9 thoughts on “Castaway / East

    1. Thanks for that thought– you’re such an astute observer. I was hoping there’d be some emotional contrast and I liked the more subdued tonal range for this scene. This look brings me back to early photography- Pictorialism in particular.

      1. Even aside from the smooth range of tones, the sailboat with its graceful tilt brings to mind classic paintings of the sea. And now that I’m looking again I really admire the way all the action is in that left-hand third of the frame, with so little on the other side – but that “so little” is beautifully rendered and so important.
        I had to refresh my mind about Pictorialism so I looked at what Wikipedia has to say. If you just think about Wiki’s overarching theme of a desire to move away from straight documentation and toward emotional content, then I don’t think that dichotomy ever went away. All the emphasis on equipment now is clear evidence of people getting seduced by the tempting shininess of what a machine can do to the detriment of the operator’s – and viewer’s – humanity.
        Style certainly changes over time – many of the photographs Wiki shows look dated – but the discussion about sharp focus is still relevant. Maybe not the question of whether photography is an art form! That one was settled. I come down on the side of expression vs. documentation but (as you’d probably guess) I’m also a fan of modernism. It’s complicated! 😉
        The Steichen Flatiron photo never fails to floor me, I’ve always loved it, partly because that spot is so familiar to me but also for the way it knits the city’s hard and soft edges together. The Coburn & de Meyer appeal to me, too. There’s a Fassbender quote in the article that makes a good point.
        I’ll stop now. Thanks for prompting me to learn a little more.

        1. It did evoke those classic paintings, especially when stumbling upon it unexpectedly. And it also brought to mind Gustave Le Gray’s seascapes (taken almost 50 years before the Pictorialists).

          Your points about straight documentation vs emotional content are great and it’s a discussion that seems more relevant these days because of the way digital imaging has rekindled an interest in treatment. To me, this has been an exciting shift, especially after so many decades of sharp focus orthodoxy. By the 1920’s photography had moved away from the sentimentality of those Wiki images you mentioned, and became embedded with a new esthetic. Because of that, it took years before we welcomed long focal lengths, toning and soft focus back into our pictures.

          Le Gray’s photographs of the sea are relevant to this discussion. In the 1850’s you couldn’t expose for sky and ocean at the same time because, in those early days, wet plate emulsions had an enormous range of sensitivity between blue light and the other colors on the spectrum. What Le Gray did, was print two exposures on one sheet of paper to get the emotional content he was after. This was 150 years before Photoshop and decades before the medium was preoccupied with sharp focus. Like you said so well, both views are important and have been intertwined since Day 1.

          Here’s a short piece on Le Gray from the Met:

      2. I’ve never heard of le Gray, thanks for the link. It’s very interesting to see what he did and what he had to do to accomplish the results he wanted. I also hadn’t really thought about how digital imaging has allowed (encouraged?) photographers to explore things like softer focus and more subtle toning – again. But I see what you’re saying – for a while there was a strong interest in getting the technical things perfected in the darkroom, the way Ansel Adams did maybe, or even the way photojournalists did, for clarity’s sake, I suppose. There are many ways to look at and think about photography!
        But today we’re heading out and my brain is cluttered with “don’t forgets” so I’ll leave it there. Thank you for the discussion!

        1. I actually didn’t know too much about Le Gray either until a few years ago when my a friend turned me onto him. There’s a good out-of-print book to look for: “Pioneers of Landscape Photography,” about Le Gray and Carleton Watkins, published by the Getty Museum.

          Hope you remembered everything!

  1. This definitely has the feel of a painting which I feel it gets from the inclusion of the boat. The boat makes
    the title of the picture very appropriate and fills this gorgeous shot with a sense of adventure. Who wouldn’t want to take a shot at pirating the boat and casting off into that beautiful sea.

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