Tod Papageorge. From the series American Sports, 1970.
Papageorge has just retired after more than 30 years at the helm of Yale’s influential photography program. His impact is reflected in the work of a younger generation of prominent photographers, whostudied at Yale. His work stands on its own among that of his contemporaries, including Winogrand, Friedlander and Frank.
In a 2006 interview with Richard Woodward, Papageorge comments on digital photography and his own process. (I wonder if his perspective has changed any in the seven years since):
RW: How are you handling the switch to the digital universe?
TP: I’m curious to see if one can produce compelling prints digitally, black-and-white prints. Certainly that’s possible now with color. But walking around MoMA earlier today and looking at a print of Robert’s or Diane’s [Arbus] on the wall, there’s just nothing like it. There’s really nothing like it.
RW: Digital does offer unique advantages in terms of richer black tones—
TP: Well, it’s different. We have a couple of huge digital prints up at Yale that were made from Walker Evans’s negatives. I was uninterested in them the first moment I looked at them. They just don’t have what, to me, makes Evans a great photographer, that sense that the lens has cut like an especially sharp knife into the light and drawn out a radiant fact. On the other hand, though, Robert Frank’s work would probably look great in digital prints: deep tones and not a heavy emphasis on description.
RW: You said the goal with Garry always was process. Not exhibition, gallery shows, or sale of prints. Did you absorb that mentality pretty much?
TP: This may go way back to your first question: why no book until now? I don’t photograph for exhibition, but to engage in this process of understanding photography itself. I started to photograph because poetry was impossible for me, not realizing that photography was at least as difficult, and also not anticipating how, as with poetry, that difficulty can, in itself, create an addiction in those people who see this kind of creative test as something monumentally attractive. We all have to deal with our strengths and weaknesses, and while I guess my strength is my willingness to engage repeatedly with this deeply difficult problem of making coherent pictures, my weakness is an equally strong tendency to want everything in my pictures to be part of a perfect web—not a very healthy or often-satisfied ambition when trying to clarify such complex chunks of the visual world. But that’s my problem, and maybe something I can’t escape.
It only believes
In a pile of dead leaves
And a moon
That’s the color of bone. #tomwaits #hudson #hudsonvalley #upstate #upstateny #hudsonny #autumn #fall #sunsetporn #winter #sunset
It’s easy to fall in love with the wet plate collodion process. Have you ever wished you had tintypes of images you’ve already made? Well in this workshop Lisa Elmaleh will teach you how to print your already existing images onto tin and glass!
This wet plate printing course will be an intensive introduction to the wet plate process that was the leading mode of photography in the 1850′s and 1860′s, combined with the ease and simplicity of working in a contemporary darkroom with enlargers. The process must be completed while the plate is wet; the images are exposed, developed, fixed, and washed, and images are viewable within minutes. Workshop participants will learn how to create ambrotypes (positives on glass), opalotypes (positives on white tin), and tintypes (positives on blackened tin) using an enlarger. We will discuss chemical mixing and safety. Students will learn the techniques of preparing the plate, cleaning glass, pouring collodion, exposing, developing, fixing, and varnishing. Workshop participants will be using cold head enlargers. All materials including enlargers, chemicals, glass, and metal will be supplied.
Students should bring both positive transparencies as well as negatives to the class with which to print. If creating positive transparencies on an ink-jet printer, please print them at 4”x5” or smaller on transparency film. Students should bring a few samples of each image at different densities to work with. Students may also use traditional slides or chromes, from 35mm to 4”x5”. Please bring about 5-10 different images to work with.