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The Web Gallery of Art

Sean Reid

Moderator
As many may know, I strongly believe that, as photographers, there is a lot that we can learn from other visual artists. I personally, for example, continue to learn a lot from the work of Pieter Breughel, the Elder. Discussions of various artists' work will probably be common in this forum and so I wanted to link a Hungarian web site here which is a fantastic resource for anyone who would like to explore the work of painters and other artists who worked from the 12th to the mid-19th century.
http://www.wga.hu/index1.html
 
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Jörgen Nyberg

New member
Thx Sean, excellent link.
There was quite a lot of painters there, that I never heard of.
So now I got something to do, for the next couple of weeks :)
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
Thx Sean, excellent link.
There was quite a lot of painters there, that I never heard of.
So now I got something to do, for the next couple of weeks :)
Great, I was hoping this would end up being useful to someone. If I had to choose between spending a week reading people argue about what camera was "best" vs. exploring the work of other artists, I imagine you know which way I'd go. <G>

Cheers,

Sean
 
As someone who develops algorithms for post processing photographs, I've found studying the work of painters to be very enlightening. After all the goal is to make a beautiful image not necessarily to make a technically correct image, or even an image where you can see every detail captured by the sensor. I was told by a very wise photographer/scientist once that if you want to know how to render a highlight flip through one of the fine art magazines and study how the masters rendered a highlight. How do they represent something brighter than their whitest paint? The way master painters captured what they saw speaks to us in some way or their work wouldn't be so sought after. I think because the challenges of getting from vision to canvas are different than going from vision to print, there is quite a bit painters and photographers can learn from each other.

-Colleen
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
As someone who develops algorithms for post processing photographs, I've found studying the work of painters to be very enlightening. After all the goal is to make a beautiful image not necessarily to make a technically correct image, or even an image where you can see every detail captured by the sensor. I was told by a very wise photographer/scientist once that if you want to know how to render a highlight flip through one of the fine art magazines and study how the masters rendered a highlight. How do they represent something brighter than their whitest paint? The way master painters captured what they saw speaks to us in some way or their work wouldn't be so sought after. I think because the challenges of getting from vision to canvas are different than going from vision to print, there is quite a bit painters and photographers can learn from each other.

-Colleen
Hi Colleen,

That's a very interesting comment. I've often though that one of the best way a photographer could learn about lighting is from Vermeer. Looking at paintings also, I think, helps one to get away from a fixation on technically correct rendering.

Thanks for the post.

Cheers,

Sean
 

Mike Cetta

New member
Hi...and yes dosen't it make sense that any real study of photography has to begin with an understanding of painting as well?...I recently read David Hockney's The Secret of Knowledge where his thesis is that as far back as the 15th century and forward -including Vermeer- painters used lenses and camera obscura to 'caprture' the image on to canvas and he cites as evidence the almost photographic capture of light and shadow that ushered in the realism that emerged in painting in the late 15th century....so the invention of the camera in the 19th century was really just the invention of the chemical camera, or it's ability to permanantly store an image on a negative

....interesting to me is also that the emergence of photography in the 19th century to some extent freed painters from the need to to create representational images that helped lead to impressionism, expressionism, cubism etc...and now the invention of the digital darkroom has the potential to free photograpers from the same boundary as well...for me looking at paintings helps me think about how to create visual picture where I'm using the camera to draw as opposed to pencil or brush...

Mike
www.mikecetta.com
 

David Stone

New member
Hi Colleen,

That's a very interesting comment. I've often though that one of the best way a photographer could learn about lighting is from Vermeer. Looking at paintings also, I think, helps one to get away from a fixation on technically correct rendering.

Thanks for the post.

Cheers,

Sean
Could you explain, Sean, what you mean, in this context, by "technically correct rendering"?

David
 

David Stone

New member
Mike wrote:

".. the emergence of photography in the 19th century to some extent freed painters from the need to to create representational images that helped lead to impressionism, expressionism, cubism etc..."

Although on the surface this scenario seems plausible, there is, as far as I know, no historical evidence to support it.

On Hockney, I think that his book "That's the Way I See It" is of particular relevance to photographers. He points out the ways in which manually-constructed images differ from those made by lenses, and why, consequently, he finds conventional photography unsatisfactory. Agree or disagree, it's worth reading.

David
 

David Stone

New member
Could you explain, Sean, what you mean, in this context, by "technically correct rendering"?

David
Looking back at this, I think that I should have explained myself in more detail.

In any discussion of the similarities and differences between photography and other media, or the ways in which they can influence or inspire other work, it's inevitable that one considers constraints and limitations.

The main limitation of photography as opposed to painting has always been photography's strictly literal interpretation of what is being photographed, in the sense of its adherence to the physical, optical and chemical laws by which it operates. Painting doesn't have these restrictions.

So this is why I questioned the phrase "technically correct rendering". I'm wondering if this refers to new possibilities, opened up by digital processing, of manipulating tonal relationships away from what was possible with silver salts and chemical solutions.

Photographers have been wishing for this for well over a century, and Ansel Adams pushed the old negative-positive system just about as far as it would go. Are we now reaching the stage where it might be possible to produce prints having the tonal relationships "as seen" rather than as determined by their luminance values?

I ask this as someone who knows a fair amount about silver-based photography and its history, but all too little, so far, about the digital world.

David
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
Hi David,

A good answer to this question will take me some time, that I don't have today, but I will come back to it.

Cheers,

Sean
 

Ray West

New member
Hi David,

The fundamental difference, between painting and photography, if we are talking say about some type of more accurately representing what we see, when looking around us - e.g. portraits, landscapes, type of thing. In order to produce a 'nice' image, a painter starts from nothing, and adds to it, the photographer starts from everything, and subtracts, in the actual process of creating the image. (both, however, may strive to get to the same image, may see the same image within the view in the same way)

If you google around the www, you will find tons of images created with the aid of photoshop and the like, ones you can not tell if they are pure creativity, or if using photos. Similar to some of the airbrushed stuff, the old film backgrounds painted on glass and so on.

You are aware, of course, of video 'special effects'.

Anything is possible. Once it is digital, it is just numbers. You can do what you like with them. It is only convention and convenience that gives us things like sliders, tones, hues, contrast, etc. Most are just at the beginnings.

Best wishes,

Ray
 

Sean Reid

Moderator
a painter starts from nothing, and adds to it, the photographer starts from everything, and subtracts, in the actual process of creating the image. (both, however, may strive to get to the same image, may see the same image within the view in the same way)

If you google around the www, you will find tons of images created with the aid of photoshop and the like, ones you can not tell if they are pure creativity, or if using photos. Similar to some of the airbrushed stuff, the old film backgrounds painted on glass and so on.

You are aware, of course, of video 'special effects'.

Anything is possible. Once it is digital, it is just numbers. You can do what you like with them. It is only convention and convenience that gives us things like sliders, tones, hues, contrast, etc. Most are just at the beginnings.

Best wishes,

Ray

In that same vein, Robert Frank once said to his wife, the painter, June Leaf. "I'm jealous of you - getting to start with that blank canvas." Of course some painters find that blank canvas to be one of the toughest things about painting.

Ben Lifson would argue that, in some respects, we photographers do start with a blank canvas (and that it can be useful to think that way when one begins making a picture). Of course, we know the usual, and valid, discussions about the selections a photographer makes, as epitomized in John Szarkowski's "The Photographer's Eye". The two viewpoints (in this case between two colleagues) don't necessarily contradict each other because the perspective one sees something from is, of course, not that thing itself.

The cross-over elements, in painting/drawing/photography/ etc., that interest me most have to do with things like the rendering of figures and object, color, space, composition, the relation of foreground to middleground to background, etc. Though we get there in different ways, painters and photographers often share some of the same essential tasks with respect to how the final picture will look and work.

So, we see a certain kind of figure drawing and painting in Breughel...or a certain relationship of the figure to the landscape (or at least the space) and it can have its counterparts in the pictures we make with cameras. A strong, interesting and specific figure is what it is, for example, no matter what medium conveys it.

Cheers,

Sean
 

Mike Cetta

New member
Mike wrote:

".. the emergence of photography in the 19th century to some extent freed painters from the need to to create representational images that helped lead to impressionism, expressionism, cubism etc..."

Although on the surface this scenario seems plausible, there is, as far as I know, no historical evidence to support it.


David
David,

...I did not mean to imply that the invention of chemical photography led to those movements only that it was an influence...certainly the discoveries in science at the end of the 19th century early 20th (cosmology, relativity, quantum) completely undermined the positivistic view of how we understoond and 'saw reality' creating the possibility of seeing and representing reality in new ways...you see it in music (12 tone) and literature as well (Joyce, V Wolfe)
....the main point I was trying to make is that similar possibilities exist today for photographers that presented themselves to painters in the 19th and early 20th century...that is that the digital revolution makes creating images in whole new ways possible-ways that did not exist in the traditional darkroom...as Ray put it now "anything is possible" ..however the challenge remains the same if one is trying to create art.... As sean points out :"A strong, interesting and specific figure is what it is, for example, no matter what medium conveys it." which is why I believe a study of painting and it's history is fundamental to an understanding of any kind of picture making especially -though not exclusively- if one is interested in working with color...

mike
 

Ray West

New member
I was referring to the process of capturing what we may think we see, in a way to show it in a way that others may see it too....ugh. If it is the sort of painting that say (enter more or less whoever from the middle ages here) then they would make sketches, etc, roughed it out, and so on. I think we tend to compare this as 'art', with what we hope we may achieve more quickly with a camera, at one sitting, so to speak. As in all these discussions, it is difficult to keep focussed. I have in mind, say 'landscape', whereas you may be thinking 'still life'.

Last night, I captured a few pixels of a fox. Is that a sketch? Can I do something that you may consider as being artistic, or are my foxes few pixels too few for you?

I could use it, make a great painting based on it, easier for me than any digital manipulation, possibly. But, given the time and possibly much mechanical skill, it could be taken to the same result as by some other means. So, take that picture, print it at A3, say, paint over it with acrylics, painting by numbers, but my numbers. Any one want to say 'that's cheating'? or paint half of it, the other end disappearing into some sort of argb colour chart whirlpool.

In 1996, M$ stopped using the 'where do you want to goto today' ad. It sucked. The only place you could rely on getting to was the frustration of the blue screen. However, these days, just a decade or so later, with the progress in the camera hardware (software not catching up, yet), 'where do you want to take me tomorrow' is pretty near possible.

But the interface may be interesting ;-)

Chemical based photography has a restricted application, but within that restricted area, it works surprisingly well. There are quite wide tolerances in the process, no pixels to peep at, etc. mainly analogue, it fails gracefully. Not every photographer did there own chemical processing. I think more folk now attempt digital processing. That is where the creativity will lie, if you wish to create a picture from the same starting point as the painter, wrt laying paint on canvas. It is such a pity that Adobe seem to have captured that area. In the same way it was a pity about the qwerty keyboard, and most every 'successful?' undertaking.

btw I am officially cynical.

Best wishes,

Ray
 
So this is why I questioned the phrase "technically correct rendering". I'm wondering if this refers to new possibilities, opened up by digital processing, of manipulating tonal relationships away from what was possible with silver salts and chemical solutions.
I think digital does open up new possibilities, simply because it's much easier to do things like "use the maximum of R,G, and B for this pixel, but not if the area surrounding it is bluish". You might be able to do something like that in chemistry, but it would be difficult and time consuming. You might find that you don't like the results and want to try something else and that's a lot easier in digital.

One thing I struggled against when I was working at Kodak was many of the image scientists had a very brute force approach to processing an image that involved a lot of measuring and simulating. That's a fine approach for a lot of technical problems, but you can't apply it to creating images with emotion. When someone says "that image looks flat" asking "how flat on a scale from 1 to 10?" doesn't really help you solve the problem. When someone is struggling with a tool because they can't get their photograph to look like what's in their mind's eye, it's not always an interface problem. The problem might lie squarely with how the programmer thought exposure should be corrected.

On the other hand, photographers are being trained to expect certain things in digital to behave a certain way and I wonder if that isn't suppressing some of the creativity. If you look at the raw converters, you'll see that the tools are pretty much the same - highlight recovery, fill light, vibrance... they might differ slightly in interface or behavior but they do essentially the same things. We have to offer those tools to stay competitive and there isn't a lot of bandwidth left over for the wackier stuff that may or may not be worthwhile. What if the photographic equivalent of "I think flinging the paint instead of brushing it on is really working for me" is not happening because the tools are too limiting? In the dark room you could experiment with eye droppers and pin registered enlargers and such. It's a lot more difficult in digital. That's one of the reasons I felt it was important that Bibble have a plug-in interface, and I wish it was even more accessible to non-programmers.

I think that the tools in digital need to get more accessible and more intuitive. I think we've seen a lot of progress with digital cameras - DSLRs are getting more affordable, and compacts are getting more powerful. We've seen some really neat lenses recently, like the zoomable fisheye. We've seen a new crop of software that makes working with raw images a heck of a lot easier than it used to be, but I still feel like the next big step in post processing software is not going to be more integrated features, or more precision, or fancier slide show generators. I think it's going to be something that seems more like a toy than a tool and there won't be any need for a shelf full of books on how to get the most out of it.

Alright, now I'm starting to ramble, so I'll get back to work :)
-Colleen
 

Imants K

Banned
Seems as if Ray is still upset with my calling a post of his nonsense .. as they say in the canned fish industry there are fish that Mr West rejects and leaves it to Safcol.
 

Ray West

New member
Hi Imants,

What makes you think you can upset me, or even that I am even upset? What are you on? I am completely mystified that you would think so. I have no experience of the canned food industry. I thought you were merely playing a childish game of snap, or rock/paper/scissors or something similar. It seems you may be far too clever for me.

The idea is to get traction, some discussion, instead of the sort of smoke blowing, ass kissing that is so prevalent in other fora.

I appreciate your addressing me as Mr West, it sort of shows a respect for your elders and betters, I guess.

Best wishes,

Mr West

(often known as 'middlecut'
 

Imants K

Banned
.........accusing me of being on drugs or sort is not really the role of a moderator is it, I doubt if he is a buyer............... Arse kissing such foul language tsk tsk
 
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Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Imants,

Remember, Ray West is from England. Every so often he looks up from his desk, goes to the window, stares at the clouds and wonders how the Empire is and what on the earth are the yanks deluding themselves into doing today. Then, he sits at his computer, winds up the hand generator to get power and zaps someone on OPF for being out of control, whacko, irrelevant or off topic according to the settings on his ouija board.

That's when Ray is in a good mood! Ray is a talented guy and also a sort of sergeant-at-arms to see that pirates, brigands and other miscreants don't ruin the cider!

Asher
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Now back to the Web Gallery of Art. Thanks Sean. It's a very good reference source and even for the most accomplished photographer, a visit once a week, will add a new set of possibilities to what one might want or not want to work towards. As a reminder again, it's here.

Visit, wander and then come back. Could it help your own work? Is there anyone interesting or new that might inform your photography?
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Imants,

I do like the angle of presentation as it adds to the presence to the image of driving at night on that road you are not sure of to that hotel that may not be there.

Asher
 

Imants K

Banned
......no hotels in that area of Burkina Farso,
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.
.
.
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.................................................................................

.......... one does it tough when..........................
 

Tim Ashley

Moderator
Hi...and yes dosen't it make sense that any real study of photography has to begin with an understanding of painting as well?...I recently read David Hockney's The Secret of Knowledge where his thesis is that as far back as the 15th century and forward -including Vermeer- painters used lenses and camera obscura to 'caprture' the image on to canvas and he cites as evidence the almost photographic capture of light and shadow that ushered in the realism that emerged in painting in the late 15th century....so the invention of the camera in the 19th century was really just the invention of the chemical camera, or it's ability to permanantly store an image on a negative

....interesting to me is also that the emergence of photography in the 19th century to some extent freed painters from the need to to create representational images that helped lead to impressionism, expressionism, cubism etc...and now the invention of the digital darkroom has the potential to free photograpers from the same boundary as well...for me looking at paintings helps me think about how to create visual picture where I'm using the camera to draw as opposed to pencil or brush...

Mike
www.mikecetta.com
Hi Mike,

The Italian word for 'camera' is 'machina fotografica' (photographic machine or device) whereas the Italian meaning of the word 'camera' is 'room' - for exactly the reason you give - the original cameras were entire rooms, used to project inverse images onto what were effectively tracing sheets. This process was integral to the development of a real understanding of perspective, too. You probably know all this already!

For me, when I think of Italian masters and the way in which light and dark are rendered, I think of Caravaggio: there's a church somewhere just off the Piazza Navona in Rome, I think on the Corso del Rinascimento, where there are two or three amazing examples. They're in dark niches and you pop a Euro in a slot and suddenly, bang, chiaroscuro of the very best kind.

I never mind black clipping, as long as it doesn't leave a sense that something lurks in the clipped area that I should be showing. But I don't like to clip whites because somehow and as Colleen has said, there's a way to show a white that's brighter than 255/255/255 - or so I hear!

Best

Tim
 
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