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Wednesday, 24 August 2022

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Mike, you are an "influencer."

On Amazon I located a used copy of the book, placed it in my cart, took a minute to look at a couple more listings, and when I went back to the cart to complete the purchase, it was empty!

I go back and forth on color. At a workshop with Jay Maisel he noted we are seduced by color, usually letting it get in the way of telling a great story with the image. As he is mostly a street photographer I can understand that perspective. Having seen several of Porters prints at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, though, I agree with Mike - some images just have to be in color.

Pity the dye-transfer process has been obsoleted.

I came up in the "good old days" of film, knowing the constraints of shooting what's in the camera. I also have rewound partially finished rolls of some emulsion (leaving the leader out to reload it later, advancing to the place that I left off at) to change to another type of film. Digital fixed that and I embrace that advantage.

I do go out often with some self imposed target, like 1000 B&W images trying to comply with the advice of many of the people whose work that I admire to not deviate from monochrome so that you get better by being immersed 100%. I get the theory but I've never made it to the number that I wish to reach. Even with my finder set to B&W, my eyes still see color and try as hard as I can, its impossible not to press my Q button and shift to my color profile.

That fire engine red car parked next to that blue wall just won't work when both of those things are slightly different shades of grey.

Yes, sometimes it just has to be color. Even if you have a mono only camera.

Baltimore Orioles can be spotted regularly at Campden Yards in the Summer. Unfortunately not so much in the Fall in recent years.

Perhaps 20% of photographs have to be in color, another 20% have to be in B&W, and 60% can work both ways.

T.S.Eliot lived in your Northern Hemisphere...here in Southern Victoria, Australia, the second week of August slowly reveals an earlier sunrise, and emerging harbingers of spring (in colour!!)- ... such as bright yellow wattle flowers, white and purple prunus blossom, and fabulous fragrances from daphne flowers. This August in particular has been grey and overcast with well above average rainfall and gloomy skies. My solar panels have exported an all-time low output to the grid this month. But I'm really looking forward to trying out a new acquisition from a fellow TOP reader, Ian K, which is an infra-red converted Olympus Pen E-P3 on a bright sunny day. The B&W rendition of landscapes of white trees and boiling cumulus clouds against black skies is very dramatic. The sun is rising,the birds are singing,the forecast is promising.. Oh frabjous day, callooh, callay !!- (Lewis Carrol's Jaberwocky. Look it up and read it aloud to your grandchildren.)

Yes, some do have to be in colour, but not nearly as many as some people think. If the underlying contrast is low, then B&W will be a struggle. But if it's good, then B&W is a viable option. The result will be different. In such a situation, saying that it must be in colour is merely stating a preference. I still think that the image of Emma by Jan Kwarnmark with a blue comb in her hair works just as well in B&W, if the conversion is done well. It's then a different image, but not worse.

FYI are you aware Leicaphilia blog writer Tim, is dying, and put up his last post, Mike Evans from MACFILOS wrote about it.

[How terrible...I'm very sorry to hear about it. I don't tend to read other blogs but I know people liked his a lot. --Mike]

I have tried, several times, to make a pleasing black and white conversion of this image, but finally concluded that it was meant to be in colour. Feel free to try your own conversion, Mike, if it piques your interest. Apologies for the unwieldy looking link. I don't know if there is a more elegant way of sending it. https://www.richardalton.com/image?&_bqG=0&_bqH=eJwzKjGOTHQNKDRNN3EOc0spDS8ICC6qcjYoD460MrQyNDAAYSDpGe8S7GxbUFmUmJuZogbmxTv6udiWANmhwa5B8Z4utqEglYkWju5Bpd5OwVUWavGOziG2pcVFwamJRckZau4gRWrOIBIAfYMkIA--&GI_ID=

Dang! That is one very yellow watermelon. I thought in my innocence that they were all red inside. Isn't it even so that sometimes "watermelon" is a choice of color when you order stuff on-line? Took me a while to figure out that it refers to the color of the inside of the melon, not the green outside. And now there is this yellow in the mix as well. Maybe I should just concentrate on B&W images.

Mike, are you going to talk about gorgeous black and white pictures and talk about Mennonite farmers and not talk about Larry Towell?!

‘Only two things work better in colour, fire and blood.’
- - - John Downing

Sometimes people ask you a question like, "Which photographer has influenced you the most?"

Eliot Porter's work hasn't influenced me in that sense because I found me long before I found him. But his "intimate landscapes" work definitely resonates with me more than most. I never get tired of looking at Foxtail Grass from Intimate Landscapes.

I've long been a Porter fan, and I have a copy of the 1962 hardcover In Wildness. I have some of the same photos in other Porter books, and to me the In Wildness versions look badly faded, especially the reds. Can you say more about the now-illegal printing process?

"T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, but August is the saddest month."

It interests me how location/climate specific, and narrow, the European and N. American cultural and literary traditions in which I grew up are. Things that seem universal to those folks are really not.

In many parts of California, March and April are months of glory, beautiful weather and things blooming everywhere. My wife likens neighborhood walks at that time to being in a botanical garden.

In the SF Bay Area, our Camellia always has buds by New Years Day, and full flowers then or shortly, continuing for weeks. By February Spring is in full swing.

With some variation, this is true of all of Coastal CA.

The deserts bloom then, too. Carrizo Plain, puts on absolutely spectacular displays, whole landscapes of color some years. When we were there April Fools Day, 2016, it was still impressive, but already past peak. The true deserts are even earlier.

Nor are our summers the sweltering heat and humidity sinks of much of the country. Books and movies about summer in most of the country were like postcards from another planet for me until I experienced them, thankfully briefly, as an adult.

Snow? Something one drove 2-3 hours to the Sierra Nevada Mts. to experience, ski on — then went back home, where a night with freezing temperatures is really rare, and weather between winter storms is mild and beautiful.

Generalities drawn from local specificity are weak, outside that milieu. Eliot wrote many deep things about the human condition and the nature of our relations with the ineffable, but his weather/climate references are not meaningful in much of the world.

[Not sure you're getting what Eliot meant...he was saying that rebirth and transition are difficult, not that the weather's not nice. The shock of it comes because of the contrast with the conventional view of "springtime." --Mike the onetime English major]

Sigh... Can we please stamp out the use of "coffee table book" as if it were the technical term for any large illustrated book, including superbly sequenced and beautifully printed photo-books? It's a derogatory term, meaning "the sort of thing the pretentious rich leave lying around ostentatiously (on their coffee table) as a sort of interior decoration"...

Anyone leaving any of my precious photo-books lying around on any table where food or coffee mkight be served (we don't actually have a "coffee table") gets to sit on the naughty step.

Mike

"if you can find an original printing of Eliot's Porter's In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World—Sierra Club, 1962, . . . —snap it up. The color reproductions, . . . are uniquely gorgeous."

I've had this book since it was new. The reproductions are indeed special. I also have the boxed set of large prints. Both are wonderful, and yet, oddly reticent. It's like I would wish to up contrast, , mid-tone brightness and saturation, just a little, not much, to make them more alive.

The reproductions in Porter's The West, MJF Books, 1988 don't have quite the exquisite precision, but are more alive.

Looking for another Book of the Whatever? Consider Ansel Adams in Color His color work is a revelation of his true range as a photographer. The color reproductions are near perfect.

While book nattering, David and Marc Muench's American Portfolios are wonderful, too.

Oops, time to stop pulling out, stroking and viewing old favs. \;~)>

Today I visited the library of the Phoenix Art Museum, to inspect their 1962 edition of Eliot Porter's book. The preface explains that it is "lithographed in four colors on 90-lb coated stock and lacquered to achieve maximum brilliance and fidelity in the color reproductions, themselves made directly from 4x5 [Kodachrome] transparencies. ... "We consulted five domestic printers and four in Europe before we found our solution."

Perhaps it is the lacquer which is no longer in use --lacquer is produced by an insect, and gathering it is labor-intensive.

The prints are flawlessly presented. They fail artistically, all but a few lacking an identifiable subject. Images of winter trees without leaves, ferns, floating leaves, snowy fields almost without color -- this is not my cuppa. There are no page numbers.

Charles Cramer was far less impressed with some of Porter’s dye transfer print quality (comment section)…

https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/12/eliot-porter-in-the-realm-of-nature.html

From the book:

"Publisher's Note: "In Wildness . . ." is lithographed in four colors on go-lb. coated stock and lacquered to achieve maximum brilliance and fidelity in the color reproductions, themselves made directly from 4x 5 transparencies, except for one 2¼ x2¼. The text is on the uncalendered side for easier reading. The pages had to be collated singly and side-sewn; this assures a firm anchorage, among other advantages, but prevents the book's lying quite flat- especially the left-hand pages. The color, however, is the main thing to display, and we could find no technique for displaying it better. We consulted five domestic printers and four in Europe before we found our solution. It was of transcending importance to find a top-quality printer who would hue to the interpretation of the color photographer. Barnes Press, Inc., met the platemaking and printing challenge; the Sendor Bindery devised the binding. Both firms share an address on Spring Street, in New York City, and both did more than anyone could reasonably expect to make the most of the opportunity to produce something extraordinary in the graphic arts. "

I do love the typo "hue to the" for "hew to the", as subtlety of color is the major part of the subject.

"Not sure you're getting what Eliot meant...he was saying that rebirth and transition are difficult, not that the weather's not nice. The shock of it comes because of the contrast with the conventional view of "springtime." "

As a poet, I'm aware of the metaphor. I just think it's narrower than it could be. Spring is the cruelest time, The return of the light is the cruelest time, The rising of the sap is the cruelest time, anything that doesn't use a specific month that has meaning for only a minority of the Earth.

I realize Eliot was at a very difficult personal time, as was Europe as a whole. So he was hunkered down deep into his world. Nevertheless, the specific reference weakens the beginning of a great poem for a good part of humanity.

Any of the above locutions, or another better one he could have made, would allow a Kiwi to read it without thinking "OH, he means October!". I could have read it without a translation step between climate and metaphor.

Yes, Tim’s Leicaphilia has been the only other site that I have frequented every day, these past few years - along with a couple of small, independent photographer, YouTube channels.

Tim’s writing has always come from a background of skill, both linguistic as photographic. His background in reading often put me to shame, and I would always feel hard-pressed to explain away to myself my ignorance of photographic history and its theoretical discourse on the grounds of simply having been too busy to dig, to explore (so what’s the excuse for the last twenty-plus years, then, Rob?).

TOP is somewhat similar in that we have a very capable writer; if there’s a huge difference it’s in that TOP is also concerned with turning a buck, and has a philosophy of discouraging reader dialogue - which is fair enough, but I am convinced also counterproductive.

A recently discovered site is that of Dan Milnor - he goes under the title of Shifter, for some reason that escapes me. Into cycles, motorbikes and, of course, a skilled ex-reportage photographer, he writes, and does his videos, too, with a unique style that appeals to me. No, he doesn’t sell cameras.

That said, nothing will replace Tim; I can only hope for miracles and pray that one comes along in time.


Jim Bones is no slouch himself

https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2015/apr/ed_1_jimbones/index.phtml

Mike, thanks for recommending "In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World". I ordered a copy (original hardcover edition!) through ABEBooks as soon as I read your post here, and it arrived today. Lovely book!

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