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From Darkroom to Daylight

From Darkroom to Daylight is a collection of personal narratives and portraits by photographer and filmmaker Harvey Wang. A beautiful and engaging book that explores how the dramatic change from film to digital has affected photographers and their work, From Darkroom to Daylight is organised into five chapters starting with "The Darkroom," where practitioners remember their early darkroom experiences and the magic of seeing an image come up in the developer tray, followed by "Materials: The Endangered and the Extinct," which addresses the early history of photography through the birth of Kodak roll film, to the recent demise of Kodachrome film beloved by so many photographers, and the disappearing photographic papers based on the silver-gelatin process. The third chapter, "The Digital Revolution in Photography," covers the invention of the digital camera and Photoshop, and chapter four, "Bridging the Divide," shows practitioners seeking to reconcile old and new work methods. The heart of the book is "Perspectives of the Digital (R)evolution," where photographic luminaries speak candidly about how the digital age has impacted on their careers and the photography world at large. The 180-page hardcover will hit the shelves in May.

Press Release

FROM DARKROOM TO DAYLIGHT BY HARVEY WANG

Edited by Amy Brost and Edmund Carson

DAYLIGHT BOOKS / MAY 2015

"This is a wonderful book, a thoughtful appreciation of the pitfalls and promise of technology." -- Ken Burns, filmmaker

Photographer and filmmaker Harvey Wang has had a photography career that spans over 40 years, and a film career of more than 25 years. The author of six books and the recipient of numerous awards, he has received critical acclaim for his beautiful and poignant portraits of Americans from many walks of life. He is perhaps best known for his photographs of New Yorkers in the 1980s in vanishing jobs and professions which led Sam Dolnick of The New York Times to call him "a bard of the old New York."

Much of Wang's work has been about change -- the disappearance of trades, neighborhoods, and ways of life. As a photographer he has lived through a change in his own profession that has affected him and many of his peers profoundly -- the coming of the digital age which over the past 20 years has seen negative enlargers and chemical darkrooms replaced by computers and image-processing software. In 2000, Wang began to shoot digital, but he discovered he was not entirely comfortable with these new methods of working.

He wondered how other veteran photographers who like him have spent most of their careers working with film were coping in this new photographic universe. He decided to utilize his documentary photography and filmmaking skills to find out. The result is From Darkroom to Daylight (Daylight, May 2015), a beautiful and engaging book that explores how the dramatic change from film to digital has affected photographers and their work. 

Alan Trachtenberg, author and professor of English and American Studies, Yale University writes about the book: "This collection of interviews and personal narratives, accompanied by Harvey Wang's splendid portraits, offers a revelation and hence an invaluable record of key issues in how and why photographers today choose to go one way or the other, toward film or digital methods, toward darkroom or daylight."

Harvey Wang interviewed and photographed more than 40 important photographers and prominent figures in the field, including Jerome Liebling, George Tice, Elliott Erwitt,

David Goldblatt, Sally Mann, Jeff Jacobson, Gregory Crewdson, Susan Meiselas and Eugene Richards, as well as innovators Steven Sasson, who built the first digital camera while at Kodak, and Thomas Knoll, who, along with his brother, created Photoshop. This collection of personal narratives and portraits is both a document of this critical moment and a unique history of photography.

The book is organized into five chapters starting with "The Darkroom," where practitioners remember their early darkroom experiences and the magic of seeing an image come up in the developer tray, followed by "Materials: The Endangered and the Extinct," which addresses the early history of photography through the birth of Kodak roll film, to the recent demise of Kodachrome film beloved by so many photographers, and the disappearing photographic papers based on the silver-gelatin process. The third chapter, "The Digital Revolution in Photography," covers the invention of the digital camera and Photoshop, and chapter four, "Bridging the Divide," shows practitioners seeking to reconcile old and new work methods. The heart of the book is "Perspectives of the Digital (R)evolution," where photographic luminaries speak candidly about how the digital age has impacted on their careers and the photography world at large.

Book Excerpts - From Darkroom to Daylight

"There is something about this [wet plate] process that's a little more contemplative ... There's a certain sadness and depth that's revealed in someone's face ... you're sort of sitting for the ages, and I don't think an iPhone picture makes people think that they're sitting for the ages." -- Sally Mann

"Film is a lot more trouble, so you think twice before you press the button, or before you make a print. Digital, you don't have to think -- you can just shoot away, like with a machine gun. And people do that; I've seen that. I just received some pictures of my grandson who graduated from high school, and his father took the pictures. There are 50 pictures that all look the same, and they're all bad. And if he'd taken maybe two or three, they probably would've been a lot better." -- Elliott Erwitt

"Silver is basically dead, and by God, it should be. It's overdue. It was great while we had it. I think the digital capture is far superior on every level." -- Richard Benson

"The thing that I object to with digital is Photoshop. I think if you want to make pictures you want to be a painter, well that's fine, go ahead and do it, but don't call it photography. Photography means there was a response to the fact of life. [With Photoshop] what you are saying is, I don't really need the world; I can make the world. And artists, painters, have been doing that for many, many years. But then I go back to that essence that I thought photography as mirror image was very important and special." -- Jerome Liebling

"I've been someone who embraces technology and enjoys exploring it, to figure out what it can do, along with what I can imagine. The question is, can you continue to invent a role where you belong? And maybe now I'm not quite sure where I belong anymore, both with my authoring, or even with the collective framing process -- my collaborative process.

That's part of a complete reevaluation, crucial to do now." -- Susan Meiselas

"I don't feel I've lost anything [with the switch to digital]. In the beginning, I had issues -- the digital sensors are a little flat. But the digital does not make a picture, as film does not make a picture. There's no camera, there's no lens, there's no sensor that makes a picture, only your eye can make a picture." -- Chester Higgins, Jr.

From Darkroom to Daylight reveals the interesting characters responsible for the science and technology behind this momentous transition. Steven Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera, remembers taking his first picture in the 1970s with his clunky digital camera prototype. The image, which was a portrait of a young lab technician at Eastman Kodak, came out distorted, but he was happy to see it because he knew there was a good chance he would see nothing at all. With some more tweaking, the "image popped up, and it was a big thrill...it looked good." Thomas Knoll, an amateur photographer and the co-creator of Photoshop, admits that he created Photoshop simply because it was "really fun to manipulate images on a computer." Today he is amazed by the variety of things that you can do with it, and he gets a kick out of the fact that "Photoshop" is now officially a verb in the English language.

What is happening in photography is part of a larger universal story about the transition from an analog to a digital world that is affecting every aspect of our lives from how we shop, work, play, communicate, and, of course, take pictures. For those of us who have lived much of our lives prior to the digital revolution, these changes can at times be exciting and filled with possibilities and other times daunting and frustrating as we struggle to adapt to new ways of doing things.

At first a love letter to the silver process and darkroom, From Darkroom to Daylight touches on the history of photography, the coming of the digital age, and what became possible with digital methods. As photograph conservator Paul Messier says, "we haven't had a transition like this in the history of photography."

About the Artist/Author:

Harvey Wang studied visual arts and anthropology at Purchase College, State University of New York. He has published six books of photography including Harvey Wang's New York (1990) and, with co-author David Isay, Flophouse: Life on the Bowery (2000) and Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics and Other American Heroes (1995). Wang has exhibited widely at museums, including the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the New-York Historical Society, and the Museum of the City of New York. He is also an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been screened in film festivals all over the world. He won the prize for Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2003 for Milton Rogovin: The Forgotten Ones, and his first feature The Last New Yorker (2007 with Dominic Chianese, Dick Latessa, Kathleen Chalfant, and Josh Hamilton) was an audience favorite. He has also done extensive documentary work for television. The companion project to this book, a documentary film also titled From Darkroom to Daylight, is presently screening at photography festivals and other venues across North America.  He lives and works in New York City.

Book Details:

ISBN: 9780989798181

Hardcover 7.5 X 9 Inches

180 Pgs, Illustrated throughout

$45.00 US

Published: Tuesday, March 03, 2015

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