Photography & Art ~ A Perspective
This being a blog, I feel there is freedom to discuss issues without posting new work, as has been the focus of this page in the past. When I began blogging on photography, I covered various areas of photography, including processes, practices and functional testing methods. I also was posting the print images I was making at the time. That process has brought me to my current position in photography, as a photographer and a printer. interestingly enough, it follows directly Dr Wayne Dyer's Dictum; "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change". The most powerful tool at one's disposal, in life.
I bring that up as it affects how I perceive the photographic process, and how I want to utilize it. Photography has been in my blood since I was 13, in 1961, firing off my first black & white shots of the world, fascinated by both. Something about seeing a world in b&w, even then, was comforting to my eyes. It wasn't the real world. It represented the real world with beautiful gradations of grays. It has been a good number of years, with thirty years of commercial photography in the interim, to basically arrive back to that point of perception, of wonder, and deeper appreciation of the b&w image. I specialized in black and white photography when I had a commercial studio in the 1980's, it was still being regularly used. The final decade of commercial work was Event Photography, weddings, Quinceaneras, Proms, sports teams, Baseball Player Card photos, Sororities/Fraternity portraits, and special occasions. Everything in that work was all about the client.
I was fortunate to have been able to build a custom darkroom, designed for hand coated printing. For me, printmaking. That four year period produced ten printed portfolios of work, in four print mediums, with two mixed groupings. In that time, I wrote a book on each of those four processes, with the mixed processes within those books. And that, has changed the way I look at things, photographically. 'Producing, now, is something entirely different than when I began. When I began there were hundreds of images in my head, all wanting to be represented in their best form. A good amount of those images were shot thirty-five years ago, a much different period in my photographic life. Another thing to come of my printing over that period was the way I perceive my work.
When I began making hand coated prints again, four years ago, the focus was on building a clean portfolio. Then another, followed by another, and another book. The portfolios began with my earliest images, as Kallitype prints, in an edition of (5). Then came the Tombstone portfolio of palladium prints in an edition of (3). As the portfolios progressed, my perspective progressed, to wanting only a very limited number of copies. The editions continued to decline to one of (2), before I came to realize this was telling me, everything. All the prints I make now are unique. There are several reasons for that.
Considering my age, in my seventh decade of life, with galleries chuck full of black and white photographers, of every stripe, then pandemic closing down pretty much everything, having editions of prints isn't a good idea. Then there's the commercially viable collectable value, based on how many prints in circulation, and the fewer the better for the buyer. Perhaps it is the sum of the above propositional argument, the simple truth being my choice now for making only unique prints comes down to my own way of looking at my prints.
There is always the expected way of making a black & white print, but b&w photography is very malleable, something stressed in the first book. A black and white image can be printed in almost endless variations upon the theme. Each iteration being viable, if, the printer wants it so. The classical black and white print as I came to know it derives of master works, such as Edward Weston. He sets a pretty high bar for fine printing. The eight definable tonalities, from deep black [dMax] to crisp white [zone 8] When I began, that was the focus, making a full scaled black and white image. That morphed into warm toned images printed in palladium, then gum and gum over palladium. Each print taking longer and longer to make.
That, was the process of change. When I intend to make a print now, I spend a good deal of time looking at images until I see the right one. I mean seeing it, as how it is to be printed and how that would look. The image is scrutinized for its design, its representation of the light, the chiaroscuro effect. All elements that make up what will be the final image seen by the viewer. Before that can take place, the printer must be able to see the final print as desired, in order to control the elements of the printing process that shape and control the end result of the printed image. If that image can't be seen, there is not trail for arriving anywhere.
I suppose what I'm saying is simply, I'm beginning to see my work in a different way. Each print is a jewel, a creation that has to be perfect. I don't print for expected tonalities, the eight tonal range print. What I'm interested in now is creating the Pictorial Effect. Shaping the image in such ways as to create the mood and lighting that is desired. I believe the lighting of the image is everything. Lighting not only sets the mood and structure of the image, it shapes the textural quality of the image and how the lights reflects off objects. It is the shaping of the printed image, that defines the printer, makes it unique, recognizable.
The summation of the above thought, was a journey every photographer/print-maker will experience if, they wish to use the term Art in reference to their work. Art, should be unique and rare. If their are umpteen or endless print copies, then it would be difficult for anyone to call that art. That would be commercial photography, and that, is what photography is all about. Take a shot, print it, then sell as many copies as you can. But that, is not Art. And that, is the beauty of having a blog. I can post my thoughts of photography and art. With that said, good energy to your photographic works.
g. Michael Handgis Photography