The 8x10 contact photograph.

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Maris
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The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Maris » 29 Oct 2013, 09:21

A friend prompted me to think about why I chose the 8x10 black and white contact photograph as my principle form. This is what I wrote:

The 8x10 contact is a canonical form with a deep history in photography.
Grievous error aside all 8x10 contacts are technically equivalent; mine, yours, Ed Weston's, Ansel Adams'.
No upgrade is possible or necessary.
No grain ever. Infinite sharpness and gradation are available with no particular effort.
Cheap materials. From go to whoa for less than $5.
Enough possibilities for a lifetime of work.
Thousands of 8x10s can be stored, they can be mailed, displayed conveniently, and they won't become a nightmare like a huge pile of big pictures.
No elaborate darkroom is required, no enlarger; just a safelighted work space, a lightbulb, and a few trays.
I can do everything from film exposure to mounting, matting, and framing. No need to buy expensive services from back-room people.
No competition. Why would I strive against 50 million talented digital shooters climbing over each other trying to get noticed?
Anything well photographed on 8x10 seems to acquire a nobility that invites attention.
The 8x10 photographer is pretty well guaranteed to be taken more seriously than someone plinking away with a cell-phone.
Ultimate conceptual integrity. The 8x10 is seen, exposed, processed, finished, mounted, and displayed without changing its original size or its original vision.
There is no cropping. The photographer takes full responsibility for the content right to the edges and corners. The viewer knows they are not short-changed.
No digital technology is used or required. No files need reformating into new media. Everything is eye readable. The medium guarantees it.

What do you think? Did I miss something?

Ray Heath
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Location: Lower Hunter Valley, NSW

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Ray Heath » 29 Oct 2013, 18:23

G'day Maris

An interesting list of attributes though I feel most of them would pertain to any selected form of image making.

Perhaps the only consideration you missed, and for me possibly the most important;

"It is what I do".

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Ray

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe's photographs are "a bridge that spans the widening gulf of time" (Michael Hiley 1979, 5).

Walter Glover
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Location: Canterbury, NSW

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Walter Glover » 30 Oct 2013, 08:47

Maris wrote:Ultimate conceptual integrity. The 8x10 is seen, exposed, processed, finished, mounted, and displayed without changing its original size or its original vision.



Maris,

Therein lies the crux of the deal for me. I love working with 8x10 EXACTLY because of the continuity of perception. The prospect of shooting 10x8 is ever present. Just last year I bought a conversion kit for my Sinar and a 360mm lens to use. Just last week I borrowed back the 8x10 Toyo I had sold to Murray in order to have another crack at it. It was not until he opened the cases that I remembered just how far down that road I had gone.

Should necessity direct me to smaller, less expensive digs, I concur that the whole darkroom side of 8x10 is affordable in terms of dollars and space.

Cash flow would be favourable because I would flog all the 4x5 gear and the Jobo which would bring in more than the cost of setting up once again.
Walter Glover

"Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi

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Maris
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Location: Noosa

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Maris » 31 Oct 2013, 09:10

Maris, Therein lies the crux of the deal for me. I love working with 8x10 EXACTLY because of the continuity of perception....


Walter, your comment reminded me about a point I failed to list. The 8x10 contact is always the correct size.

The final size of a photograph contributes to its success or failure. A close-up baby portrait one metre square is too big, too grotesque. A grand landscape is underdone as a postcard. Because the 8x10 contact is the same size as the groundglass image if the picture does not look right in camera you don't take it. The cost of film and the subsequent hours of darkroom penance reinforce the point: wrong size? don't click!

Walter Glover
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Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Walter Glover » 31 Oct 2013, 09:45

Too true, my friend.
Walter Glover

"Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi

Lachlan717
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Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Lachlan717 » 31 Oct 2013, 10:00

A 2 1/2 x 3 1/2" contact is also "…the same size as the groundglass [sic] image", as, too, are 4x5", 5x7", 11x14", 10x12", 14x17", 12x20", 7x17", 8x20", 20x24" et al.

Why is 8x10 singled out as having "continuity of perception"? Isn't that the same, by physical process, for all contact prints made using view camera generated images, regardless of size?

And, why do you feel that the 8x10 is "always the correct size" for a contact print at the expense of other formats' (contact print) sizes? ALWAYS correct? I think that comment is either trolling, or other formats' benefits have been overlooked (such as banquet formats for wide subjects where superfluous space above and/or below the subject would render an 8x10 image far from "always correct"). I hope that it's the latter.

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Maris
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Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Maris » 31 Oct 2013, 15:01

"Lachlan717"]A 2 1/2 x 3 1/2" contact is also "…the same size as the groundglass [sic] image", as, too, are 4x5", 5x7", 11x14", 10x12", 14x17", 12x20", 7x17", 8x20", 20x24" et al.
I'd say all photographs made by contact with a negative the same size as the ground glass (ok, not groundglass) have an equivalent continuity and integrity. But what works in the 2.5"x 3.5" format might not look so good as a 20x24. Two exhibitions come to mind, Andre Kertesz and Man Ray. The Brisbane shows featured original contacts from roll film (rollfilm?) negatives which were absolutely exquisite. The subjects were mainly still lifes (The Fork by Kertesz for example) that suited a small format. There were also some giant enlargements which looked positively coarse in comparison.
Why is 8x10 singled out as having "continuity of perception"? Isn't that the same, by physical process, for all contact prints made using view camera generated images, regardless of size?
I chose the 8x10 format because, to quote Ray Heath, "It is what I do". The rationale I present is part of the set of myths, mantras, and manifestos I tell myself to justify investing (wasting?) my life in this particular format and artform. Yea verily, I could still be mistaken.
And, why do you feel that the 8x10 is "always the correct size" for a contact print at the expense of other formats' (contact print) sizes? ALWAYS correct?
Maybe I should have put it this way. If an 8x10 is the wrong size then an adequately astute photographer would not have made it in the first place. Ergo, the only 8x10s that get made are, for the size, the right ones. The same applies to all photographs made by contact from all formats. Obviously not all sizes suit all subjects.

I reckon there is good reason to think the 8x10 contact photograph is a sweet spot in the range of formats. The smaller sizes find optimum subject matter a bit scarce. The ultra large formats tend to break men through sheer physical effort and running costs. Many have striven with 11x14, Paul Strand, Brett Weston, and Gordon Undy come to mind. In all of these cases the demands of the bigger camera so limited photographic productivity that the format was abandoned. The 8x10 is the biggest camera, in my opinion, that a healthy person can carry for many years to many places. Opinion being cheap I'll also propose that a 8x10 contact photograph nicely balances opposing values, small enough to sustain an impression of delicacy and grace, big enough to offer a sense of presence.

Lachlan717
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Joined: 03 Aug 2012, 16:49

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Lachlan717 » 31 Oct 2013, 15:39

If opinion is so cheap, then I'd prefer to get my own and carry a much bigger camera than your opinion professes me able.

I really, really cannot stand the generalisations made here. "The 8x10 is the biggest camera, in my opinion, that a healthy person can carry for many years to many places". What 8x10 camera are you referring to? A Sinar P2 with metered back? Or a horseman LX810? Yea verily, a healthy person can carry neither camera for many years to many places.

Yea verily, a healthy person could carry my sub 5kg 7x17 Korona for many years to many places. You walk a dangerous path when you judge others' physical ability by you own limitations. But, yea verily, pontification dressed as omphaloskepsis is far easier than presenting fact.

Walter Glover
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Location: Canterbury, NSW

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Walter Glover » 31 Oct 2013, 19:31

Lachlan717 wrote:I really, really cannot stand the generalisations made here.


There is always bound to be lots that many can't stand. There is also invariably a door through which you can go seek nirvana elsewhere if it is all so bothersome.
Walter Glover

"Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi

Lachlan717
Posts: 494
Joined: 03 Aug 2012, 16:49

Re: The 8x10 contact photograph.

Postby Lachlan717 » 01 Nov 2013, 06:10

Interesting that, given all of the points that I made, you chose to use a quote that you felt allowed you to tell what to do.

Guess telling others what they should think and do is easier than answering criticism.


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