What makes a photo a photo?

Intriguing article on the use of digital techniques on depression era photographs:

The new prints modulate and unify the midranges of grays in these pictures to soften contrasts and give a warmer ambience to photographs that were often sharp and austere in Evans’s gelatin silver prints. Mr. Hill, who put together the show, includes various books, magazines and prints that Evans supervised, so you can make the comparison yourself.

But does this improve the pictures? No. For one thing, it is not possible to improve on the quality of Evans’s originals, only to emulate it. For another, size shifts how we see, both for better and worse. There is a level of concentration required by staring into a small gelatin silver print, a way the image focuses the mind and stays contained within a narrow field of vision, which is among the pleasures of photography. Bigger pictures are read differently, more piecemeal, in the way that film in a theater is viewed differently from an image on television or on a computer screen.

The slideshow of photos is not to be missed. (And if you are local to New York, you ought to go see the show.)


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