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Pearls from artists* # 102

New York, NY

New York, NY

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

That a photograph is unlikely to be a laboratory record is evident when we think about how it is made.  Most photographers are people of immense enthusiasms whose work involves many choices – to brake the car, grab the yellow instead of the green filter, wait out the cloud, and at the second everything looks inexplicably right, to release the shutter.  Behind these decisions stands the photographer’s individual framework of recollections and meditations about the way he perceived that place or places like it before.  Without such a background there would be no knowing whether the scene on the ground glass was characteristic of the geography and of his experience of it and intuition of it – in short, whether it was true.

Making photographs has to be, then, a personal matter; when it is not, the results are not persuasive.  Only the artist’s presence in the work can convince us that its affirmation resulted from and has been tested by human experience.  Without the photographer in the photograph the view is no more compelling than the product of some annoying record camera, a machine perhaps capable of happy accident but not response to form.

Beauty in Photography by Robert Adams

Comments are welcome!

Q: What do you like to do in the darkroom that brings a print up to perfection?

Untitled chromogenic print, edition of 5

Untitled chromogenic print, edition of 5

A:  That’s a trade secret!  I will say that if I am going to sign my name to a piece of art, it must be the best that I am able to make at that point in time.  In the darkroom I work deliberately and patiently.  I slow down.  I make tests, then refine and adjust the yellow and magenta filters on the enlarger to emphasize certain parts of the negative – bring an area forward, make another recede, brighten up something, etc.  Usually as a last step, I dodge and burn some areas, always trying to produce the best, most eye-catching images I can. 

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