Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gordon Parks 100th Anniversary

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gordon Parks, the legendary black photographer who worked for, among others, Life Magazine, there are several exhibits of his photography works in New York City: Gordon Parks: 100 Years is showing at the International Center for Photography, Gordon Parks: 100 moments is being presented at the Schomburg Center, and Gordon Parks: Centennial is now showing at the Greenberg Gallery on West 57th Street.

I saw the last mentioned this afternoon and it prompted me to write this blog entry. When I was studying photography at the New School there were only two ways to see the work of well known photographers - in books about photography or monographs about the photographer, and at photography installations at museums and galleries around town. Now, modern technology being what it is, it's possible to see the works of others on a computer screen. Viewing the works on a screen via the internet is certainly the most accessible form for most of us, and it's free. But to my mind, it's also the least effective way to view photographs. The most effective way is, you guessed it, by seeing the prints in a gallery or museum. Especially if the works to be seen are silver prints made in a darkroom. There is an organic quality about the medium that cannot be duplicated by digital printing techniques. Honestly, I'd be the first to say that I can accomplish digitally what would have been almost impossible in a darkroom. And the digital prints I can reproduce on a high quality photo printer can show more detail and a better tonal range than analog prints. There is, however, something magical about a photograph composed of silver halide crystals laid down on high quality paper stock, especially when the printing is done by a master printer.

For sure, looking at a photograph on a computer screen or in a book allows us to examine the artist's ideas about composition, subject matter, and even all the technical know how brought to bear in making the image. It's just different for me when I see a real live analog print that unfolds before my eyes like a well told story.

But, life being what it is, here's a couple of digital shots, prepared digitally on my computer, and displayed digitally for your enjoyment.