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Friday, August 25, 2006

Carbon vs. Silver

Walker Evans. Or Is It?

A new gallery exhibit of large carbon-on-cotton digital prints of scans made from Walker Evans's negatives raises questions about the differences in media

By Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

"...The image produced by the camera, whether it’s a negative or a digital file, is only the matrix for the work of art. It is not the work itself, although if the photographer is a journalist, any hanky-panky in the printing process comes at the potential cost of the picture’s integrity. Digital technology has not introduced manipulation into this universe; it has only multiplied the opportunities for mischief.

"I dawdle over this familiar ground because the digitally produced prints of classic Walker Evans photographs, now at the UBS Art Gallery, are so seductive and luxurious—velvety, full of rich detail, poster-size in a few cases and generally cinematic—that they raise some basic issues about the nature of photography.

"For starters they suggest a simple question, whether luxury and richness are apt qualities for pictures of Depression-era tenant farmers in the American South. These are, I must say, almost uncomfortably beautiful...."


Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON with thanks to Richard S.


Blogger DonovanCO said...

A few years ago I attended an outstanding show of Evans' work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Having looked at the slide show on the NY Times site for this article, I have to say that the impact of the digitally produced prints is much less than the originals. They almost look like studio setups. Too lush, too sharp for the era and conditions the original prints depicted. Grain, reduced contrast, et al, can be goodness. Evans was telling a compelling story and I think much of it seems to be lost with these new prints.

10:01 AM  
Blogger stanco said...

Having not seen the (un)original prints in question makes it rather difficult to offer any "definitive" comment. But would Evans have turned down an offer to have the best prints made of his work that money and technology could buy? Do "granier" prints jibe more with what our collective perception of that era looked like? Should today's images of impoverished areas also be less technically proficient? That said, the last sentence of said article pretty much sums it up in the proverbial nutshell.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"the last sentence of said article pretty much sums it up in the proverbial nutshell."

The last sentence of the article is: "Evans is."


3:05 AM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

As much as I'd like to read the rest of the article, I refuse to register with The New York Times to do so.

8:22 AM  
Blogger stanco said...

Apologies all around... Please find it in your heart of hearts to forgive the now failing eyesight (and memory). Thought the last sentence read,
"Technology isn't timeless; Evans is."

12:08 PM  

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