Richard Benson vis-a-vis Samantha Thorne

Here is a telling comment from an interview with Richard Benson in LensWork; read the entire piece in class, and refer to our copy of Benson’s The Printed Picture:

“…I think most photographers would like to believe that the thing that matters is the image that they capture with the camera – the thing they do when pressing the button. We actually are now living in a time when most serious photographers even go so far as to have somebody else print their work, which I think is scandalous…

“Photographers too often think that magical thing they do is gather the image in the camera. I think that’s just stupid. I think photography is art and I think a piece of art resides in the physical object made. It’s appalling to think that somebody else can be in charge of physically presenting one’s image on a piece of paper…

“Historically, it seems to me that artists have been the best craftsmen, the best technically at what they do. And I think it’s a great mistake for photographers to think that there’s some pro in a lab who’s better than they are at printing…

“There are photographers who follow the tradition of Edward Weston and work themselves in the darkroom and make great prints. That’s wonderful, and they do just the right thing. In photography in color, which is a very big deal today, there are an awful lot of cases where the work is printed by somebody else, and I just think it’s a travesty. I don’t make myself popular by saying this. I have photographers say to me, “Why should I have to know about that? I have to know about the subject and the frame and all of this. Why should I have to know about that?” Well, dammit, you have to know about that because you’re making a piece of art that you hold in your hand. Let’s not have it made by committee; let’s have it made by one sensibility working at a very high pitch…

“The way you make the print has a tremendous impact on what the thing means.”


And now a related, more succinct comment from an alumna during the field trip luncheon:

“I miss the darkroom.” -Sam Thorne



Diagram the following sentence: Someone in the Apple heard that to which we were up with regard to our recent field trip film, and based an entire exhibit and book upon it:

How They Look Online

Here is a small selection from AP’s first deadline:





A few more deserve to be here, of course, but for the time being we’d be ever so pleased to receive feedback from fellow student photographers: questions and substantive comments, s’il vous plais.

Recent Work By Sally Mann

We just watched “What Remains” in class; now take a look at Sally’s latest pictures (which feature Larry):

W. o’ W.: Jan Groover

“I don’t know why I chose forks –

I just took my camera to the kitchen sink… Actually, I have a notion that everything can be pictured, that content is not that relevant.


“I think it’s lovely that a knife can be pink.

Its shape can be molded by light, the silver surface reflects and picks up bits of color –

it’s all very liquid. And the kind of information that is possible in a small space, like that created by the borders of these pictures, can be so crystal clear and appropriate – the issue is really about pushing some thing, some form, into a space that it seems to belong in. In the real world,

these forks and kitchen implements can have many associations and functions;

in the photographs, it doesn’t matter.

Formalism is everything.”

Back To School Night

This just in: the OP’s PM was a huge success. It was a lovely change of pace to be able to converse with citizens closer to my own age (plus, a fortunate few students were able to print without one eye on the second hand [of the clock]). We’re grateful for the face time.

White Shirts and Black Slacks

So. You’re taking a picture of a guy who’s wearing a white shirt and black slacks, and you’re using 400TX or some other film you intend to develop yourself. Typically, you want the most information recorded on the film that you can get, so you’d like to maximize the amount of detail toward both ends of the tonal spectrum (assuming that the midtones are assured, by careful processing). Here’s a strategy that’s better than win/win, if you can believe that.

Set the meter on your camera to 200–half the published ISO; now we call it our Exposure Index, or EI.*  This tells the meter that the film is half as sensitive as it really is, so that the meter will recommend a combination of shutter speed and aperture that allows twice as much light onto the film as it “needs.” Now the baggy wrinkles in our model’s (we’ll call him “D”) trousers are recorded more fully on the film. But wait: what about the folds in the shirt? Won’t the white get blown out by overexposure? Au contraire, mon frere. We can use a new, shorter developing time to keep that from happening. Less time in, say Xtol means less tendency for the grains to clump, resulting in slightly less apparent grain; it’s win/win/win!

Here’s a more technical, very clear explanation of the above:

…and here is a less technical, very unclear version:

*Alternately, for some cameras, set the exposure compensation function to +1 (but never both at the same time).

The Spirit and the Set of Concerns

Last Saturday evening I arrived rather late at a gathering that included The Floydster, where the neighbors were treated to a conversation revolving around what students hand in, as opposed to what is required, in a studio course. A woman in attendance–okay, it’s her house–was appalled at the state of affairs, wondering how things have come to this (“Why, in my day…” is something I have felt as well. I kid myself.).

Apropos of this, I follow a blog I discovered by accident, whilst Googling titles of Thelonious Monk tunes, written by a professor of Spanish Literature at Kansas University; not because I know much about Spanish Lit (although I do now, a little), but because he (the professor) also ruminates about jazz from time to time. Recently he vented quite lucidly about how some of his students miss the point on occasion, and his comments can easily apply to situations that occur in studio courses:

“I assigned an exercise for my translation class: choose a paragraph of English prose and analyze it for style, register, tone… what linguistic elements show when and where it was written. The students were to staple a photocopy of the original, and write a paragraph of their findings (not a list of the elements they found). I recommended that they not choose a fairly bland paragraph of contemporary American English. Of the first four exercises I looked at I found the following problems:

“Two translated the paragraph into Spanish, which I hadn’t told them to do.

Two gave me copies of the book rather than photocopying the page.

One made a list.

One chose a bland paragraph of contemporary American English.

One thought that Virginia Woolf was writing in American English.

Two chose paragraphs that had been translated from another language into English, making them unable to follow the spirit of the exercise.

“I am going to give an A to anyone who followed the damned instructions and did a creditable job of looking at the style of the text. I don’t really want to be grading on students’ ability to implement a junior high school skill: following the instructions. Yet the exercise does not work as well if you don’t follow the instructions and understand why the assignment was designed. In other words, the junior high skill is needed as a prerequisite.”

Similarly, each assignment in the Wonderful World of Photography has a distinct set of concerns. They address issues that are by turns or simultaneously visual (duh), conceptual, formal, subject-related, and especially (because of the extent to which art can be taught) technical; that’s why we spend so much of our time in the darkroom, and why we say that the making of the negative is preeminent. A citizen who simply puts some film through the camera is not a candidate for a superior grade. Nothing is simple when it comes to photography, just as it is in life.


1969, by M. Hogan Camp:


2009, by J. Dominski:


Thanks, Ms. Watts.