Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

June 5, 2009

Seeing Photographs

Filed under: Looking at Photographs — John Siskin @ 10:42 am
They show fish here.

They show fish here.

I thought I would be writing about learning to write in photography again this week, but there is something else to talk about. I went to a show at The Annenberg Space for Photography here in Los Angeles. This is a new museum space for photography here in the center of Century City. The location and the building are wonderful. What happens inside the doors of the space is not so good.


A photograph is a way of capturing a moment, some photographs are several moments smeared together. Some moments are captured more quickly than we can see. Photographs see time differently than we do. Photographs also display time differently than other communication. They show stopped time; the same stopped time any time we choose to look at them. I have a photograph of a rainbow near my monitor; it is the same rainbow whenever I choose to look at it. In addition a good print allows me to get closer, to have a more intimate relationship with the image. This intimacy is one of the reason I still make prints in the wet darkroom, black and white prints made this way have special qualities.

Most of the display space at the Annenberg was devoted to monitors. The images were displayed as constant slide shows, with constant sound tracks. The images could have been displayed as well on the computer in my office. The viewers’ relationship with the image is defined by the timing of the video show. If I wanted to see a shot a moment longer, that couldn’t happen. As with all screens, when I got too close to the screen the image falls apart, there is a bar to this intimacy.

There were some prints. Many of the prints were placed opposite to a wall of windows, so the reflections were annoying. This Space for Photography seems more interested in displaying video than photographs.

I can remember seeing an original Edward Weston print when I was in high school. Honestly this experience changed my life. I don’t think I’ve seen anything on a screen that has had as much impact. If you haven’t seen real photographic prints, made by masters of the art, you should give yourself this experience. Just looking at images on the screen is not the same. I would also suggest that you look at high quality books, perhaps those from Adams, Weston, Sexton or Butler. You will see more than just a well designed image, you will have an invitation to a different kind of intimacy with an image.

1 Comment

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    Comment by Alyssa — June 27, 2011 @ 6:45 am

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