I was just willing to sacrifice them to gain things I see as more important elsewhere. Shooting form higher and further back might well let me have both my priorities and these others too.

Wish the image at the top was clearer. I love to see what interesting people have in their bookshelfs and with this one I couldn't....

Oh, I've got one achingly-remembered neg I ruined with chromium intensifier. Last picture I could ever have a chance to take of my father and all his siblings together (should have taken more, and made sure to include their mother that summer, too).

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