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Thread: Leica Gallery NYC

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    Leica Gallery NYC

    attended an opening a day ago, showing about 80 prints from over 60 photographers. from the 30's and from today, probably 90% black and white

    of note: Elliot Erwitt, who is always outstanding and a few others, of course.

    also of note was the relatively poor printing/imaging technique for modern work. while the content is always most important, it was surprising to see entire landscapes out of focus, poor dynamic range, poor tonality. What happened to carrying through the Leica aesthetic right to the print?
    a few comments:
    the most expensive print was a Mary Ellen Mark for $6,000;
    there was an interesting print of Madonna and Edgar Rice Burroughs for $4k (forgot the photog's name, sorry)
    a nice shot of RIchard Avedon,
    many shots from the 30's and 40's that were great

    worth a look

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Wish I could see it! As for the printing and imaging, it would be interesting to see what you mean. As a printer myself, it's something close to my heart! That said, I don't think the quality has necessarily gone down (in fact, I think the technical possibilities have improved quite a bit in the last few years), so much as the aesthetics have changed. For better or for worse, perfectly in focus, perfectly exposed images are not really in vogue anymore. Probably in part because they are so incredibly easy to make with today's cameras. I have printed for a lot of artists who specifically ask me to leave dust and scratches on the prints, to print the film sprockets or to keep color negative colors very somber and retro. It's not just because they are lazy or unskilled, usually they have a good reason. Whether that is something that I agree with aesthetically or not is another story...the point is it is a conscious choice on their part, and they are doing it for effect.

    I would also probably disagree that there is an inherent Leica aesthetic....the Leica is a camera, not a style. It is associated with street photography and reportage, but it is not the only things they were used for. This was always something that bothered me...people were always saying, "you can't use a Leica for landcapes" etc. My take was that I can use it for whatever the heck I want, because I bought it!!
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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Never visit NYC without a pilgrimage to the Leica Gallery.

    Every show I've seen there was inspiring.

    I think I know what you mean by the printing ... because I've also remarked about the same thing to photo friends.

    The teeny-tiny details in the critical area of focus are crisp .... very thin lines are there. The blacks also seem richer and the whites whiter. I used to struggle in the darkroom trying to get that.

    I do vaguely recall reading about the difference in enlarging papers from the early years verses more recently ... something about the silver content being much richer.

    I have a number of signed prints from that 30's Leica gang ... and the real disappointment is holding up a B&W ink-jet you think is excellent next to one of Doisneau's prints ... I stopped doing that because it's depressing.

    - Marc

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Never visit NYC without a pilgrimage to the Leica Gallery.

    Every show I've seen there was inspiring.

    I think I know what you mean by the printing ... because I've also remarked about the same thing to photo friends.

    The teeny-tiny details in the critical area of focus are crisp .... very thin lines are there. The blacks also seem richer and the whites whiter. I used to struggle in the darkroom trying to get that.

    I do vaguely recall reading about the difference in enlarging papers from the early years verses more recently ... something about the silver content being much richer.



    I have a number of signed prints from that 30's Leica gang ... and the real disappointment is holding up a B&W ink-jet you think is excellent next to one of Doisneau's prints ... I stopped doing that because it's depressing.

    - Marc
    The interesting thing I find is that not all printers know what a Fine Art B&W (more so than colour) print looks like.

    I have taken to supplying the printer with a quality gelatin silver print to use as a guide for the tonal range, and gradation that I would like to see in the digital print.

    By using appropriate papers and processing, I have been happy with the results.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    I've collected vintage silver prints for decades, and did my own b/w darkroom work for even longer. I finally made the switch to an all-digital workflow four years ago. The tools and materials (printers, software, papers, b/w ink sets, profiling gear, etc) are now available to produce digital prints that have wonderful tonality, texture and luminosity. Silver prints and digital prints are not the same, so one shouldn't expect identical results, but there is no longer the gap that existed not long ago, provided of course that the person doing the printing has proper technique, a good eye and a worthy pic.

    One should also not discount the value of proper lighting and display to maximize results and to warrant comparisons between media. I now happily display silver prints and digital prints together, without any sense of inferior results either way.

    Jeff

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    There are clear differences between digital and silver based prints ..without judging their relative quality . Some of the most respected photographers started their collections with film and have now transitioned to digital . But for consistency ..they create negatives from their digital files and produce traditional silver based prints .

    I know if you are willing to spend the $$$ you can have exceptional black and white prints made in this fashion .

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    There are clear differences between digital and silver based prints ..
    Mostly yes, but sometimes not (in terms of results, not process). This wasn't true for a long while, but I've recently seen some experienced photographers and collectors fooled by some amazing digital prints from scanned negs, side by side with the companion silver print. I wouldn't have predicted that 5 years ago, but I've seen it for myself. It takes an experienced and knowledgable printer, with fine papers, special b/w ink sets and precise execution. (I'm not talking about using a magnifying glass, but under display at typical viewing distances.)

    Apart from those intentional tests, though, I don't waste time trying to compare, content just to experience a fine print of a wonderful image.

    Jeff

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    I agree with Jeff here -- I have had photographers who have shot with film for 40 years and based an exhibition career on prints from 4x5 and 8x10 negatives come in and ask me what kind of enlarging process I used to make my prints and if it was Multigrade IV...I almost felt bad telling them it was a scan and digital print.
    This is not to say that there are not differences and certain things that are still very hard to replicate (the resolution and tonality of large film on small prints, for example), but with skill and the proper selection of materials, it is possible to fool most trained eyes, and not inordinately difficult to make a digital print that meshes seamlessly with an existing collection of film prints. I have done this on a few occasions for the photography museum here...
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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    P.S. I have not really seen many people doing what Roger describes...at least not here. I have done some experimenting regarding the printing of a transparency to use as a contact negative, but that has never worked particularly well for me...I find a direct digital print from a scan or digital file is much preferable. I have not used film recorders though, other than for generating slides for lectures...those have always been pretty miserable. If you need a film print from a digital file, by far the best way that I am aware of is to use something like a lightjet or chromira, rather than to make some intermediate negative and then print it in the darkroom.
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Jeff/Stuart

    Don t doubt for a minute that there is more than one way to achieve the desired results . With the right craft skills I am sure digital and silver based prints could fool me . I am speaking more to the exhibitions I have seen at places like the Leica Gallery .

    I do know from photographers that have worked hard on this ..that creating a digital negative that will print well is no small accomplishment . Stuart I ve seen the Chromira prints from Duggal in NYC ...not close to those produced by creating a negative and having a master black and white printer make a print . I ve seen them both side by side .

    I guess my point is that there is more than one way to create a exhibition quality black and white print ....but for the average skilled ...you can tell the difference between the silver based and inkjet prints .

    Wish my photographs were worthy of such fine printing .

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Richardson View Post
    P.S. I have not really seen many people doing what Roger describes...at least not here. I have done some experimenting regarding the printing of a transparency to use as a contact negative, but that has never worked particularly well for me...I find a direct digital print from a scan or digital file is much preferable. I have not used film recorders though, other than for generating slides for lectures...those have always been pretty miserable. If you need a film print from a digital file, by far the best way that I am aware of is to use something like a lightjet or chromira, rather than to make some intermediate negative and then print it in the darkroom.
    Just last month at the Contact Exhibition here in Toronto, Sebastiao Salgado had a large exhibition of prints from 35mm TRI-X (his traditional technique), and also some digital captures (I believe MF) that were used to digitally print a negative, and then printed via conventional gelatin silver processes.

    IMHO the TRI-X prints were technically and aesthetically more pleasing, YMMV.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by Seascape View Post
    Just last month at the Contact Exhibition here in Toronto, Sebastiao Salgado had a large exhibition of prints from 35mm TRI-X (his traditional technique), and also some digital captures (I believe MF) that were used to digitally print a negative, and then printed via conventional gelatin silver processes.

    IMHO the TRI-X prints were technically and aesthetically more pleasing, YMMV.
    This is a good example as I have been following Salgado s approach since he produced his book on Africa . That book was produced from his tri x film negatives taken with the M and R bodies ..plus some Pentax 67 film . The M and R files looked similar but you could easily pick out the MF files .

    When he went on with Genesis (his new book ) he did about half the book with film but after losing an entire shoot he went to digital . As I understand it Canon stepped in and worked with him to create a consistent aesthetic . The book is exceptional and I can t tell the images apart in the book . A few you can see the grain from pushing the film but most look similar . Point being that he had a lot of help to get his files consistent .

    Of course a book is different than an exhibition print ....my guess is that the printer is challenged in duplicating the film negative . The extended DR and lack of grain ...just gives a different look .

    My original point was really that either film or digital can produce superb exhibition grade prints given the craft skills and commitment ($$$) . But they will generally be different renderings unless a specific effort is placed on matching . A project like Genesis that spans many years and technologies is a real test .

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Roger the prints that I saw were 20x24 and the TRI-X prints stood up quite well considering that amount of enlargement from 35mm.
    However there were some large ones still, up to 60" on the long side, all 35mm film and they were waaay over enlarged.

    The fact that the 20x24 prints were so appealing may well be because of the Leica glass that took the photos.

    The prints from the digital capture/digi neg/gelatin silver process were sharper and more detailed, where the TRI-X shone was in the tonal gradation.
    The digital process range of tones were not as good they looked "blocked up.
    I know from my experience using M8 files for B&W digital printing, the tonal range can fully match film.
    I would then agree with Stuart that the digital negative may not be the best process.

    Additionally the Salgado Genesis exhibition has just opened at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and runs through September. I am looking forward to seeing it.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    This has been an interesting thread, and it is encouraging to hear from dedicated B&W printers who are able to make inkjet prints that approximate the silver process that personally set the standards for my eye.

    When one thinks about the discipline required to make a great B&W silver print, and one brings the same dedicated effort to digital printing, it is conceivable to fool the eye with some of the people, some of the time ... and in the case of really dedicated printers, who do know what is being approximated, to perhaps fool even the expert eye most of the time.

    I still wonder about the silver based papers available today verses 40 or more years ago? In my darkroom days I was a fan of Zone VI, and used many of their products including their sample print as a guide. However, even there I saw a marked difference when they lost the supplier of their paper, and the replacement was weak in comparison. Perhaps that has changed since I haven't followed what silver solutions may be available now?

    Roger's "average skilled", is a good point. Even though I was passionate about the mimicking silver with the craft of B&W inkjet printing, I'd have to place myself in that category for no other reason than I didn't transfer the same relentless dedication I exhibited in the darkroom. I took it only so far, but admittedly was more preoccupied with the relative ease of color inkjet printing, which was something very daunting to me in the darkroom.

    Now that I have gone back to the future by eliminating my color M camera in favor of the MM, it may be time to revisit it all to see what is required and what may be possible these days.

    My last wedding shoot is on June 21, and I've already discouraged 5 new clients for the future by being picky and over priced for the market () ... all in order to free myself from the burden of commerce. Maybe then I can learn what is really possible (if I can ever master the damned MM that is) ... we'll see.

    Thanks all,

    -Marc
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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Thanks. Will be going there in two weeks.

    I wonder if this out of focus and dynamic range is just us getting used to better quality, or if it is the workflow of the prints.

    My favorite example is The Dying Soldier photo where everything is wrong technically, but it is still one of the greatest photos.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    -image content aside, i did not see many (any?) prints there that I would call "exhibition quality" from the technical point of view of printmaking.

    Like Marc, i was a Zone VI fanatic back in the 70's, still have my modifed Bessler enlarger with Zone VI Cold light, Zone Vi scale on my spotmeter and used a few boxes of Zone VI paper. 16x20 was a huge print for me, even with a 4x5 negative. and I worked hard to calibrate, from
    the negative to the print (or maybe from the print back to the negative, as Fred Picker would have you do it). I did not see anything like this print making devotion in the silver prints at this show.

    What i have been doing currently for B/W is using piezography inks in my epson 4880; while this has been a bit of a journey (and several $100), I am now very satisfied with the outcome. been printing Leica Monochrome work, some IQ160 converted to B/W with Silverefex, some old scanned 2-1/4 and 4x5 Trix negatives, and am getting excellent tonality and dynamic range. My standard is not to print like a fine silver print, but to print as good as a fine silver print, and i think it works. using Gloss Neutral K7 inks and settled on Canson Fine Art Baryta Satin paper. You can still apply the Picker methodology to assess your results. been holding off on digging our some of my old silver prints for comparison...

    Jon Cone (the piezo guy) worked with Fred by the way, and still operates out of Putney, VT

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I still wonder about the silver based papers available today verses 40 or more years ago? In my darkroom days I was a fan of Zone VI, and used many of their products including their sample print as a guide. However, even there I saw a marked difference when they lost the supplier of their paper, and the replacement was weak in comparison. Perhaps that has changed since I haven't followed what silver solutions may be available now?
    I was also a Zone VI follower and similarly noted the unfortunate change to their Brilliant papers.

    I attended a Zone VI workshop in Vermont in 1992 and established a friendship there that continues to the present, sharing photo experiences as well as many life changes along the way. My photo bud is much more experienced in all things digital/computer than I, having spent his career in related fields. Plus, he's a fine photographer and printer, with a good eye and appreciation for fine detail, tonality, color management, etc. I'm always learning something new from him, and pleased when once in a while I can share something new and useful.

    He recently showed me one of his large format silver prints against an inkjet print from a neg scan, and both were gorgeous in every respect. Not surprisingly, it took all of his skill, knowledge and technique, combined with the proper tools and materials, to reach that point. Of course none of that matters without a great image to start. But that's no different than in the darkroom days; some do a lot with a little, and some don't do much despite having the latest and greatest. I've seen some pretty dreadful silver prints from folks using the latest and greatest stuff.

    My point is that one doesn't need silver papers anymore to produce terrific work; the tools and materials for inkjet prints are no longer the limiting factor. The right ones, in the right hands, can produce lovely work, even by the old Brilliant standards. But it's very far from plug and play.

    Jeff

    PS I just read the above post from jlm, which echoes much of what I wanted to say. My friend also has a 4880 and a 4900, one dedicated to Piezography, and Canson papers are often used. I agree that one needn't compare silver prints to digital prints; they can be terrific in their own right, at least the latter are no longer inferior.
    Last edited by Jeff S; 10th June 2013 at 07:52.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Damned, it's like old home week with all this Zone VI discussion

    Funny thing, I was cleaning the "hoarder's garage" this weekend, and was reminded of it all when I uncovered the Kaiser MF diffusion head enlarger I used side-by-side with the last Leica Focomat they made. Sold the Leica long ago, but still have the Kasier.

    The wifey wants it gone, so I have to find someone that'll appreciate it and the killer enlarging lenses I have for it.

    The enlargers with cold heads (which I also used), or diffusion heads, reminds me of the difference that diffusion made in film scanners ... when the Minolta MF scanner could be modified to that effect, or the difference between a Imacon 848 and 949 ... the 949 producing more enlarger feeling scans due to the diffusion element that the 848 didn't have.

    - Marc

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    I gave my friend my V35 Focomat in return for all his help getting me transitioned to digital 4 years ago. The bigger enlarger with cold light head got donated. And lots of Zone VI gear...compensating timers, etc...were sold.

    Now it's more about spectrophotometers than densitometers, as well as monitors, printers, ink sets, etc. Makes me wonder what Fred would be doing these days. Jon Cone is a similarly knowledgable but feisty guy, with his own products and processes...and strong beliefs.

    Jeff

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    i still have my Bessler..for sale? with a couple of Schneider lenses.

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Yes, it's apparently old home week and I too was an avid adherent and follower of Zone VI and although I reveled in the system way back when, I not sure I'd have the time or patience these days. Somewhere packed up are various components of my dedicated Bessler and some paper. My experience with piezography inks with an epson (4880) has been limited to working extensively with a colleague, but using a meticulous approach, the B&W output is certainly impressive.

    Since I often have to print large in both color and B&W, I've currently opted to use conventional Epson inks for the time being with the 24" and larger printers along with a imageprint RIP, which although is often a compromise, can do quite well when the files are appropriately handled. Paper selection of course is also critical.

    I agree with those that feel the digital negative may not be the way to go. I've seen some good work going that route but it doesn't hold up to a conventional silver print in my opinion. I've seen some spectacular B&W ink jet prints and like Jeff feel it's not a matter of trying to emulate the silver print with ink jet output, but to approach the esthetic quality to the point that the medium is as much an art form of expression of the subject matter as it was back in the darkroom days. In my experience and from what I observed with other, it's taken a lot of work, time and considerable trial and error to get to the point where ink jet technology has given B&W prints of acceptable quaily. It's definitely no push button operation but then again, neither were those hours toiling in the wet darkroom.

    With regards to the best silver prints of yesteryear compared with those of today, they're certainly different. Technique, paper, chemistry and more has all changed and the differences can easily be seen in a gallery showing of both types.


    On a seperate note, does anyone know if Salgado's Genesis will make it's way to the U.S. this or next year, or is Toronto the closest it will get to the east coast (U.S.)?

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by D&A View Post
    On a seperate note, does anyone know if Salgado's Genesis will make it's way to the U.S. this or next year, or is Toronto the closest it will get to the east coast (U.S.)?
    According to the list at the bottom of this page, it appears in NY at ICP from May to September, 2014, and might appear in Atlanta in 2015.

    Jeff

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff S View Post
    According to the list at the bottom of this page, it appears in NY at ICP from May to September, 2014, and might appear in Atlanta in 2015.

    Jeff
    Thanks Jeff. Will definitely mark my calender in order to attend one of these locations.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: Leica Gallery NYC

    For those who live near Chicago, this show apparently provides a mix of chemical and digital prints that to the writer, Ken Tanaka, are indistinguishable. I haven't seen the show, nor am I recommending the work, but Ken knows a thing or two about curating shows and viewing prints, and I trust his comments as posted on TOP.

    Jeff

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