Original prints by well-known photographers have become very expensive. Many collectors have moved to collecting photography books instead, rather than looking for less famous names and photographers whose work is still available and sometimes just as interesting. Martin Parr’s publication The Photobook about what he considers to be the most important photobooks did the rest. Personally I don’t care which photobooks are hot or not, I know what I like and I will buy the occasional book that I love (and if you read my blog or visit my website www.tomstappers.com you won’t be surprised that it’s mostly black and white photography, of which a big part is street photography, and no digital). I prefer the original print, there’s nothing to beat it, and one of my own signed 30/40 silvergelatin prints for instance, is still cheaper than some of these collectable photobooks, so ….
In the world of archives large scale digitizing of black and white photographic negatives is going on at the moment. Specialized companies are explaining to the experienced and unexperienced public alike that this is urgent business, because these photographic negatives would be deteriorating. (Question: doesn’t digital material deteriorate, and at what rate do both methods compare?). Moreover, they point out, “the negatives are often hidden in badly accessible archives, and the digitalized files are easier to handle for non-technical staff”. This being true or not true, the big problem is that much valuable and irreplaceable material has already been destroyed and this is ongoing…. No film photographer will want to throw away his negatives, and will be shocked to hear that others do. Only today a friend told me that she had thrown away a large group of old family negatives that supposedly were “no good anymore”, and the children had prints of most photographs anyway. Maybe people think it is, or soon will be impossible to have b&w negatives printed anymore. Another piece of history gone.
You can only photograph what’s there, I think we agree on that. Not what’s in your phantasy. Some photographers have photographed “scenes from their phantasies” that they had to construct before these could be photographed. And as a black and white film photographer I’m not even thinking of the “artistic” horrors of extreme photoshop manipulation… The constructing part – be it arranging people and things, or putting together things to suggest a non-existing reality – is in fact introducing another art form like performance or sculpture in its widest sense, then simply putting it on film. The photographer, in all his freedom [to quote William Klein: “anything goes”], nevertheless should realize this, so he isn’t fooled into believing such photography is the real “art photography”. The real “art” in photography is in my opinion in the elevation of the image from its purely representational “reality” level to a higher (non-anecdotal) symbolic function, which could be enigmatic or even of a metaphysical nature.
“We are seeing a resurgence of black and white in documentary photojournalism now. [….] People are actually embracing black and white [photography] in a way that they haven’t for several years.”
MaryAnne Golon, World Press Photo Jury, 2009.