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tbm
10-16-2009, 11:39
I was in a camera store this morning which, last night, started displaying a bunch of photographer Steve Anchell's black and white prints in its gallery. I viewed the prints and after leaving the gallery section I asked one of the store's clerks (clerk A) "Do you know what camera and film Steve used to capture those images?". The clerk said he did not. Then another clerk (clerk B), probably in his 60s, happened to walk by and clerk A stopped him and repeated my question to him. Clerk B said to me, "I don't know, but why do you care? It doesn't matter what camera and film he used. Painters never discuss the merits of their brushes, paints, and canvasses, so photographers should not discuss equipment! The only thing that matters in photography is the final result" I then said, "It is erroneous to compare painting with photography. They are so vastly different inasmuch as the former involves brushes, paints, canvasses, and the artist's creative potential and the latter involves camera bodies and lenses, films, developers, and papers on the analog side and then sensor sizes, photosites on the sensors, frame size differences, etc. on the digital side. Plus, there are concerns about lens flaring, lens vignetting, lens bokeh quality, and so on both anaologically and digitally. Plus, gaining a creative eye in photography is different than that required in painting.

An aquaintance recently showed me some images he captured with his $3,000 Canon digital camera and zoom lens and he was quite proud of the results until I showed him burned out highlights and non-existent shadow details on some of his images. I then showed him some Leica-based prints I had created in my darkroom which revealed beautiful highlight density and shadow detail. I then asked my aquaintance why he allowed the clerk who sold him the equipment to sell him a zoom lens rather than one or more prime lenses with the Canon. He was dumbfounded and had no answer.

What would you say to a clerk who insists on comparing photography with painting, Roger?

Terry

Robin P
10-16-2009, 11:58
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the response one has to admire a salesman who does not automatically latch on to an opportunity for promoting/selling more gear!
An extreme but classic response to the innocent question but then doesn't photography usually attract more "gearheads" than painting or drawing?

cheers, Robin

Pickett Wilson
10-16-2009, 12:18
Perhaps your friend doesn't know how to shoot and process his digital images. Blown highlights and blocked shadows are not inherent in $3,000 Canon DSLR's.

kshapero
10-16-2009, 12:25
I would have said, "Have a nice day, dude." and walked out. Then I would log on to RFF to compensate for the sales clerk's inability to gear bond with me.

Gumby
10-16-2009, 12:36
Painters never discuss the merits of their brushes, paints, and canvasses, ...

This is the first fallacy. There is a reason the clerk works in a camera shop... he/she is not a painter. Painters, indeed, talk about their brushes, paints, and canvasses. Maybe photographers are more prone to this type of discussion becuase cameras are more interesting collectables, but it is ignorant to say that painters never discuss equipment. Equipment makes a difference in execution so it is natural to discuss equipment if one wants to improve execution or achieve a different effect.

Roger Hicks
10-16-2009, 12:49
Dear Terry,

My reaction here is firmly equivocal.

On the one hand, in one sense, the sales clerk is dead right.

On the other, is he right because he is right (as it were) or is he right because he is too lazy, stupid, etc., to pay attention?

In the same situation, I hope I'd have been able to give a polite (if superficial) reply about kit, etc., even if I'd added, "But how much does it matter?" or said, "But I'm sure he'd have been just as good with ______".

I completely agree with Ed. Competent painters often do talk about the relative merits of (for example) oils, acrylics and alkyds, and indeeed, of different artists' colourmen. Then there are questions of substrates, priming, and more. Refusing to discuss technique may be honest, or it may be patronising ("You wouldn't understand") or just plain ignorant ("I don't understand but don't want to admit it.")

EDIT: As Memphis points out below, if you're good (more than merely competent, I'd say) you learn to work with that you've got. It's just easier to work with stuff you're happy with.

Cheers,

R.

Gumby
10-16-2009, 14:14
... Refusing to discuss technique may be honest, or it may be patronising ("You wouldn't understand") or just plain ignorant ("I don't understand but don't want to admit it.") ...

I suspect that refusal to talk about equipment/technique is often nothing more than a less embarassing way of saying, "I don't know". I don't know why people are so afraid to say, "I don't know".

Keith
10-16-2009, 15:02
Interesting situation in the camera store and well described ... but frankly I don't understand what the images from a DSLR with a zoom being compared to darkroom prints has to do with it at all.

I wonder if people who sculpt in wood compare chisels and mallets ... or discuss what grade of 3M abrasive was used to obtain a particular finish? :p

Roger Hicks
10-16-2009, 23:33
Interesting situation in the camera store and well described ... but frankly I don't understand what the images from a DSLR with a zoom being compared to darkroom prints has to do with it at all.

I wonder if people who sculpt in wood compare chisels and mallets ... or discuss what grade of 3M abrasive was used to obtain a particular finish? :p
Dear Keith,

Craftsmen certainly do. An old friend of mine is an extremely skilled woodworker, and is always interested in trying top-flight tools, of which he has quite a collection.

Cheers,

R.

35mmdelux
10-16-2009, 23:51
Should have told the dude even construction workers talk about hammers! Certainly the final result is what matters most, but that was not your question. You asked a simple question and the dude acts like he's at speakers corner in London.

Leigh Youdale
10-17-2009, 04:09
.............. I then said, "It is erroneous to compare painting with photography. They are so vastly different inasmuch as the former involves brushes, paints, canvasses, and the artist's creative potential and the latter involves camera bodies and lenses, films, developers, and papers on the analog side and then sensor sizes, photosites on the sensors, frame size differences, etc. on the digital side. Plus, there are concerns about lens flaring, lens vignetting, lens bokeh quality, and so on both anaologically and digitally. Plus, gaining a creative eye in photography is different than that required in painting.
allowed the clerk who sold him the equipment to sell him a zoom lens rather than one or more prime lenses with the Canon".
He was dumbfounded and had no answer.

What would you say to a clerk who insists on comparing photography with painting?

Terry

If I were the "clerk" I'd now be on some forum asking how he should respond to a pompous customer.

Juan Valdenebro
10-17-2009, 04:48
Clerk B was right. And he was wrong too.


Right because photographic equipment is not what makes a good image. Evocative was a nice word, by the way... It's got nothing to do with image quality.


Wrong because if it's true that painting and photography are incredibly close, much more than what even some photographers and painters think (visual narrative, finally), they have a deep difference: photography reflects reality phisically, even a prepared or false one. And its materials (gear) have more and more definitive limits for the artist: if instead of a medium format fast prime for a portrait with Astia slide film, you got a cheap third party 35mm 5.6 zoom with ISO400 print film, not even the best photographer in the world can -in the second case- get close to the first case results, having both of them the same skills...


I think clerk B was more wrong than right, AND he had a bad day, and was tired of bad photographers going to the store. But he did he's job poorly. We're all good and bad photographers at the same time, and we all have the right to desire better gear, and ask for it precisely where it's sold.


Cheers,


Juan

Rob-F
10-17-2009, 05:22
You could just ask Steve:

[email protected]

Nikon Bob
10-17-2009, 05:43
Perhaps your friend doesn't know how to shoot and process his digital images. Blown highlights and blocked shadows are not inherent in $3,000 Canon DSLR's.

OTH using a Leica and primes, film and a darkroom any guarantee against blown highlights and blocked shadows.

Bob

andredossantos
10-17-2009, 06:25
The clerk sounds kind of abrasive. We all like nice gear and there is nothing wrong with that. For the guy to pretend he doesn't have preferences is kind of absurd.

However, his point is still correct. After a period of selling off a bunch of gear i used an old brownie hawkeye that I found. I liked the results I was able to get:

http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Brownie&w=9286123%40N04&s=int

Sparrow
10-17-2009, 06:28
any old rubbish will do

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2761/4018739915_9430d15163.jpg (http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2761/4018739915_9430d15163_b.jpg)

Gumby
10-17-2009, 06:35
If I were the "clerk" I'd now be on some forum asking how he should respond to a pompous customer.

He probably wouldn't "waste" his time. I not only know the shop the OP went to, but I'm quite certain I know which clerk he spoke to. The folks at this shop know their business... which is selling photo supplies. Ask them for a specific product and they'll tell all they know. Ask to buy something and they'll take your money. That's their job, and they seem to limit their interactions to that which is "doing their job". The clerk probably didn't give the OP's question a second thought -- undoubtedly not because he disrespects the OP but because answering that kind of question isn't his job. All of the clerks at this shop tend to give an odd, seemingly unwelcoming, gruffness at times... but they generally have -- in stock -- the film and supplies people can't get easily at other shops, and at decent prices.

Gumby
10-17-2009, 06:48
I think clerk B was more wrong than right, AND he had a bad day, and was tired of bad photographers going to the store. But he did he's job poorly. We're all good and bad photographers at the same time, and we all have the right to desire better gear, and ask for it precisely where it's sold.

Several thoughts on your comment:

1. It might be more appropriate go to art school to learn how to be a better photographic artist, not to a camera store. I've yet to run into a highly experienced/published or well-employed photographic artist working at a camera store. Most are selling gear for a reason. ;) (NOTE: I'm sure there are exceptions!)

2. If the question was asked in a different way-- more appropriate to the situation, the answer might have been different. What if the question was, "I have a Pentax K-1000 and think better equipment might help he achieve results like that guy who's art is featured over their in your gallery. What do you have, or what kind of equipment should I consider looking for?" What if the question was, "To get that kind of depth of field, which would be a better film to try: 100 ASA or 400 pushed to 3200?"

3. The question asked would have been more appropriate, and probably accurately answered, at the gallery opening. Even more obtuse questions like, "Is that bokeh I see in those two prints?" probably could have been addressed.

Had these three points been known to the OP a totally different comment would likely to have posted and you might not be assuming that the clerk "had a bad day" or was "doing his job poorly". :)

Gumby
10-17-2009, 06:52
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Brownie&w=9286123%40N04&s=int

You should get yourself some better gear, sir. :D

mabelsound
10-17-2009, 06:54
ALL visual art is about materials, tools, and process. If we could create photographs by just closing our eyes and thinking about them, and having them magically pop up on a computer screen, we would be bored out of our skulls. Making art is futzing around--using tools, doing stuff with your body, manipulating materials...and part of the delight of making art is seeing what surprises your materials and environment provide for you.

So, totally legitimate question, IMHO, and photographers and painters are very closely related.

Juan Valdenebro
10-17-2009, 07:01
Several thoughts on your comment:

1. It might be more appropriate go to art school to learn how to be a better photographic artist, not to a camera store. I've yet to run into a highly experienced/published or well-employed photographic artist working at a camera store. Most are selling gear for a reason. ;) (NOTE: I'm sure there are exceptions!)

2. If the question was asked in a different way-- more appropriate to the situation, the answer might have been different. What if the question was, "I have a Pentax K-1000 and think better equipment might help he achieve results like that guy who's art is featured over their in your gallery. What do you have, or what kind of equipment should I consider looking for?" What if the question was, "To get that kind of depth of field, which would be a better film to try: 100 ASA or 400 pushed to 3200?"

3. The question asked would have been more appropriate, and probably accurately answered, at the gallery opening. Even more obtuse questions like, "Is that bokeh I see in those two prints?" probably could have been addressed.

Had these three points been known to the OP a totally different comment would likely to have posted and you might not be assuming that the clerk "had a bad day" or was "doing his job poorly". :)

You're in your right to believe the man had a wonderful day, and did -for that customer's question- a great job.

Cheers,

Juan

antiquark
10-17-2009, 07:07
"Do you know what camera and film Steve used to capture those images?"

It would have been interesting if you preceded your question with the statement "I, also, would like to take pictures like that..."

Then you have a clear reason for wanting to know about the equipment.

Gumby
10-17-2009, 07:26
You're in your right to believe the man had a wonderful day, and did -for that customer's question- a great job.

I didn't say he did a great job, amigo. I said he probably did the best he could do given the question asked. But thanks for validating my right to an opinion that differs. :)

BTW, I'll be at that shop around noon today... will I see you there? If so, lunch is on me.

Proteus617
10-17-2009, 07:29
... After a period of selling off a bunch of gear i used an old brownie hawkeye that I found. I liked the results I was able to get:
http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Brownie&w=9286123%40N04&s=int

My $2 Hawkeye is a source of endless frustration. It consistently produces more interesting images than it has a right to, throwing a wrench into my gear acquisition schemes.

http://i103.photobucket.com/albums/m137/Proteus617/14470002-Copy.jpg

andredossantos
10-17-2009, 07:41
nice work, proteus617!

John Camp
10-19-2009, 11:09
The $2 Hawkeye makes the case for gear questions and discussions. It's a nice photo, but the photo editor of the local paper probably wouldn't be interested in it, because it would look really crappy on newsprint. For that kind of work, you need a camera that can consistently produce sharp photos under a wide range of conditions. If you see a gallery full of fast-moving street photos, it's a good bet they weren't produced with an Ebony 4x5 (although they *could* be, which would be an interesting finding in itself.) In any case, when you see work that you like, it seems natural to me to inquire after the gear. I primarily use cameras as note-taking instruments, and do my artwork with paint. I can promise you that painters spend a lot of time talking about tools -- in fact, when working with acrylics, say, I find specifically that I really want to lay down most of the paint with varieties of the Princeton 6300 brushes, but find that they don't work well for skin-tones, for which I need a much finer, softer brush. If you'd like to see the extent to which painters argue about tools, check a site like naturalpigments.com or amien.org.

The hardest parts of any art conversation (photos, or paint, or whatever) is the individual process. It's interesting and enjoyable and important to talk about tools, and the same about ideas, because those are the things you *can* talk about, and they are important. The hard part that doesn't get talked about much, is the process, because it's so intangible. Two people can walk along a street with identical cameras and one will take good pictures and the other won't. It's a matter of sensibility, and where that comes from, is the great mystery of art.

Hector Negron
10-19-2009, 11:51
You must be pretty bored and/or isolated to be going around picking senseless arguments with clerks.

There's an old Spanish proverb, roughly translated:

"Ask a cow it's opinion, it will tell you "moo""

dee
10-30-2009, 08:48
Sometimes an expensive brush does not work - I have been creating visuals , effectively on photocopy paper bonded to foamboard - inexpensive brushes have a harder feel and worked better when a wash will not work .
As ever , it's the correct tool for the job .
If we don't talk techniques and equipment - how do we learn / share / teach , even ?

Sparrow
10-30-2009, 09:08
Sometimes an expensive brush does not work - I have been creating visuals , effectively on photocopy paper bonded to foamboard - inexpensive brushes have a harder feel and worked better when a wash will not work .
As ever , it's the correct tool for the job .
If we don't talk techniques and equipment - how do we learn / share / teach , even ?

at one time a German company called V+R made a range of designer length fine hog-hair brushes, best by far for laying down a flat wash, when I was using them every day I could flat wash even the staining colours like Windsor purple and Viridian.
I have a few 7s and 8s left that outlasted the need for that skill, don't know why i keep them