« Brand Sunsets (and Kodakit) | Main | Open Mike: Video Chautauquas* (OT) »

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Comments

I think I was the reader that suggested the variable light, but for the life of me I can't find the comment.

I used the example of the frozen food section of the supermarket. 8^)

You are not going to like this .... : yesterday I visited the Tate Gallery in Liverpool UK. One small exhibition was 'News from nowhere' by Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho which included a composite digital screen that was something like 10 feet by 6 feet displaying photographs and video with a brilliance and depth of colour ( that's color to you ) that was simply stunning. I remarked to my wife "That's it, paper prints are now over, dead" None of which helps with existing photographs of course, and I don't suppose any of the material in the exhibition was shot on a smartphone, but coming soon .........

You might want to take a second look at the idea that bright lighting is invariably the way to go.

I remember being drawn to a set of photographs on the wall of a darkish restaurant; the low light gave a sense of depth to the prints, so much so that I left my seat to go and have a closer look. They were fashion shots, made by the son of the restaurateurs. The restaurant was in Mallorca, the owners English and the photos made in Manhattan. I think the restaurateurs and the restaurant are long gone, but I bet the prints are doing very nicely, thank you.

On my own walls I have some prints with which I am very familiar, seeing them both in daylight and lowish electric light at night. In the lower illumination they take on a richer tonality. In both cases the images are black/white, mine off my late HP B 9180, and the Manhattan ones wet prints.

Yes, there is a critical level beyond which things get lost, but sometimes that helps accentuate the more important story they tell, and inject a little intrigue, mystery if you like. Think the purpose of lingerie, and you're not far off the idea.

Rob

Or, we could just concede that all works by humans are ephemeral to one degree or another, take reasonable steps to balance their enjoyment with their preservation and accept that at some point they will disintegrate. Hopefully, by that time someone else will have created wonderful things to replace them.

Photographs are almost always displayed behind UV absorbing glass. Solux (The company that provides lots of museum lighting) offers lamps with further protective filtration. I'm sure both types of filtration could be enhanced further.
In my view some Museums exhibition lighting levels, are so dreary that they call more attention to the awful lighting than to the art work they are supposedly celebrating.
Works certainly do need responsible protection, but protection that is balanced against the very purpose of Museums - to make art available to the public.
Who hasn't brought an artifact outside, or near a window to see it more clearly.
Not only is Daylight brighter, it is also of a higher color temperature. Higher CT's boost color and contrast.
Daylight sun is about 30,000 Lux the average 'Office' is about 400 lux. Current museum guidelines are 50 to 150 lux (mostly nearer to 50) and interestingly, I have read recommendations of 50 Lux, 2800 K---dim yellow light.
Not much looks it's best in dim yellow light.
Conservation is important, so is viewing our artistic heritage

So many photographers dying to have their work seen in the public light, only to have the chosen few concealed in the dark.

If the problem, historically, has been UV that damages prints then switching to LEDs solves this problem. High quality LEDs emit little or no UV, can be color tuned, emit no heat, consume very little electricity, and last a very long time. And many halogen based light fixtures will accept the equivalent LED.

Completely agree with your ending suggestion. If we can’t use it appropriately (by viewing in adequate light) it has no value at all.

I’m reminded of people who buy an expensive car and drive it only on special occasions. Mine (bought new) has 92,000 miles, goes everywhere including public garages, and will hopefully get many more before I let it go.

"Why preserve something meant to be enjoyed if it can never be enjoyed?"

Because some fool (or foolish museum) seriously overpaid to acquire it?

I agree with your last paragraph the most. Make a good digital copy of the best prints for longevity, and show the prints under enjoyable viewing conditions, even at the expense of print life. By the time the print wears out you will have multiple generations of new photographers to choose from, and you will still have a good quality digital version to admire of the past master. And all of us will be long gone.

I have no opinion about any of those things Mike, but I'll just tell instead what irks me no end in photo exhibitions and printed books: the artsy habit of placing a tiny image inside a vast white rectangle, like a (tiny) image occupying just 1/16th of the whole thing.

A few years ago I was out in LA and met several friends for breakfast, then we went to a photo exhibit at the Annenberg Space For Photography. Over breakfast we were talking about the future of prints and gallery shows. We thought that someday soon we would go to a gallery and the photos would be presented on monitors. We went to the gallery and there were the monitors. Several “real” prints were on display, but most of the show was in the form of slide shows on the monitors. Many more photos were presented in a much smaller space, but there was, of course, no control over how long you could look at a given photo. The future is here and something’s lost and something’s gained...

I have a favorite b&w photograph (1972, Nikon F, Ilford FP4). About 1980, I made a "silver" print in my darkroom (Bessler enlarger, Nikkor lens), then mounted, matted and framed this. Believe me, it took more than one sheet of paper to get a "perfect" print.

Years later, as an experiment, I scanned the negative and made a digital print - again a print, examine, print again process. When I was satisfied with the digital print, I compared it to the silver print. Side by side, I couldn't tell the difference. It's even difficult to differentiate between them with a 10x loupe.

So why not use digital prints for museum displays?

I would be great if the polymers/coatings used in electric switchable glass were good enough from a clarity, light transmission, UV blocking perspective to not impact the view of art when the glass is ON.

You could have a motion sensor switch the glass ON (transparent) and OFF (opaque/frosted) based on the presence of a body standing in front of a work of art. I have no idea what’s involved in this tech and if the necessary clarity in an ON state is possible…just a thought.

Mike,

Not all museums are alike. I saw exhibitions by Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand, Heni Cartier Bresson, and Walker Evans at San Francisco MOMA. They were all well lit--The Walker Evans was a little darker, but all were more than adequate. I have seen shows other places and felt like I needed a head lamp so as to not run into somebody. If San Francisco MONA can do it...
Also, modern leds have come a long way. They can have a very high color rendering index, cut all infrared and have no ultraviolet emissions.
One company, near me, Soraa, has a ton of information on lights for galleries, and I'm sure others do to.
There is glass and plastic to stop ultaviolet.
Could museums just be over protective, or just ignorant? Protecting art work is important and finding out what is needed is difficult, but some institutions are doing it
I've been to shows where the lighting is enough to make you weep. But not always.
Darrell Gray

Mike, it seems to me that this issue has (partially at least ) been overcome in the art (painting) world. all the paintings by artists since the rennaisance that have been hanging in palaces, churches, galleries et cetera have suffered the ravages of time.There is is a whole profession devoted to rectifying this deterioration.Art Conservators. When I go to a gallery I want to see originals, not reproductions.By all means do what is necessary to protect these originals but display them with sufficient light that they can be seen properly. Trust that technology will find a way to restore these images when/if that becomes required.

Edit: it must have been 2010 that I visited the Young gallery in Brussels, not the “Across the ravaged land" exhibition. Sorry.

Surely a sensible solution to this problem would be to produce extremely high quality replica prints for general display and retain the originals in perfect conditions for restricted view by scholars and experts. I and virtually everybody - even including discriminating TOP readers perhaps - who currently sees, or wants to see, these prints would be fully satisfied and the legacy of the originating artist would be fully protected.

What are the relevant wavelengths of light involved here? Surely some bright spark has carefully tested which bits of the spectrum illuminate the work and which bits damage it. I guess UV has a lot to do with damage (may be even IR), and possibly some to do with perceived brightness. Surely there is some sort of light filtration solution here to satisfy both criteria adequately.

It's one thing to conserve historically significant articles, such as the Guttenberg bible, residing in a black vault with just the faintest spotlight shining on it, and pages are turned on a regular basis. But modern digital prints, made with the most durable pigments, can persist under bright viewing conditions 12 hours a day, for nearly 200 years before objectionable fading occurs. I would favor that museum's buy the original print, along with a digital file as backup, with stipulation the digital file only be used for promotion purposes, or if original print is damaged or faded.

why not make the prints backlite teansparencies? There are many Cibachrom like prints that are available. Either backlit or acrylic mount colorr is gorgeous. B&W prints changed with each printing, so there is no excuse not to print all the info on the negative. Ansel Adams embraced new tech, like Polaroid, and may have abandon gelatin silver prints if he was alive today.

All Things Must Pass
George Harrison.

"and the other extreme would be to entomb the object permanently in conditions ideal for its longevity and never let a photon fall on it or anyone ever look at it under any circumstances"
This reminded me of the "Messiah" Stradivarius violin at Oxford.
It is "entombed" behind glass never to be played again. Its purpose for existence has been destroyed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah_Stradivarius
http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/features/caged-messiah
There has been some controversy about whether Strad really made it or it is a copy by Vuillaume.
Here is a long read on the subject. For me, it really doesn't matter because it no longer serves its purpose as a violin. It is merely an art object. Hiding photos away from eyes and light is virtually the same thing.
https://hebbertsviolins.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/stradivaris-fabled-messiah-three-centuries-on-the-most-controversial-violin-in-history/

I just read an article in today's New York Times about a newly rediscovered painting by Rembrandt (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/27/magazine/rembrandt-jan-six.html).

Apropos to your post, this article contains the following passage, referring to the author's viewing of some of Rembrandt's paintings:

"When I was working on my book about the history of Amsterdam, Six invited me here and conducted a remarkable little demonstration. He turned off the lights and lit candles, and in an instant the paintings were transformed. They took on new energy; the golds and reds and flesh tones became warmer. The flicker of the flames seemed to breathe life into the two-dimensional figures. Six’s eyes gleamed as he saw that I had registered the point: These paintings were made for candlelight.".

Interesting!

Sometimes the best place to see prints is not at a museum. In January, my wife and I visited Photography West in Carmel, CA and viewed a brightly lite gallery of Ansel Adams prints. These were prints that were a gift from Adams to his assistant over a period of 20 years, They had never been exhibited and had been stored in perfect condition. I have seen Adams work at SF MOMA and a number of west coast galleries. This exhibit blew them away! Bright light and immaculate prints. For car fans, this was like a "barn find" in perfect condition. Wow! Keep looking at museums, dealers, auctions, etc. and you may be lucky enough to see something like this. Look for the Donohue Collection at this link for background: http://www.photographywest.com/pages/reception.html

Sometimes the best place to see prints is not at a museum. In January, my wife and I visited Photography West in Carmel, CA and viewed a brightly lite gallery of Ansel Adams prints. These were prints that were a gift from Adams to his assistant over a period of 20 years, They had never been exhibited and had been stored in perfect conditions. I have seen Adams work at SF MOMA and a number of west coast galleries. This exhibit blew them away! Bright light and immaculate prints. For car fans, this was like a "barn find" in perfect condition. Wow! Keep looking at museums, dealers, auctions, etc. and you may be lucky enough to see something like this. Look for the Donohue Collection at this link for background: http://www.photographywest.com/pages/reception.html

Dim light doesn't bother me. Not being able to see the print because of reflections in the glass it's behind does.

Those who want to show copies- remember that "a reproduction is not the work of art". My time spent working in an art museum reinforced to me that there is no substitute for experiencing the original.
My wife is one of the small group of photograph conservators and we often had discussions about the illumination question- I am (almost) resigned to murky dimness in exhibits now. Apparently the artist's intentions are paramount, except in this regard.

I would think that this comment would be unnecessary, given the quantity and quality of comments that have preceded it. But for me, there is a visceral connection between the object of creation and the object of observation. (Or adoration.) I don’t know if it’s logical or practical, but I don’t want that connection broken.

Chiming late but as photographer I go to museums to see originals but the non-photographer side of me is fine with a faithful reproduction.
If any light at all will damage a photograph to some degree than viewing reproductions that are essentially indistinguishable from the originals seems like a reasonable compromise.
Tough call.

The comments to this entry are closed.