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Ralph Gibson: Why would you ditch film in your 76th year?
Old 01-21-2014   #1
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Ralph Gibson: Why would you ditch film in your 76th year?

Ralph Gibson has jumped ship to digital. It's a free country. But why build a huge reputation over decades on the strength of your film images and then switch to digital? It's a weird one:

http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/201...ph-gibson.html

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Old 01-21-2014   #2
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That appears to me to be a digital bash with lots of hackneyed analogies thrown in for good measure. If Gibson wants to explore image making with pixels instead of silver that's his choice.

YMMV of course.
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Old 01-21-2014   #3
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Why not? Because he's older than most, he's got to be set in his ways?

My grandfather made it past 100, he may too, still got quarter of century left in him maybe, time to go to digital and back again.
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Old 01-21-2014   #4
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"Now it'll be just the same heavily manipulated pixel pap that I'm getting fed up of seeing on Flickr and other forums."

Made it that far and closed the page again. Another nonsense sentimental 'wet is the only real thing' post.
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Old 01-21-2014   #5
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I found the article repugnant in so many ways. What is it about photography that makes certain people so fanatical and dismissive of each other's tools? Can you imagine such a vitriolic article about a painter starting to use acrylic paint? It's absurd.

It takes a lot of guts and open mindedness for someone after an entire career of successful work and at the age of 76, to completely move out of his comfort zone and switch medium. I applaud the guy.
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Old 01-21-2014   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
That appears to me to be a digital bash with lots of hackneyed analogies thrown in for good measure. If Gibson wants to explore image making with pixels instead of silver that's his choice.

YMMV of course.
Of course it's his choice. I did say it's a free country. I'm also free to wonder why he chose to do so.
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Old 01-21-2014   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
"Now it'll be just the same heavily manipulated pixel pap that I'm getting fed up of seeing on Flickr and other forums."

Made it that far and closed the page again. Another nonsense sentimental 'wet is the only real thing' post.
Shame. If you'd read further you would have seen that Gibson advanced much the same argument as I did (not put quite so bluntly) just 12 years ago saying, ""I'm interested in the alchemy of light on film and chemistry and silver. When I'm taking a photograph I imagine the light rays passing through my lens and penetrating the emulsion of my film. And when I'm developing my film I imagine the emulsion swelling and softening and the little particles of silver tarnishing.

"But anyway, the big emphasis in digital photography is how many more million pixels this new model has than the competitor's model. It's about resolution, resolution, resolution as though that were going to provide us with a picture that harboured more content, more emotional power.

"Well, in fact, it's very good for a certain kind of graphic thing in colour but I don't necessarily do that kind of photograph. So when it comes to digital, I have to say that digital just doesn't look the way photography looks: it looks digital. However, I strongly suspect some kid is going to come along with a Photoshop filter called Tri X and you just load that and you've got yourself something that looks like photography (laughs)." My italics, Ralph's laughter.
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Old 01-21-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nongfuspring View Post
I found the article repugnant in so many ways. What is it about photography that makes certain people so fanatical and dismissive of each other's tools? Can you imagine such a vitriolic article about a painter starting to use acrylic paint? It's absurd.

It takes a lot of guts and open mindedness for someone after an entire career of successful work and at the age of 76, to completely move out of his comfort zone and switch medium. I applaud the guy.
That's a very narrow-minded interpretation of what I've written but maybe that's because it's what you've chosen to read into it. It's about more than digital v film. It's about the way the computer interface is displacing the artisan in society.
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Old 01-21-2014   #9
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Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
His health? Standing in the darkroom for hours breathing chemicals is probably hard for a man his age.
That's my guess, too, Chris. If so, it's a pity he just didn't come out and say that.
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Old 01-21-2014   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
That's a very narrow-minded interpretation of what I've written but maybe that's because it's what you've chosen to read into it. It's about more than digital v film. It's about the way the computer interface is displacing the artisan in society.
Why is it invalid for an "artisan" to use a computer?
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Old 01-21-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith View Post
That appears to me to be a digital bash with lots of hackneyed analogies thrown in for good measure. If Gibson wants to explore image making with pixels instead of silver that's his choice.

YMMV of course.
My feelings exactly.
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Old 01-21-2014   #12
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Originally Posted by nongfuspring View Post
Why is it invalid for an "artisan" to use a computer?
From Wikipedia (I know but it's handy):
An artisan[1] (from French: artisan, Italian: artigiano) or craftsman (craftsperson)[2] is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, sculpture, clothing, jewellery, household items and tools or even machines such as the handmade devices of a watchmaker. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an artist.
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Old 01-21-2014   #13
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The problem is that even 'artisan' in this digital age has gotten new meanings. Doing things by hand is not the only way to create 'valid products'. My gf is a professor at an arts academy's fashion department. Students design fabrics through software much like photoshop, designs and patterns that are then produced on giant digital weaving machines. The possibilities are endless, and very different from what one would be able to produce 'by hand'. Same with designers using 3d printing machines: honeycomb structures are replacing solid bodies, making designs much more efficient than older techniques.

Are all these designers and artists frauds? Or using the techniques available to them? Artisan techniques evolved. Just like digital photographic technology moved into the 21st century through digital possibilities.
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Old 01-21-2014   #14
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Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
The problem is that even 'artisan' in this digital age has gotten new meanings. Doing things by hand is not the only way to create 'valid products'. My gf is a professor at an arts academy's fashion department. Students design fabrics through software much like photoshop, designs and patterns that are then produced on giant digital weaving machines. The possibilities are endless, and very different from what one would be able to produce 'by hand'. Same with designers using 3d printing machines: honeycomb structures are replacing solid bodies, making designs much more efficient than older techniques.

Are all these designers and artists frauds? Or using the techniques available to them? Artisan techniques evolved. Just like digital photographic technology moved into the 21st century through digital possibilities.
Well, that's a bit of a strawman. I didn't say anyone was a fraud and I didn't say that anyone's products weren't valid. The definition of artisan hasn't changed. You and others might choose to attach new meanings to it but that doesn't alter its definition.
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Old 01-21-2014   #15
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Old 01-21-2014   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nongfuspring View Post
Why is it invalid for an "artisan" to use a computer?
Because the 'artisan' is normally taken for something that is made by hand once you put industrial machinery into the process some claim it to be 'artisanal' but that is more market speak than reality.
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Old 01-21-2014   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
The definition of artisan hasn't changed.
I think my point was that with all these new tools available, you can't restrict artists, to be valuable or relevant, to using 19/20th century's techniques only. Or are today's digital techniques 'artisan' only in the 22nd century when we moved on to holographic quantum printing and consider inkjet printing on paper 'that beautiful old artisan skill'?
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Old 01-21-2014   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
The problem is that even 'artisan' in this digital age has gotten new meanings.
No it hasn't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
Doing things by hand is not the only way to create 'valid products'
I don't think there is any suggestion it is any less valid, hand crafted products will always be sought after due to the value ascribed to them.
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Old 01-21-2014   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
I think my point was that with all these new tools available, you can't restrict artists, to be valuable or relevant, to using 19/20th century's techniques only. Or are today's digital techniques 'artisan' only in the 22nd century when we moved on to holographic quantum printing and consider inkjet printing on paper 'that beautiful old artisan skill'?
In the next century we will value hand made things as 'artisan' the same as we do now. The 19th century produced many mechanised production methods that allowed the masses to own products for the first time.

The reaction to that was in the arts and crafts movement of the later part of that century.

So it's not about restriction of using methods as such more the conservation of hand made methods as opposed to those using CNC machinery, computer algorithms or industrial processes .
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Old 01-21-2014   #20
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Passionately expressed but I don`t find these sort of articles helpful.
Many people including myself find room for both media.

I don`t see why Gibson shouldn`t be free to do and use what he wants to.
Why would anyone want to restrict someones ability to express themselves in a way of their own choosing.

If you like it fine ...if you don`t ...fine.
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Old 01-21-2014   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
I think my point was that with all these new tools available, you can't restrict artists, to be valuable or relevant, to using 19/20th century's techniques only. Or are today's digital techniques 'artisan' only in the 22nd century when we moved on to holographic quantum printing and consider inkjet printing on paper 'that beautiful old artisan skill'?
It's only my opinion but I don't think digital techniques will ever be recognised as artisan. They belong to a new category, something along the lines of "computer interface production".

And if you can't discuss something like this on a forum called Philosophy of Photography it's a rum do!
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Old 01-21-2014   #22
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I'm sorry if this becomes a bit too personal, but in this case I just cannot stomach the tone of the post.

Even this:

Quote:
Now imagine you had a computer on which you could design the chair. Imagine you could fire that design off to a CNC machine that carved the chair out of a block of wood and spat it out ready made and finished in varnish. The initial vision in both cases - the design - is the same. The latter would be the more perfect but which would you rather own?

Or here's an analogy from the music world. You write the song, rehearse it with your favourite musicians and record it live. Or, you write the song, programme various computer-controlled synths to play the the various instruments absolutely flawlessly and record that. Which record would you rather listen to?
You are assuming that the the product is produced is more important than the end result, and while you are entitled to your opinion I think you are taking a tone of "shoving my truth down everyone else's throat".

Personally, I am not so sure I rather buy a hand made chair than a machine made one, whichever I think looks better is my choice, because I care about what I buy, not how hard it was to make it, in a sense.

I also like good sound, so I don't mind computerized recordings if they sound good to my ear.

What I am reading in your post, all I can say about it is that I find it outright ridiculous and disrespectful. Who are you to write a rant about someone else's choice of medium for photography, just because you wouldn't do the same choice?
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Old 01-21-2014   #23
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Originally Posted by Photo_Smith View Post
I don't think there is any suggestion it is any less valid, hand crafted products will always be sought after due to the value ascribed to them.
Obviously that's not true.

-

Photography is a practice defined by it's use of intermediary technology. Controlling a dodge tool in PS with a mouse or a piece of black paper in a darkroom, it makes no difference. If digital photography is too "technological" to be artisanal, then so is film.
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Old 01-21-2014   #24
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Originally Posted by Michael Markey View Post
Passionately expressed but I don`t find these sort of articles helpful.
Many people including myself find room for both media.

I don`t see why Gibson shouldn`t be free to do and use what he wants to.
Why would anyone want to restrict someones ability to express themselves in a way of their own choosing.

If you like it fine ...if you don`t ...fine.
Michael, I'm not saying he shouldn't be free to do what he wants: of course he should.

There is a problem with "finding room for both media". If you're a digital guy then, sure, it's great. You use your DSLR on its own or in conjunction with a bit of film now and again when the mood takes you. If you're film only like me then it's a problem. Digital imagers aren't threatened by film photography but the reverse isn't the case. The more successful and ubiquitous digital becomes the less certain, in my opinion, the long term future of film is.

Now, you could argue that if people choose digital then that's their right and that's democracy and the markets speaking. But democracy is also two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for lunch.
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Old 01-21-2014   #25
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Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
I'm sorry if this becomes a bit too personal, but in this case I just cannot stomach the tone of the post.

Even this:



You are assuming that the the product is produced is more important than the end result, and while you are entitled to your opinion I think you are taking a tone of "shoving my truth down everyone else's throat".

Personally, I am not so sure I rather buy a hand made chair than a machine made one, whichever I think looks better is my choice, because I care about what I buy, not how hard it was to make it, in a sense.

I also like good sound, so I don't mind computerized recordings if they sound good to my ear.

What I am reading in your post, all I can say about it is that I find it outright ridiculous and disrespectful. Who are you to write a rant about someone else's choice of medium for photography, just because you wouldn't do the same choice?
Who are you to rant about my right to express my feelings as I choose?
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Old 01-21-2014   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
Who are you to rant about my right to express my feelings as I choose?
I was expecting that answer, and yes, you have somewhat of a point. The main difference being that I am telling you personally, I am not declaring on my personal blog that you are a moron for the choices you make.

Perhaps I am reading the post wrong, but I just don't get the point, unless it in fact is to call out someone else as stupid.

EDIT:
I am not questioning that you have the right to express what you want, because you do. What I am questioning is the value of it, and just because we have a right to do certain things doesn't mean we should.
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Old 01-21-2014   #27
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I'm supporting koolzakukumba here. Why the piling on against him? This is a discussion forum for heavens sake.
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Old 01-21-2014   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
I was expecting that answer, and yes, you have somewhat of a point. The main difference being that I am telling you personally, I am not declaring on my personal blog that you are a moron for the choices you make.

Perhaps I am reading the post wrong, but I just don't get the point, unless it in fact is to call out someone else as stupid.

EDIT:
I am not questioning that you have the right to express what you want, because you do. What I am questioning is the value of it, and just because we have a right to do certain things doesn't mean we should.
Can you please show me where I referred to Ralph as a "moron" or "stupid"? I have lots of respect for Ralph as an artist. I will defend his right to do what he chooses. I don't have to agree with it.
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Old 01-21-2014   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
But why build a huge reputation over decades on the strength of your film images and then switch to digital?
He built his reputation on images plain and simple... he will make great images with anything. His success has nothing to do with film.
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Old 01-21-2014   #30
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Can you please show me where I referred to Ralph as a "moron" or "stupid"? I have lots of respect for Ralph as an artist. I will defend his right to do what he chooses. I don't have to agree with it.
Ok, I guess I have to back off on that one and clarify myself. You are right, I didn't mean that you literally called him out as moron or stupid, so sorry about putting it that way.

But I do however read the tone of your post as you are implying that he is stupid or a moron. But that could be my own fault just as much, depending on what I read into it. In any case, that is the feeling I get.

But in any case, I do respect your right to express what you want, so we don't have to argue about this, you have expressed your opinion and I have replied with mine.
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Old 01-21-2014   #31
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He built his reputation on images plain and simple... he will make great images with anything. His success has nothing to do with film.
Wow! I think you'd get a good argument from Ralph on that one!
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Old 01-21-2014   #32
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Ok, I guess I have to back off on that one and clarify myself. You are right, I didn't mean that you literally called him out as moron or stupid, so sorry about putting it that way.

But I do however read the tone of your post as you are implying that he is stupid or a moron. But that could be my own fault just as much, depending on what I read into it. In any case, that is the feeling I get.

But in any case, I do respect your right to express what you want, so we don't have to argue about this, you have expressed your opinion and I have replied with mine.
Fair enough, Kenny. No problem.
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Old 01-21-2014   #33
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Wow! I think you'd get a good argument from Ralph on that one!
Sure, he's got a distinct processing style... however, if his photography didn't have strong enough framing and content, it wouldn't matter.

Too much of this old fashioned BS about how film is real and digital is somehow fake. It's all photography. The man has been there and done it with film... I think he's earned the right to try something else. If you decide that someone's work is inferior simply because of a process used, that is your hang up and not theirs.
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Old 01-21-2014   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
There is a problem with "finding room for both media". If you're a digital guy then, sure, it's great. You use your DSLR on its own or in conjunction with a bit of film now and again when the mood takes you. If you're film only like me then it's a problem. Digital imagers aren't threatened by film photography but the reverse isn't the case. The more successful and ubiquitous digital becomes the less certain, in my opinion, the long term future of film is.

Now, you could argue that if people choose digital then that's their right and that's democracy and the markets speaking. But democracy is also two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for lunch.
Yes I can see the argument .
A think the bigger problem is that most of the darkroom workers I know are chaps in their fifties and sixties.

I`ve seen their darkroom prints and they are impressive and yet they are the most fervent advocates of the digital work flow.
It allows them to continue to create in half the time than they did in the darkroom and at a fraction of the cost.

They now have the latest software and injects.

The fact that Gibson has changed his MO so late in life therefore comes as little surprise to me.

As to its wider implications , I think I agree ,film work will only get more difficult and the markets will speak.
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Old 01-21-2014   #35
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Fair enough, Kenny. No problem.
I have to give it to you though, you managed to write a post that stirred some emotion, and that isn't always too easy in todays overflow of information.
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Old 01-21-2014   #36
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Originally Posted by nongfuspring View Post
Obviously that's not true.

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Photography is a practice defined by it's use of intermediary technology. Controlling a dodge tool in PS with a mouse or a piece of black paper in a darkroom, it makes no difference. If digital photography is too "technological" to be artisanal, then so is film.
Of course it's true.
So you think that controlling computer software and pressing a print button is the same as making a print by hand? Because to be artisan means handmade.

So obviously that's true by the very definition of computer based vs handmade.
One is using technology so you DON'T have to do it by hand, that's why the little dodge tool in PS has a picture of a hand, its not a real hand but an icon and is used because the software replaces the action of a real hand.

Think about it!
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Old 01-21-2014   #37
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Quote:
A Less Beautiful Ralph Gibson

I find this somewhat judgemental. A question mark after the statement would have made it considerably less so for me.

This is an interesting thread though!
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Old 01-21-2014   #38
zauhar
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The rant was harsh but I liked it. I do get tired of reasonable, mealy-mouthed centrist sh-t.

Sounds like in addition to his age, Gibson was hooked by the monochrom, which certainly seems to be a outstanding tool - that could have pushed him over the edge.

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Old 01-21-2014   #39
Koolzakukumba
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Sure, he's got a distinct processing style... however, if his photography didn't have strong enough framing and content, it wouldn't matter. If you decide that someone's work is inferior simply because of a process used, that is your hang up and not theirs.
That's fair comment. I accept that's my hang-up. I'd love to have one of Ralph's darkroom prints. As for an inkjet print? I'd rather wait and buy the poster as it would be much cheaper. Whether the image is squirted from Ralph's computer to an inkjet printer in his studio or squirted from his computer, via a memory stick to a publisher's printer doesn't make much difference in my opinion.
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Old 01-21-2014   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Photo_Smith View Post
of course it's true.
So you think that controlling computer software and pressing a print button is the same as making a print by hand?
It's not that much different... the best equipment for a great print is a great set of eyes... that goes for the darkroom and in digital. We all know that there is more work to digital than pushing a button.
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