Archive for the ‘rants&raves’ Category

Pictorialism Lives

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Pictorialism lives.

I do believe that I have come full circle again (at least once). It usually happen around my birthday that I try to re-adjust my bearings.  My first photographic mentors studied with Adolf (Papa) Fassbender.  There have always been two paralell streams in photographic history: Fox/Talbot used paper negatives for image capture, while Louis Dauguerre used metal as the substrate.  Pictorialists were those folks who (for better or worse) tried to imitate painterly methods and were influenced by the  impressionists.  The other stream were of the modernist perspective.  They gloried in the “original” blessings of the photographic medium: viz. the ability to show more objective detail.  I will not try to defend one camp or the other: before things got complicated there were Ford people and Chevy people and never the twain shall meet.  (Unless you consider the tao position of finding the middle path between ying and yang).  However, sometime in the 1930’s, the objectivist school (f/64 et.al.) won over the spotlight.  Consequently, according to the magazines, great photos had to be sharp above all.  Enter Leica, a few wars, LIFE Magazine, 20th century turmoil, Robert Capa (my hero), and photography got real again.  Subject matter and getting close enough without getting killed became the focus.  It didn’t take long for post-war (which one) America to get complacent and LIFE magazine turned into PEOPLE.  Then enters digital “photography” when we all needed some escapism.  Now, if your daughter has broken up with Mr. Perfect, he can be photo-shopped out ( the USSR perfected this back in the 50’s).  I’m going to shorten this diatribe by saying that some of Monet’s best works were done when his eyesight was failing and things got a bit soft.  Enter LENSBABY, a simple optical formula full of optical imperfections, that allows us to be more “forgiving” in the detail we show, and more expressive in the rendition we express.  I don’t remember who said it, but there are too many sharp photos of fuzzy concepts.  A wealthy dowager went to a famous photographer for a portrait claiming that she needed someone to “do her justice”.  “Madam”, the photographer retorted, “what you need is mercy, not justice”.  My final word is that both beauty and truth are undermined by “too much information”.  Or, in the words of Goethe, “Genius is knowing when to stop”.

-Blessings, Bob.