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Old 25th February 2011, 01:36 PM
PavelDerka PavelDerka is offline
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Default What makes these so rich?

Are many of you here familiar with the website http://www.shorpy.com/?

I look through every day when I find the time. The site features quite a broad selection of era photography and is very interesting I think, to lovers of photography and history both.

I have long noticed that the photographs from the late 90' to the 20's have what I think of as a special charm. Content aside, the part that surprises and quite frankly perplexes me is how rich these photographs are.

I wonder if it is the fact that they are made with dry plates, or perhaps what I'm struck by is the characteristic of the large 8x10 sizes itself. Could film shot on 8x10 impart the same richness today? Could it be inherent to the slow speed of these emulsions or are there lost developing techniques at play as well?

I see much stunning beauty in modern high calibre works today - but if my memory serves me accurately here I don't find quite that same rich look, spanning sometimes all the way from dark to light areas of what must have been contrasty scenes. Or is it my imagination?

To those who may be unfamiliar with the site altogether - I'm hoping you find it fascinating as well.

I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. As I try to conquer the darkroom with baby steps I've found a strong appreciation of what has come before us, and the high level of mastery I can now better appreciate.
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Old 25th February 2011, 02:52 PM
ymgandy ymgandy is offline
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What a wonderful site. Thank you for the link & it is obvious what you mean by the richness even on the screen. Will our present day prints look as good & be as interesting in 100 years? No dis-respect to fellow print makers.
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Old 25th February 2011, 03:08 PM
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Trevor Crone Trevor Crone is offline
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Having seen original prints from the likes of Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Lewis Hind from a similar time period, I've always felt they got it so right from the word go. Yes, we may have computer designed lenses and cameras of high-tech materials and such. But I feel this kind of work can't be bettered. Seeing some of Edward Weson's vintage 1930's/40's print, is for me, as good as it gets.
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Old 25th February 2011, 04:21 PM
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Without wishing to sound too much like a 'div', can you give expand on the expressions associated with 'richness', please. What does 'richness' mean in this context?

It is an interesting website which I hope to review a little later, I'm sure I only scratched the surface during my briefest of visits.
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Old 25th February 2011, 04:41 PM
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cliveh cliveh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PavelDerka View Post
Are many of you here familiar with the website http://www.shorpy.com/?

I look through every day when I find the time. The site features quite a broad selection of era photography and is very interesting I think, to lovers of photography and history both.

I have long noticed that the photographs from the late 90' to the 20's have what I think of as a special charm. Content aside, the part that surprises and quite frankly perplexes me is how rich these photographs are.

I wonder if it is the fact that they are made with dry plates, or perhaps what I'm struck by is the characteristic of the large 8x10 sizes itself. Could film shot on 8x10 impart the same richness today? Could it be inherent to the slow speed of these emulsions or are there lost developing techniques at play as well?

I see much stunning beauty in modern high calibre works today - but if my memory serves me accurately here I don't find quite that same rich look, spanning sometimes all the way from dark to light areas of what must have been contrasty scenes. Or is it my imagination?

To those who may be unfamiliar with the site altogether - I'm hoping you find it fascinating as well.

I'd love to hear others thoughts on this. As I try to conquer the darkroom with baby steps I've found a strong appreciation of what has come before us, and the high level of mastery I can now better appreciate.
Pavel, thanks for that link, itís a very interesting site, which I was unaware of and has now gone into my browser for further long term study.

The richness of some of those older images is unique and probably today we can only emulate but not compete. I would suggest there are a number of reasons for this richness, such as the use of glass plates, which had wonderful dimensional stability, i.e. they were dead flat. Cameras were often heavier, reducing vibration during exposure. The use of chlorobromide papers, which were richer than some around today. This was an age before marketing men talked bullshit and when quality papers were quality, even having different weights and thickness. Also inside subjects were sometimes lit with more powerful multiple lights, when the weight of equipment was less of a consideration.
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Old 25th February 2011, 04:46 PM
Richard Gould Richard Gould is offline
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Paul, I believe a lot of the richness is down to the materials that photographers had at the time, A lot of papers and negatives were self coated, and although very slow compared to todays materials, were very silver rich, much more so than today, also very often the smallest negatives were 10/8,sometimes larger, and mostly contact printed, just a combination of the times they lived in and materials they had which are long gone, sadly,Richard
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Old 25th February 2011, 05:57 PM
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As well as the materials use the other guys have mentioned, I also think that uncoated lenses can add a sense of depth and richness, by the amount of flare they give. I've read somewhere (can't remember where) that this can open up shadows in a way that you won't get with modern lenses. I know coating has been a round for a long time, so obviously other factors come into play too.
I also read (think it was Kerry Thallman's site) that the number of blades in the iris gives a very different look - now obviously a lot of these guys back then were using waterhouse stops. I've never used a lens with them, however I can say that in my experience, a Prontor shutter with a 10-blade iris, shot at something like f11 or 16 gives a very different look to a Synchro-Compur, or Copal with 5 blades shot at the same aperture. Stopped down the Prontor is almost as modern as they come, and indistinguishable. So maybe things like that play their part.
Maybe some of the other more knowledgable guys can chip in here.
I love old photography - if you can get a chance to look at the Taschen reprint of Camerawork, you are in for a treat.
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