New York Prints

Where I in New York rather than old England, I would be making my way to the  Howard Greenberg Gallery, which currently has several shows worth a visit.

New York in Colour has quite a few interesting images, but it perhaps somewhat of a ragbag show of gallery inventory.  The odd web design probably means many visitors never get to see the 42 images on show, as the link from the thumbnail only works close to its top edge. In the main it is the earlier work that has most interest for me, and perhaps the only interesting image from this century is one of Abelardo Morell’s Camera Obscura images.

Among the earlier work are some good images by a number of photographers, including Danny Lyon, Micha Bar’am, Evelyn Hofer, Helen Levitt and Erwin Blumenfeld (and a few rather weak works by some others) but I was particularly pleased to be introduced to the work of Marvin Newman, who has an enviable biography, having studied for his BA with Walter Rosenblum who suggested he take classes with John Ebstel at the Photo League, and later studing with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Chicago Institute of Design where he was one of the first students to gain an MS in photography in 1952. The best place to see more of his work is probably at the Bruce Silverstein gallery.

Those who manage to find the 24 images for An Italian Perpective will also find some images worth looking at. I’ve always found the work of Luigi Ghirri (1943-92) extremely uneven, but there are a few intriguing images among those shown here even if it is hard to imagine why he felt others worth taking or printing. I’m always pleased to see work by Gabriele Basilico, and there isn’t too much else. And although there is a picture by Massimo Vitali, his work always looks much better small on the web than it does large on the gallery wall, where I find it curiously devitalising.

But most interesting of all for me is the third show, like the others ending 17 March 2012, on the work of the Photo League, including pictures by some of the well known names as well as a couple I’ve hardly heard of before.  But of course the place to go to see more of their work is the Jewish Museum, where the show
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 continues until 25 March 2012, and has a fine web site, which I could and probably will spend hours looking through. I wrote several pieces about the Photo League in my earlier on-line life, as well as on a number of the photographers involved, and ten years ago there really was very little information about them on the web.

One oddity which emerges in the New York in Colour show is in the description of the prints. Greenberg appears to have invented the “Chromogenic inkjet print“, a curious hybrid of two very different and competing methods.

Chromogenic refers to silver halide based processes in which the development of a silver image is accompanied by the production of coloured dyes from the oxidised developer molecules by reaction with dye couplers. Normally we call such prints ‘C types’. Nowadays most C types are made from digital images – something that is sometimes called a ‘digital chromogenic print’ – and you can see and hear on his web site what Richard Benson thinks about that.

Benson points out that digital chromogenic prints have all the disadvantages of darkroom C-types – fairly poor colour reproduction and rapid deterioration, whereas good inkjet prints can give much better colour and last longer than the photographers who make them. But he stresses more that while digital chromogenic prints require hugely expensive lab equipment, good inkjet prints can be made on cheap printers, enabling photographers to do their own printing.

I don’t particularly buy that. The important part of printing, the magic laying on of hands that we used to do in the darkroom that made some people better printers than others has now moved away from the actual physical printmaking stage to the preparation of the file on the computer. And if I then send my file off to the lab, I’ve already done the creative part of the process.

But of course ‘chromogenic inkjet print‘ is just nonsense. Either it is chromogenic – a C-type – or it is an inkjet. Certainly not both. Just another indication that many guys in galleries don’t have a great deal of knowledge or understanding of our medium. Their expertise and knowledge is all about making money.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.