The Aunties

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The Aunties

Post by crowellphotographs on Sat Jul 19, 2008 11:26 am

Here are a few I took of my wife's Aunts, well Great Aunts. It was a bit of an impromptu kitchen party.







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Re: The Aunties

Post by Nando on Sun Jul 20, 2008 12:06 pm

I like the expressions on their faces.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by Kenneth Armstrong on Sun Jul 20, 2008 6:18 pm

Yah I agree the expressions are great and really make these. The B&W treatment is a little harsh (OK a lot) but I like it. I'd love to know what they think if they've seen them?
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Re: The Aunties

Post by crowellphotographs on Mon Jul 21, 2008 12:22 am

No they haven't seen these yet, I just shot them a few days ago.
I hadn't seen these images as overly harsh, though I am wondering now.

It's always been an issue showing people the photographs I take of them. (Except my subject/client work.) Though, I've never enjoyed being payed by my subject anywhere as much as my personal work or third party clients.
I'm really hoping for some advice now. Would you be upset if these were pictures of your Aunts and Grandmas? I had been considering giving these to the family. I've got some serious doubts now.

One of the most emotional experiences I've had as a photographer was handing a photograph to a Veteran I had taken for my first ever series. I could tell when I handed him a copy of the print(one I was so proud of) that he was at least uncomfortable. He then teared up. I was really shocked at the reaction and quickly asked what was the matter. "I never realized that I was an old man until right now."

I guess there's no real need for this little tale. Maybe to stroke my own ego.
I've just been nervous of this ever since. Any advice or opinion would be appreciated.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by Nando on Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:59 am

I must admit that if I was in the same situation, I'd probably be reaching for my 1946 Summitar for a softer rendering. Or wishing that I had a Jupiter-9 85f2 if I needed a longer range.

That's a good story about that veteran. I'm sure that your aunties will love the photographs.

The harshness doesn't bother me too much. The tones do bother me a bit since they have almost a metallic quality to them and seem synthetic. It somewhat reminds me of a daguerreotype. I've seen a number of very similar looking b&w conversions from people using the latest Nikon cameras. Is this more or less a straight conversion? Perhaps its just the way that they look on the screen. I final print, may look different.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by crowellphotographs on Mon Jul 21, 2008 12:38 pm

No they are not at all a straight conversion. But you did nail me on Nikon.
I spent a good amount of time on each image selectively adjusting the contrast of every part of the subject. I ran a blanket correction on the background, which I'm not too happy with, but the rest was quite deliberate. It's kind of why I'm a bit concerned.
The originals are VERY different from these. When I plan on doing an embellished BW print I photograph very differently.
I've been desperately trying to mimic a darkroom fiber paper technique digitally for years. I've absolutely conceded how impossible it is to match the tonal range, though I have always sought the silver feel of fiber. Silly I know.

I guess I've always liked flirting with the line of embellishment without gross distortion. It seems I may have finally crossed it.

The feedback is MUCH appreciated Nando. Especially from a film junkie. It seems my time away from film have started to show.

On a completely different note. How is your scanner doing?
I've been thinking about platinum printing, (requires no darkroom) and thought you would be the man to chat with about it. I learned a few neat techniques I've always wanted to try. Interested?
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Re: The Aunties

Post by Nando on Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:19 pm

Colin,

Can't talk much now as I need to get outside and mow the lawn before the rain comes but I will reply a bit later. The M1 scanner is superb - my computer is not (anymore). Platinum printing - I'm all ears.

I want to share a link to the photographs of Rui Palha. Palha is an excellent Portuguese street photographer who now uses a Nikon dSLR (I don't know why!!!) Anyway, when I saw the photos above, it remind me very much of the photographs I saw from Rui Palha from perhaps two-three years ago when it came to the tones. He takes a lot of 'street' portraits but there was a harshness and a weird tonality to them but his recent portraits are very appealing to me. The harshness is gone and I like the tones (even though they still look a bit synthetic).

Here's is Rui Palha's flickr stream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruipalha/

I think such black and white treatment would probably yield better results in a larger format. Even in digital, it may yield better results in prints than on the screen. I find that the computer screen, with very small sized photographs, is not forgiving when it comes to higher contrast portraits. It would be neat to see the originals - perhaps in private if you wish not to share them here. Did you use flash with these?
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Re: The Aunties

Post by crowellphotographs on Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:42 pm

WOW! I only had time to take a quick peek at the linked gallery, but did I ever like what I saw. Thanks for the link, I will be spending a lot of time looking at these in the future.

I'd be glad to send these to you privately. As we talked about at coffee, with the ease of duplication of an image, I try and at least limit the exposure to full sized copies of my work. We'll have to figure something out.

These were done with flash. I almost always use flash. It wasn't used in these to create new lighting conditions but more to control and recreate the existing conditions. Like I said, I'm a bit of a flash junkie.

As for the Platinum printing. We'll have to talk more about it soon. It's something I've really wanted to get into lately, I figured you'd be the same.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by crowellphotographs on Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:43 pm

Oh, ya. What's up with your computer?
When I get the time I'll send you a PM about the Platinum.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by Kenneth Armstrong on Mon Jul 21, 2008 2:28 pm

It feels to me almost like using a dark blue filter with B&W, accentuating the blemishes and especially the blood vessels in the cheek of the first woman. It just seems like a very unnatural conversion. I do like the expressions.
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Re: The Aunties

Post by Nando on Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:48 pm

It started to pour so I had to give up mowing. I've been looking at the photographs for the last 5 minutes or so. The problem I have with the tones go together with texture of the skin. #3 is the one that kind of bothers me the most in this regard. As the tones go from dark to light, the texture of the skin also changes more than I expect. The texture seems consistent in the dark and mid tones but then becomes really smooth in the light tones. This could very well be an issue with resizing the photo for the web - I don't know.

I'm comparing these to some photos off your website, which is on the harsher side but works much better for me. Here the texture remains consistent even in the highlights. I'm guessing that you probably took these with your 4x5. :-)

http://www.crowellphotographs.com/photolibrary/bwpho/pages/pf2Athumb10.htm

http://www.crowellphotographs.com/photolibrary/bwpho/pages/pf2Athumb2.htm

Again, I must say that it may just be the small size on screen. I see this all the time, especially with my 'full' subscription to LensWork magazine. I get a printed issue and then about a month later, I get the interactive DVD version of the issue. The DVD version is in PDF format and has extra photographs and extra multimedia features like audio interviews and movies. Well often, I'll see photographs that look spectacular in the print magazine but don't look anywhere as nice in the PDF on the computer monitor.

This type of harsh black and white treatment often works well with certain types of portraits. The current issue of LensWork, for example, features the photographs of Mitchell Kanashkevich and his portraits of people from India are very harsh. (Most of the photos from the Lenswork issue is on Mitchell Kanashkevich's flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mitchellk/ ) But to me, this type of look works very well to convey a sense of seriousness and perhaps urgency. I usually read that a harshness in a persons face to be a reflection of the harshness of their life. Your aunties seem very playful, at ease, comfortable and happy.

The contrast between the harshness of the photograph and their joyful expressions is very interesting. I think this duality can work well but its probably not what most people expect to see. You know your Auntie's better than we do. If you give these photographs to them, what will they think the photographs are about? Perhaps, you should show the photographs to your parents to test their reaction?

About my computer - its not powerful enough to efficiently work with medium format scanned at full resolution. (I know that 4800dpi is unnecessary overkill but I would like to be able to handle it.) Also my (el-cheapo) colour calibrator bit the dust but that's a separate issue. I'll elaborate more in that other thread about the M1 and Nikon scanners.
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