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Lesson Plans

Re: debate-color shift in dupes

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 01:23:42 -0400

Sheila Hoover wrote:
>>I think the biggest argument for viewing the original is what gets lost in
a slide or print - the artists "fingerprint" A print or slide often loses
the subtelty of color - or the color may be completely wrong. <<

Exactly right.
Having worked my way through college in my families industrial photo lab, I
am all too familiar with the imperfections that arise when reproducing work.
I spent hours at a time looking through a microscope analyzing the grain
structure of film, trying to match the colors in slide dupes to their
originals. More than once, a frustrated artist would bring in an original
work and ask why the colors in the slide didn't look like the colors in their
painting. Here's what happens:

The receptors in our eyes are much more sensitive to the nuances of
light/dark/color than any film that has been or probably ever will be
manufactured. For this reason the companies that manufacture film can't
deliver a product that is totally accurate. What they can do is skew the
colors so that the ones that we are most familiar with are the ones that
render most correctly. The blue of the sky, the white of the clouds, the
greenness of grass and the colors of skin will usually reproduce closely to
the colors in the original scene. Colors that are less commonplace in
everyday life, such as teal or mauve, will never reproduce with total

This makes things difficult for artists. There are some colors that you use
in your creation that will ONLY be visible in the original piece. Side by
side in the same reproduction you could have a blue that is a dead match and
a teal that has become a more common green .... and that's the best scenario
under ideal conditions ..... taking film to a one-hour lab where processing
controls are much more lax will bring a whole other list of technical

The photographer Ansel Adams was very conscientious about the quality of the
reproductions that represented his originals, going so far as to deny
publishing rights to those who could not meet his standards. Knowing that
poor quality reproductions would diminish the value of his work, he so far as
to create multiple versions of his most popular works. Each version was
designed to print at optimum quality for its designated format. A photo like
'Moonrise over Hernandez' had a museum quality version as well as another
that would print best in newspapers, another that would print best in
magazines, another that would print best on posters, etc ..... Adams
understood that a single image used among various printing processes would
produce varied levels of quality in the end result. Would most people notice
the difference or even care? I doubt it. He could do that because it was
photography. Consider other media where an artist can only make one version.

Does it really matter? I like what someone said the other day .... when you
finally see the original work after viewing reproductions for for so long, it
is like becoming reacquainted with an old friend.

-Geoff Black
Orange County High School of the Arts