Blowing Hot & Cold - part 1 of 1 2

Published 01/08/2011


I still recall the words of Ansel Adams speaking of his early days as a younger photographer and the prints he was making. When speaking of a particular movement of photography in the 20s he said, "The Pictorialists of this period thought they represented the Art of Photography". He also said of this group, "The Pictorialists seem dedicated to the proposition that a photograph should not look like a photograph, but like some other form of graphic expression." What Adams was describing was a group of image-makers who used 'effects' such as soft focus to 'add' that little extra to the image.

Another great influence on me from those days was Edward Weston who called the pictorialists 'the fuzzy-wuzzies' and described their work as 'sentimentalism'. In response to this Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams formed the Group f64 as a means of combating what they thought of as 'bad taste' on photography and the promotion of the 'Purist Principles'. Adams described these principles as, "sharp optical qualities, in-depth focus and smooth papers", he also made comments in later writings about the 'honesty of the glossy print'.


I read these accounts as a young 16-year-old student studying photography and Adams was God to me at that time! Furthermore I was firmly obsessed with the black and white print; colour at the time had no place in my photographic pursuits, so it was inevitable I would follow his words and begin producing my darkroom prints in much the same way, with a dedication to the glossy print (although I was a kid and certainly did not posses the skills that Adams had!). And so it remained this way for many years until I was hurled into the digital print world from the comforts and confines of my darkroom where all was familiar!

By producing prints in the darkroom I had no need to consider the longevity of the image at all and galleries at the time took them without question as they were all archivally washed and selenium toned - therefore 'bullet proof' and would last a lifetime. When I began considering digital printing I entered an entirely different world. The initial advice I read stated that I 'had' to use 'fine-art' papers of 300gsm or more and glossy papers did not cut the mustard. I was pretty perplexed by this and began exploring the options. To be honest I needed to get work out there into galleries and I also wanted to grasp the digital print production so I was forced to try out the fine art papers of this time.

I was not impressed! Many of the cotton rag or smooth fine art papers where in my opinion quite 'fuzzy-wuzzie' and the greatest concern was the flat-looking prints where the blacks did not appear black at all but a kind of gentle-dark which annoyed the heck out of me!

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1st Published 01/08/2011
last update 21/07/2022 10:37:12

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