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Phase One P45 - A diary of a landscape photographer's repurposing of a Hassleblad V! Alain Briot's Hasselblad V system is brought back to a new life with the P45 back. So how much fun does it deliver?

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Old July 13th, 2009, 09:15 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Default July 2009 Artist Statement

Below is my current artist statement and remarks on Fine Art Photography. I thought it would be of interest and can help spark a discussion. It is published on my site as an essay at this link http://beautiful-landscape.com/Thoug...otography.html and is "reprinted" it here in its entirety.


Defining Fine Art Photography
by Alain Briot


Introduction
What Fine Art Photography consists of both a subject of debate and an ongoing concern for photographers whose goal is to create photograph that express their personal vision.

Providing a definition of Fine Art Photography is easy. It is simply photographs created for artistic purposes with the highest level of crafmanship and artistic skills. These photographs are not created for documentary, recording, forensic, journalistic or other purposes in which a literal representation is the goal. Instead, they are created for an artistic purpose in which the expression of the artist's emotions, vision and style is the goal.

While a definition is useful it does not equal a demonstration of what Fine Art Photography is. For this reason I wanted to focus this essay on my current artist Statement. This statement, which is below, describes my personal approach to my work, to the creation of Fine Art Photographs.

Alain Briot


July 2009 Artist Statement
For me a work of art is primarily the product of a person, not of a machine. For this reason, a photograph printed straight from the original capture, either film or digital is unsatisfying. Such an image represents the output of my camera rather than the expression of my emotions.

While, as a photographer, I can to some extent choose the type of light, composition, lens, equipment and other technical aspects of the image, I have very little control over the artistic aspects of my work during image capture.

To satisfy my creativity I need to work on my photographs after I complete the image capture. For me, the creative aspect of photography starts after the image has been recorded by the camera. It is then that I am able to infuse the image with the emotional content that I experienced while being at the location where I took the photograph.

To this end I do to the image everything that I deem necessary. On the level of image adjustments, I first adjust the global color balance and the global contrast of the image to my taste. I then focus on individual colors and work towards making them the exact tonalities that I desire. Similarly, I adjust contrast so that it reflects the feeling of open, glowing light or of deep, mysterious shadows, according to my memories of the original scene.

On the level of image composition, I routinely collage multiple captures into a single image. The goal of these collages is to expand the field of view represented in the image far beyond what a single capture can show, even when the photograph is created with the widest lens available. These collages have the added benefit of representing time as well as space. Because the different images that compose the final work are taken over a span of time, which can vary from a few seconds to 25 minutes or more, the resulting collage shows the variation of light, the movement of clouds, and the changes in other moving elements that took place during the time required to complete the image captures.

I also clone elements that I deem unnecessary or unaesthetic. These elements are rarely "trash" (empty cans and other litter) because I can easily remove these prior to taking the photographs. Rather, these elements are either natural features that I could modify in the original scene, or elements that I did not "see" as troublesome when I took the original captures. These include, for example, branches or twigs intruding into the borders of the image, textures whose patterns are incomplete or visually unsatisfying and any other unwanted element.

The collage process often results in areas of the image being left blank. This is because as the collage process unfolds, the image is warped, stretched and "kneaded", so to speak, into a specific visual projection. Sometimes the goal is to project the image without any distortion. Sometimes the goal is to induce distortion purposefully to reinforce a specific pattern in the image, such as a sweeping curve, or a specific visual rhythm.

This process results in an image that rarely, if ever, fits into a rectangular format. Rather, the image ends up having rounded corners, and areas are routinely left empty, being simply "blank canvas" space. While I could choose to leave the image as it comes out of the collage process, I currently fill these blank image areas with details and patterns cloned from other areas of the image. This process is very similar to painting, in the sense that I add, ad lib, color and patterns that are the product of me imagining what could have existed in locations where there is currently nothing. In other words, I invent photographic information. I create part of the image from my own inspiration with the goal of expressing the emotions and the vision that I had while I took the original captures.

Because of this cloning and "image painting" process, cropping of the image is frequently necessary in order to eliminate unwanted areas and give straight borders to the image. This cropping, and of course the collage process, mean that the final image format is quite different from the original capture format. This final image format is arrived upon because of the image's needs not because of the desire to use a specific, or a "standard," format.

On occasion, the image format that I arrive at through the process I just described is unsatisfactory. In those situations I stretch the image digitally, either in the width or in the height, to give it proportions that represent my vision rather than the technical output provided by the computer and camera combination. This stretching may be rather moderate or quite extensive, depending on the needs of each individual image. When performing this important step, my concern is to not distort natural element beyond believability.

Here, as well as in the other aspects of my work, my concern is believability rather than reality. In other words my goal is not to create an image that represents something that exists, as is, in reality, in the "real" landscape. Rather, my goal is to create an image that is believable, an image of something that one can consider to be possible, even though one could not quite find this exact same image in nature.

Below is an example of a Fine Art Photograph created with the approach described above. A description of how I created this image is provided as well.

In the next essay in this series I will show another example of my approach to creating Fine by featuring the main compositional steps through which I arrive at a final image, from the original captures, to the collaged image to the final artwork.

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona
July 2009


Clouds Mesa

Created with my Phase One P45 digital back mounted on a Hasselblad SWCM-CF camera with a fixed Zeiss Biogon 38mm, this image is a digital collage created from about 8 separate captures. The resolution of the final image is very high making it possible to print this photograph to mural size if need be. Needless to say, the detail is incredible. As always, the jpeg on this page cannot do justice to the final print which is gorgeous.

It took me 6 months to complete this image, between the work involved in stitching the frames, the color correction work and the image optimization. Part of the problem was that the 8 or more (I cannot remember how many precisely) captures were taken over a 30 minutes or more period and the light changed while I was photographing. As a result, different clouds and cloud shadows as well as light and dark areas on the landscape are present in the different captures. Merging them did not solve this problem, hence I had to do a lot of hand work to make all the different captures live happily together. I also had to clone part of the clouds at the top of the image because I somehow forgot to photograph that area... If you look carefully you will see that the top left cloud area is similar to the top right-center cloud area. That is because I cloned the top right-center area, flipped it horizontally, then used it to fill the top left area which was blank. I also had difficulties with having the colors match throughout the image. Finally, I was not sure if it was ready for publication until I decided there was nothing more I could do to make it better, something that I decided at the end of February while showing this image to one of my students and realizing I very much liked it the way it is.

The result is a unique photograph that can never be duplicated since going back to the location and taking the same photo would be impossible since it is not a single photograph but a merging of several different captures to which parts were added. The final piece is both beautiful and unique.

Most importantly, beyond all these technical considerations, this piece represents not only a place but an emotion. It stands for my emotional response to this scene. In my work, I find inspiration in the words that Ansel Adams penned in1979 in his Foreword to Yosemite and the Range of Light:

. . . I was casually making a visual diary - recording where I had been and what I had seen-and becoming intimate with the spirit of wild places. Gradually my photographs began to mean something in themselves; they became records of experiences as well as of places.



Essay and photographs Copyright Alain Briot 2009
All rights reserved worldwide
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Old July 13th, 2009, 09:28 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default Arc of Intent, a wrestling match with the work in progress as it gets strength.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
Providing a definition of Fine Art Photography is easy. It is simply photographs created for artistic purposes with the highest level of crafmanship and artistic skills. These photographs are not created for documentary, recording, forensic, journalistic or other purposes in which a literal representation is the goal. Instead, they are created for an artistic purpose in which the expression of the artist's emotions, vision and style is the goal.

While a definition is useful it does not equal a demonstration of what Fine Art Photography is. For this reason I wanted to focus this essay on my current artist Statement. This statement, which is below, describes my personal approach to my work, to the creation of Fine Art Photographs.
Hello, Alain,

I note that you provided a definition. It's unarguable if it's for your work. That's, after all how you channel your energies. It's useful for knowing what your pathway is to your showroom. However, it is not applicable to much work accepted as fine art.

I've now read your "Artist's Statement" and find empathy with how you work. That you admit to altering reality to suit your ideas and feelings is a good thing. The same goes for movie stars who admit that they are no way as perfect as their pictures in Vogue! There the retouch artist labored, enlarging her eyes, lengthening her legs, reducing her waist and perking her breasts as well rejuvenating her skin with an angel's brush. When that's disclosed, we can all breathe a sigh of relief since we have never seen real landscape nor people as perfect, well lit, or balanced.

I too, can start with a simple definition of what art encompasses: This is from a Nov 22 2008 post here.


For myself it appears that art is a material object in which a unique magnetic esthetic experience is found such that people want to return to it again and again. It may be pure form or associated with some narrative feelings or ideas and even beauty but these are not required.

Art is a physical form chosen or designed by humans though which esthetic experience is predictably enjoyed, valued and sought by those open to that experience.

Where the form is durable, it may secured, collected and exhibited. Where it is a blueprint it may be executed in performances from time to time. In each case the work, by surviving the artist, gives both a measure of immortality.


Your way of making your "Fine Art" also fits in well with my own original paradigm of "An Arc of Intent" whereby the art goes from ideas representing feelings to a physical form that can re-invoke such feelings!
The imaginary constructs of the artist's mind, (a cascade of feelings, sensations, shapes, textures, colors, history, thoughts, arguments, relevancies and consequences have to be externalized in a physical medium. So there is intent to make something engraved with human values which when experienced will evoke the imagined furor of esthetics in the artist's mind. That's what makes art! But it's far more complex than it might seem the dynamics of this Arc of Intent.

As the work progresses, there's an ever-changing form before the artist that never existed previously anywhere in the universe. This creature behaves as if it has a will of it's own. Amazingly it comes up with its own wishes and the growing work confidently demands and even commands consideration! So now our artist has to wrestle with the emerging life form until that fight is over and the work satisfies the artist or else [s] he destroys or abandons it. So this is a thoughtful and sometimes intense iterative process with the original intent changing in response to the "being" of the nascent art and the fact that each minute, the artist is older, has new ideas, whims and fancies or influences that must insert themselves. When there is no more that should be done, when the artist is satisfied that the creation before him/her is harmonious with that intent, the art is declared free of the artist and alive. When that happens, that work should evoke in the artist some of the family of thoughts, feelings and ideas that originally sparked the process. If that happens, the work is now art as the Arc of intent is at last complete!

The artist can pause. The art is almost on it's own. Ready or not, has to survive in a competitive world. Hopefully there are folk that will want to get to know it and even better, pay to own it!

Alain,

Your work seems to me to fit into this paradigm. You do not describe within your work a struggle, (as the photograph is being made), to meet the demands of your emerging picture. Do you think that happens with your own efforts to make art from your photography?

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; July 13th, 2009 at 11:15 PM.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:20 PM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Hello, Alain,
You do not describe within your work a struggle, (as the photograph is being made), to meet the demands of your emerging picture. Do you think that happens with your own efforts to make art from your photography?
Asher
I see my work as a pleasure to create, not as a struggle.

Alain
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:35 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
I see my work as a pleasure to create, not as a struggle.

Alain
Hi Alain,

Let me qualify, "struggle". When you started this picture for example, you had certain ideas. However, as the work developed, did the very existence of it before you, make you have to continue to readjust your views as you worked on each small part and came to view something never seen before?

Didn't you have the feeling that the emerging art, even under your control was also giving a voice back to you, in a way "having a say" in the process? That's what I meant by "struggle". Yes it's a pleasure but still it's work reconciling what never was to what is actually appearing before your own ewyes as something quite real.

Asher
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Old July 14th, 2009, 12:05 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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There's no work of art that ends up being what one conceives it as when starting.

That doesn't make it a struggle. It's simply the nature of the artistic process.

To me that process, i.e. the changes that take place between idea and realization, is pleasurable. I enjoy discovering new and different ways of expressing my vision.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 12:27 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
There's no work of art that ends up being what one conceives it as when starting.

That doesn't make it a struggle. It's simply the nature of the artistic process.

To me that process, i.e. the changes that take place between idea and realization, is pleasurable. I enjoy discovering new and different ways of expressing my vision.
Yes, Alain, we agree it's pleasure!

I'm asking you if you feel that the developing work itself gets to make its wishes known to you as it it's coming from the work and not your head?

That's the idea I'm interested in.

Asher
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Old July 14th, 2009, 01:12 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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More from the heart.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 01:23 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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So, Alain, your developing project, itself doesn't talk to you or make demands?

Asher
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Old July 14th, 2009, 01:23 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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So, Alain, your developing project, itself, doesn't talk to you or make demands?

Asher
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Old July 14th, 2009, 01:41 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Personally I don't call it "demands" but yes communication is important, as in any endeavor.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 02:07 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Default Making the Photograph: Feedback between nascent art forms and the artist.

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Personally I don't call it "demands" but yes communication is important, as in any endeavor.
Fine Alain,

Voila! That's the dynamic I'm interested in! Maybe my concept of art having life rather independent of the artist is something that I take too seriously. However, it's a paradigm that works well in most cases.

Still, that special "communication" is so fascinating to me. I think it might be of paramount importance in the actual realization of much art. What might it do and how strong and willful can it become. Can it just give playful pleasure in a give and take of lovers or can it turn rough and demanding?

Writers find this sometimes a problem when new characters can simply pop into the scene with no invitation! I think it's part of art coming to life! As soon as it has breath in its nostrils, it communicates and sometimes gets/seduces towards/suggests another direction or nuance one had not even considered.

After all, the work will, if successful, will have its own voice independent of you and hopefully even outlast us all! So it shouldn't be surprising that a work just coming to life should also have its own preferences and suggestions to us on the way!

I'm interested in how this evolves from a dead flat piece of space on some real or imagined canvas to something vibrant independent and alive.

Although I admire technical perfection in reproducing what one could have seen that day, I have far greater love of that which no one has ever seen or could ever see. This is why I'm interested in the process. It's, BTW, close to what I use in my own work with scenes of people. But that is for another time.

Asher
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Old July 14th, 2009, 11:16 AM
Alain Briot Alain Briot is offline
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Asher,

It's an interesting subject.

We should do this as an audio or video interview and publish it to OPF. It would be fascinating.

Alain
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Old July 14th, 2009, 08:11 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
Asher,

It's an interesting subject.

We should do this as an audio or video interview and publish it to OPF. It would be fascinating.

Alain
That's a great idea! It would be a great experience.

Asher
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