The Photo-Secessionists altered art by proposing that photography was as much art as the other arts. Let's re-investigate their style.
Brief Summary: This project intends to take many photos using and incorporating a historic method of photography that I deeply admire and believe will help my industry. From it, will come a book of essays and photos, and prints from a darkroom, many of which will be handcrafted, limited production rewards for contributors!
Much Longer Summary: A hundred years ago, photography was in transition. To that point, photography was seen as little more than an afterthought in the greater world of art: painting, poetry, drawing, etc. When photography WAS considered art, it was expected to mimic painting. Soft focus photos dominated the day. Photographers smeared goo on their lenses or gently shook their tripods for a muted soft effect. Because Impressionism with its floaty, dreamy, unreal effect ruled painting it also ruled photography.
And then along came the Photo-Secessionists.
The Photo-Secessionists (or, Photographic Modernists) proposed that photography, that the camera, was capable of being and producing its own stand alone art amongst the arts (hence, photography's "secession" from painting and other art forms.)
For 40 years the art world shook as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and others took tack sharp photos, each emphasizing their own personal visions, of everything from people to grand landscapes. Impressionism died in photography; A great art form was born. Photography! With its ability to capture single rapidly passing moments forever. Photography! With its ability to communicate universals, particulars, and philosophical statements quite as effectively as a paintbrush or a pen.
I have one intent in this project: to investigate the Photo-Secessionists and their heirs. I intend to read them, immerse myself in them, adopt many of their technical practices, and, in one way or another, to infuse their general style into my work while maintaining my own personal vision.
I believe that this is an important project because, in many ways, we have lost the contemplative style of the Photo-Secessionists. Cheap, unthought, visionless, instantaneous digital photography, of which I am and have been guilty in recent times, dominates what we do. It is not that digital is incapable of producing good photos. No maligning of digital photography is intended. It is simply that digital is something of a departure from the long-suffering process of the Photo-Secessionists. Cole Weston, son of the great Edward Weston, said before his death in 2003, "...with all this digital adding of stuff here and there, photographers may as well become painters."
While I have no issue with photographers whose visions align them more appropriately with painting and "digital art" it is not my passion and I would like to see photography re-invigorated by a new infusion of what Edward Weston called "straight photography."
General Production Notes: Besides producing a book using digital methods of essays and prints, this project will be carried out completely in analog from start to finish. An 8x10, 4x5, and 6x4.5 camera will be obtained and used to create each piece after which I will process my film and will produce prints in a darkroom. This will be a cold-process project. I.e. I will be shooting only in black and white.
All reward prints are going to be created in analog. The book will be created from scanned prints (or negatives...I'll see as the project progresses how I want them produced digitally.)
Finally, I will produce a blog and/or a website, that will update everyone on the work as it progresses occasionally showing examples.
I believe that the creation and production of 100 prints and a book displaying those prints will take one year, from December of 2012 to December of 2013 (hopefully bringing you a product just in time for Christmas, 2013!)
Summary of Production:
- Late December 2012 - January 2013: Obtain all necessary equipment (cameras, darkroom supplies, film, paper, etc.)
- January 2013 - August 2013: Taking photographs; Producing prints; Interacting with contributors; establishing and updating website.
- August 2013 - November 2013: Production of book; Further photographing; Production of Rewards; Website updates.
- December 2013: Distribution of Rewards; Re-evaluation of project in essay form and photograph form.
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- Re-orienting myself to producing negatives and prints of proper density will take time. I expect that this will correct itself with time on the project, since I dedicated the first four years of my photographic career spending 8-10 hours per day in a darkroom.
- Working to not just COPY the Photo-Secessionists will take consistent immersion in their work with constant application of my own vision using their processes. I basically intend to be constantly investing time in creating new and original works to communicate while staying within the bounds of good technique.
- It is possible that 100 prints is too many, since many good photographers of the day would consider themselves to producing ARMLOADS of photos if they took 50 frames on a long trip. If this happens to be the case, it may be more like 50 prints!
- Finding the proper equipment and finding it in shape to be worked every day will take a bit of time because, let's face it, 4x5 is old, darkroom is long a thing of the past, and the secrets of printing are dying with the great printers every day!
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.