Too much reverence?

Alan Clark

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I recently found myself wondering if we sometimes hold the "great" names in photography in too high regard, when they may not always merit too much reverence.
This came about when a friend mentioned that an American photographer on another forum was planning to visit Yorkshire and wanted to meet up with L/F photographers (his abbreviation) over here.
Someone else on the forum recommended he get hold of a book of photographs by George Tice called "Stone Walls. Grey skies. A vision of Yorkshire". I'd not heard of this book, but discovered that I could buy a copy on line for less than £4, so I ordered it.
It came yesterday and after looking carefully through it, came to the conclusion that it was worth £4, but only just. If I had seen it in a charity shop at £4 I might even have left it on the shelf.
George Tice is well known for his large format photographs of his native America, and I like his work a lot. But the photographs in this book were taken on two or three visits to Yorkshire and were really , on the whole, quite ordinary. Dull flat photographs taken in dull flat light. Not a patch on the photographs made by the two Yorkshiremen who run this forum. Not a patch on the "Remains of Elmet" photographs by Fay Godwin - and she wasn't even a Yorkshireman! And not a patch on the photographs taken week after week on the North York Moors by my friend who told me about the visiting American, and started all this off.

If anyone else has George Tice's "Stone Walls" book I would be interested in their views.

Alan
 

Ian Grant

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#2
Reminds me of another US photographer and his poor work shot here - Paul Caponigro, "Megaliths". Dull flat boring images.

The only problem with Fay Godwin's book Remains of Elmet is she wasn't a particularly good printer when it was first published, later prints of the same images are superb. Also the quality of the initial version wasn't as good as the second.

Ian
 

Alan Clark

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Ian, I agree about the difference between the first and later versions of the Remains of Elmet photographs. I have both and the first are a bit rough round the edges. Still superb photographs.
Regarding George Tice - to be fair to him, maybe he didn't stay long enough to make a sustained effort.

Alan
 

Bill Martindale

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I have the book and found it OK. However I saw the exhibition at the Bradford Museum that was on when the book was published, in fact I bought mine while there. The prints on show were far superior to the reproductions in the book and had that real "glow".
I happened to read the Fay Godwin Elmet book this afternoon and found the prints there to be dull but again that could be the book reproduction. I also looked through the Land series which are much better printed.
 

Alan Clark

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Bill, I wish I had seen the exhibition. George Tice does have a reputation for being a fine printer. All I have is the book, and Tice is on record as saying that his ultimate form of expression is the book.

Alan
 

Ian Grant

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#9
I've just been spring cleaning my camera cabinet and monograph etc bookshelves. What's noticeable is the huge variation in print quality in books from the 1980's, I remember having similar issues at work with Litho printers and demanding work reprinted or going to a different printer.

Now I'm talking about some top end books being poor print quality.

Ian
 

JimW

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#10
Being an occasional Litho printer myself, I might have an answer to the reproduction issues. Computers were just starting to come into the workflow then, at great cost, and trying to get them to do a good job was tricky. They could do a quick job, but when it took half a day to produce a set of good templates as opposed to an hour to produce a set of quick templates, guess which procedure won out...... .
 

Alan9940

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#12
A couple of comments...

1) Personally, I don't think any photographer can produce meaningful images from a short visit somewhere. IMO, you have to exist in that environment--see the light change on a daily basis, see the seasonal changes (if you have them...I don't), smell the air, truly internalize the place, etc. This is the main reason I don't travel much beyond my current home state. There is plenty to shoot in your local area if you're sensitive and look carefully.

2) I own a LOT of photo books. Having seen actual prints at exhibitions of several of the photographers that I admire and own books by them, IMO the books just don't really convey the images properly. I own Tice's "Paterson" and really enjoy the images therein.

Just one man's opinions...be gentle. ;)
 

YorkshireBloke

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#13
Ian, I agree about the difference between the first and later versions of the Remains of Elmet photographs. I have both and the first are a bit rough round the edges. Still superb photographs.
Regarding George Tice - to be fair to him, maybe he didn't stay long enough to make a sustained effort.

Alan
Yeah, I was the same when I did my photographic essay on Yosemite, I was brilliant but only stayed 3 nights with the kids.

:p ;)
 

David M

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#14
Fay Godwin changed from a condenser to a diffusion enlarger and considered that her prints greatly improved as a result.
 

KenS

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#15
If I may, I would like to recommend a book that I found 'opened my mind' about one of the best times of the day
to set up your camera, compose, take a light reading and 'make an exposure'.
If it it is possible have a look at John Sexton's book "Quiet Light" wherein he strongly suggest that more photographers should make exposures to film, within in the first two to three minutes minutes after the sun has disappeared below the horizon
While the book showing his images may be regarded as rather expensive.. it WILL open your eyes to 'that time of day to make some really great photographs. Google for John sexton + quiet light photography.

Ken
 

Alan9940

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#16
Ken, John Sexton's Quiet Light is one of my favorite photography books! I have the first edition, signed by John and others involved, and it came with one of his signed silver prints. Highly recommended!!
 

KenS

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#17
Mine too!!!!
He was the 'speaker' at a Biological Photographers annual meeting and I got to sit at his table where (as the President of the Pacific Northwest Chapter at the time (which was hosting him) at that time and was 'more than happy' to signed my copy of Quiet Light.... he has "NO' secrets that he is unwilling to share.

Ken
 

Alan9940

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#18
I only met him a couple of times over the years at various lectures, but he always seemed like a generous, kind man. I liked both him and his work from very early on; probably why I have a couple of his original prints hanging on the walls of my home! ;)
 
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