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Thursday, 22 June 2017


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Curated showings by subscription? A way for museums and others to show collected works so those of us in the out of the way places could have access to fine photography, and perhaps even learn more about it other than buying books? I've been at this hobby for 50 years and engaged a bit directly and indirectly professionally, and have seen only a handful of showings of great photographers. None convenient. Just a thought.

"...mere communication..."

From the person whose entire professional life has been involved with effectively communicating? Did the ironic oxymoronic nature of that phrase not jump out at you? :-)

...how much longer can we go on pretending that things haven't changed, and that silver gelatin prints made from large-format negatives (for example—that just happens to describe the most recent museum show I saw) is in any way representative of what contemporary photographers are doing now?

Why does a museum hanging such a show need to imply that such prints are representative? While not common today, working in those two media still happens. Materials and equipment are still made for those processes. Photographic "art" has always been about what's different than the masses' snapshots. Not much could be further from a smartphone JPEG than silver gelatin prints from large format negatives. I don't endorse this mindset, but simply seek to explain it. Note that I'm just an amateur who has never sold and doesn't intend to sell any of my photographs.

All that said, I've recently acquired a V850 and P600. After climbing the steep learning curve between darkroom and desktop, prints from my 8x10 negatives are starting to look quite nice. I'm particularly pleased with matte surfaces. Matte silver gelatin prints have never been able to approach a real black. Matte inkjet does it very well. If/when Fuji releases a GFX 100S, I might just repurpose the Phillips as a display piece. For now, though, there's no (even remotely affordable) way to duplicate what 8x10 film, inexpensively scanned on a flatbed, can provide.

FWIW, the "Wag More, Bark Less" line has been painted on the wall for several years at the Veterinarian we use, although he has the order reversed compared to your image of the bumper sticker.

He has several other relevant phrases on the wall, including "Dogs Have Owners, Cats Have Staff".

- Tom -

Several years back in the New Yorker Adam Gopnick wrote a nice piece about the Internet, another recent cultural disruption, and classified the three attitudes as "never better", "better never", and "ever waser".


I think this matches with your summation of attitudes towards other disruptions.

Personally, while I enjoy and appreciate a well printed picture, and like to think that I have made a few good prints in my lifetime, I also enjoy and appreciate the look of a really good picture, especially in color, on a really good screen. So I guess I'll be neutral in this particular battle.

Well said, but even two people looking at the same print in your living room won't SEE the same thing. A big part of the experience of art is the resonance it engenders in viewers--a different resonance for each viewer.

The 'framed display' will definitely (in my opinion) have a bigger place in mainstream culture.
First, it is the evolution toward the perfection of the TV. TV's have been interesting since they brought us Uncle Milty, and informative since they brought us Edward R Murrow & Walter Cronkite.
But they have also always been Ugly, intrusive and dominating of any space we put them in. So the Idea of the TV as a multi function picture should appeal to many.
Second, they enable the trend of 'display without printing' in fact they seem to encourage a better trend of display in addition to printing.
Third, they solve the problem of 'not enough wall space' to 'hang' all the things we might like to have on our walls.
It's only a matter of time until they include phone integration and 'face time' becomes seamless, and we get a true digital hub.
Museums have used displays for a while, but usually only for video or narrative content. Increasingly our appliances have displays.
So the Idea of the display is only growing in our consciousness.

The Idea of remote digital display gallery , is probably a bit further off, because it has to overcome the inertia of "Don't make me drive to see something I can see on my iPad, or computer. I understand that there would be quality and environmental advantages, but don't think they would be widely enough appreciated to make those venues economically viable....at least for a while.

Tangible vs. Intangible. Whether artwork, books, albums, or walking on a beach breathing fresh air and feeling the sand between your toes, we value the tangible far more. One is observed, the other experienced.

I see this as a new take on the slide show. And how popular were they while visiting your friends and relatives? I am bored already. But to be honest, I studied art history mostly for the slide shows. So if the owner of the big screen knows what they're doing, maybe somebody will enjoy it. I find a more enjoyable experience with prints. I enjoy going through a box of unframed prints. A slide show cannot give me the visual and tactile enjoyment I receive from holding the prints I treasure most. Call it a love affair with my mind and my body, but this is an intimacy that cannot be replaced with electronics, nor do I want it to be.

While there is a qualitative difference between viewing a fine print of a photo and viewing a high-quality digital rendering of it, I would suggest that the difference is less than that between viewing a painting in person versus seeing a photograph of it printed in a book. Yet, people have bought and enjoyed photographs of paintings for years.

There's certainly room for all of these things and the (current perceived) superiority of prints is not an argument against enjoying photos in other ways. Display resolution will keep improving and there are already photographs that I prefer looking at on a good screen rather than as a print.

This may become an echo of the "is digital better than film?" argument from the last decade. More high-quality work shown on digital devices might spur a quantitative improvement in the quality of video displays.

It might also spur a qualitative decrease in viewers' expectations for the work they see.

Time will tell.

It has always been the opinion of some that if photography is to die as an art form, it won't be because of digital, or even that millions are taking billions of images. It will be because there are no prints. However, maybe they're wrong. Slides, while film, were made to be projected - as is cinematography in any media. Maybe digital photographs should be viewed on screens. Or, maybe not.

Hi Mike,
Sorry for the rambling comment, haven't had time to edit it - young mouth to feed.
There are some deeper thoughts bubbling under this - the difference between hardware & software, and more recently purchasing/owning something vs renting/licensing as a service.
Your two recents articles are focusing on the hardware side of the picture, whereas the bigger picture is with the software side of things. Hardware comes and goes and frequently gets updated. It's the software that drives what the hardware uses that is more critical. But even more critical than that is the content - digital content. Both software and now content is being provided as a service that you never own.
As Saint Ansel used music analogies, I'll try to as well. Music is still straddling the physical vs digital divide. Vinyl is still being produced, as are CDs, but music is also available digitally that you can own, or as a streaming service. Live performances are probably still the best experience, but we buy/rent music as a next best thing. Visual arts need to grapple with this too. Paintings by the greats are in limited supply, so we try to see them in galleries, or purchase prints. The same with photographic prints. The next logical step is to access art digitally, and even as a service rather than owning.

"fuddy-duddies who pine for the old days of fine prints "
Not sure I care for being called a fuddy duddy. I understand that times are changing, but it doesn't make them better.
I just don't care for junk having a frame put around it and it being called art.
All those years of effort to have photography recognized as art are getting bashed by the millions of lollipop pictures turned out everday and hanging them on the wall is a little like putting lipstick on a pig.

I had never thought about it this way until now.... I had two identical monitors connected to my desktop, one in landscape mode and one in portrait. I have the desktop backgrounds (yes, I'm doing Windows) on an hourly rotation basis, showing pictures from a collection of about 500 of my own work, (I'm adding about five per week to the collection). My original intention was just to have something other than a blank screen for my monitors, but I found that I was always staring at the random pictures (my own) and getting into thoughts of how, why, and where of the pictures, and started appreciating and then contemplating "improvements". The pictures spanned a time frame of over ten years, and the displays give me a very nice way of viewing my own works as an audience. By the way, Windows is clever enough to show landscape and portrait pictures in the respective monitor!!

There are several remarkable video-image artists whose work I have seen recently at the NGV (Melbourne, Australia), and the medium is inherently for display on screen. The works are no less authentic or real, and didn't leave a lessor impression on me for it.

We also had David Hockney and Ai Wei Wei showing in the last 24 months, and both had significant proportion of digitally displayed work. Both video and stills.

I certainly don't deny the significance of printed photographs in editions or books - I love them deeply - but I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to non-printed work that is frequently encountered among photographers particularly.

Certainly Hockney doesn't say "I draw, and drawings must be pastel on fine paper", he just creates, and now draws on an iPad, and sometimes they are printed, and sometimes they are not. AND he makes videos, and some of those video frames are printed instead of displayed in motion. But the intent is always present. It is not mindless...

Circling back to the Frame TV post - I think the image of it may have triggered some of the reactions: Where is the other art? How could you watch a TV placed like that above a mantle piece? In fact... why would you hang a picture of significance there? (There is a tendency in interior designer land to style for the photograph of the room, rather than being in the room; thus pictures at standing head height for rooms you spend your time sitting in.)

I have since investigated and there are other product images that are more in tune with how I could see it used. We are looking at moving apartments in a year or two and one of these TVs will be seriously considered when furnishing. I wish Samsung much success with this line.

Hmm, maybe a little motorized mount to spin the things 90º for vertical images is in order.

"...probably dual-purpose mainly because most people wouldn't consider spending $2,000 on a digital frame... It might also help with marketing"

No doubt. I just don't consider $2,000 for an unsatisfactory compromise a good deal. On the other hand, I can imagine many commercial situations where this would be great. Not just galleries, but, say, a restaurant that may want art most of the time but a TV screen for special events like Derby Day, the Super Bowl or venue rentals, and it would do wonders for conference rooms and hotel rooms. We've all seen Kubrick's 2001, and how disturbing and even disruptive large black slabs can be.

Having said that, perhaps the ideal customers are people who watch TV in bed. Art by day, TV screen by night, perhaps even specific art for wake-up time and sleep time...

In case you're not aware - I haven't seen them mentioned yet - there have been a few other digital "art screens" available for a while. For example, those by Electric Objects https://www.electricobjects.com and Meural https://meural.com . Both have some form of subscription or feed to provide your "frame" with changing selections of art. I don't have one, but friends who have them seem to really like them.

apologies if anyone has already remarked on that, but your disruptive idea is not disruptive enough. why have these frames on display in galleries? I want one in my home. I'll pay subscription to gallery services that would feed the frame with pictures, similar to how I subscribe to spotify for example. instead of a new gallery show, I'll pay an access fee and view the show in my home, etc.
viewing conditions? there will be qualified people contracted by the gallery who will come to my home and calibrate/validate viewing conditions so they match what the artist wanted me to see - that is if I care... if not, I will not see them precisely as the artist intended.
who the hell is this artist that he should get to have so much decision? did van gogh get to decide how his sunflowers are hanging in the Louvre? (rant over, sorry ;)

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