How Do I Get That Look?

A first general question; common, persistent. Hello Boards, those things filled with barrages of easy to answer technique questions, get this question posed by people thinking technique is the art. Photography is the refuge of the simplified technician’s mind. Get a camera – you’ve something to talk about for years.

The answer they seek will be found in the camera, lens, light, film, chemical, layer style… something. It has to be something they don’t yet know. The easier it is to answer, the more people will return to it.

The limitation they have is just that they cannot abstract properly. They can’t see photographs – they don’t think with their eye, while those they’re chasing do.

The need to duplicate

duplication to break away, or to hold onto as comforter. Most photographers become entangled in zone system effort since the image sets they are copying are distant – at some Federal Parkland, visited only on vacation. The endless sharpening of tools is enough occupation of an otherwise dull life.

Are you duplicating to follow, or to free yourself? All artists talk to other artists, living and dead. By studying the work around you, you will have richer vocabulary – just beware the dictionary you use. Art is a reward for the creative; food for your ongoing nourishment.

Market Markers

Photo District News, among others, has features of ‘how that shot’ was got. This is fuel for advertisers to position their product so that the new photographer has an order list – what do I need to look like the head of the herd. Spending more than 6 months on these items is leaving you behind. The sooner you stop following what others buy to shoot, the sooner you will be a price setter. Financial success is based upon learning your multiplier, not how to make scrims. Learn to look: what does the shadow do; highlight? Can you see the logo? Does it matter? Shoot and look, then show and sell – you will succeed or fail and know it within a few years – definitely by your 30th birthday. Advertising is a beast that eats and shits always.

Art Worlds

Art can sustain the artist forever – that’s the biggest difference between art and commerce. Money always runs out; ideas never do.

How does Sarah Moon get her look?

Sarah Moon

The character of the question reveals the level of thought, the motive of the aspirant. For example:

There’s something I have been trying to understand all weekend, but I just don’t seem to find the solution: How does Sarah Moon achieve the blurry/unfocused look of her photographs?

They have been puzzling about this an entire weekend, before calling in the answer brigade. This seems about as far as most armchair artists gets. Think, just a bit, then ask for a technique. Photography attracts more of these questions, although watercolor runs a near second. It is expected that some sort of procedure will make the picture “art,” or at least something closer than what they’re producing.

The weekender, vacationing art lover, thinking themself a stymied artist, holds strong opinion of method, skill in craft as foundation, not mere preamble to being called an artist.

If it isn’t hard, how can it be art? — the variant is: “my child could do that”

The novice stage artist is just a few days away from having been the general public. Not exactly. Most of the general public avoids art, thinking it too difficult, too meaningless. The new artist likely begins holding both views. If they hold them too long they will never give themself permission to find the artist in their life.

Nature of the Question

it is a question the early worker, the newly initiated asks — an unsophisticated question, so answering is rarely sophisticated – it wouldn’t be understood. So responses fall into:

  • why do you want to know
  • have you asked them
  • some very elaborated explanation based, usually, upon pure ass grab guessing, but it answers the gossip interest
  • … the group then moves onto the next same question

Past Tools

Tools change – products do not stay the same for long; not in a field such as photography, which is subject to stresses in buying sectors – amateur and professional, and the further deeper stratification within each of those broad sectors.

Super Anscochrome 100 & D500 could be processed as negative or transparency (slides). It could also be exposed at EIs from 125 to 1000 by changing the development time from 4.5min to 13 min. This variation was provided in Ansco’s direction sheets – most labs provided these XPROS variations with checkbox choices on the drop-off envelope. Since the film came in rolls and sheets, many professionals used this way to color. The palette wasn’t up to Kodak’s definition – hard to find neutrals. This was just the thing for people less interested in exploring the engineered version of reality needed to sell bridal memories.

Polaroid film had a similar color scheme. It was natural to replace Ansco with Polaroid after Ansco dropped their sheet film. The Speed Magny was an add-on back for the Nikon F. The Speed Magny was a 3×4 polaroid back which provided the Nikon user the option of shooting Polaroid instead of 35 rolls. Using the Magny with a moderate long lens, a photographer could get drag and push-pull effects with polaroid 665 film using Nikon optics. A good choice for palette and rendition of a dream in color.

Sarah Moon Palette


sarah moon
Sarah Moon Palette

Sarah Moon’s colors are the easiest part of her method. The widely viewed prints are likely Ultrastable prints. Her stuff was first printed by Marc Bruhat of Sillages, Paris – it has been closed for many years. Upon his closing, she had her printing done by Lowe and Ward of PermaPrint Ltd, London.

Her Open Secret

Sarah Moon (Marielle Hadengue) was a model. She learned the fashion world by belonging to it. Her first photographs were for herself. As she matured, her work did. Her style isn’t static, yet if you note the parts of her work that blur, it seems the blur of natural motion – something like a gentle breeze – floating, not blasting by –

So the method: Put something, someone interesting in front of the camera and make pictures without trying to duplicate the graycard vision — move until the pictures capture your moving.

Don’t follow. Dance

Printing isn’t Printmaking

photographers are printers, not printmakers.

Making Prints isn’t Printmaking

This is a post in 2 sections. The first part expands my other posts on the foibles of the fora folks. The second section is more positive in approach. I hope it provides seeds you can use within your work. It may provide information you missed, because you are too young, or maybe your teacher just bumped along with their own development.

Why They Say Printmaker:

For over a decade I’ve cringed as the forum dwellers struggle to explain themselves to themselves – How to define their position; claim a position on the map by naming it.

They seem to love the word “printmaker.” Printmaker, to them, explains what differentiates their work from the digital chimpers and instagramers – the cell phonies.

“You have to see it.” “It must look great in person.” “Wish I had a screen big enough to enjoy all the detail.” Read the travel badges of the vacation film folk.

They take pride of title – like riders with ebay medals – which one to get one without understanding what it means beyond having bragging points in an internet cafe, or bar.

Pretenders begin with the camera; printmakers begin with blank paper, then add a problem; from that comes fire or ash.

Other Posts:

What Bunnell Meant:

Photography as Printmaking — March 19 – May 26, 1968

“The approach to photography as printmaking seeks to make the medium visible, whereas the so-called * straight’ approach seeks to make it Invisible, “ – Peter Bunnell, Director of the exhibition and Curatorial Associate in Department of Photography, MoMA.


how the artist has been moved by his own inner compulsion to select a technique … integrate Its expressive potential with his Initial vision, and extend It through his final presentation

What actually distinguishes Photo Printer and Printmaker is:

— what printmaking teachers call printmaking:

Richard Graf was my lithography teacher at SFAI. Stone lithography – grease and water stuff. The edition was what separated the casual from the actual printmaker. Printers made monoprints, while printmakers made editions — either the same work, or work principled by the same key image.

printmaker’s mind is like a mystery writers… know the ending.

printmaking is a work on paper, usually ink, but in the case of photography it is metal or dye: does it reflect or block is an awareness question.

In 1959 lithography, as hand based art, had declined to such a low that funding for continued teaching was needed from grant organizations.

Printmaking changed even more in the 70s than photography did. Bunnell only noticed photographer space; printmakers took that in with ease, moving beyond its limitations to advance itself even further.

Art has never been universal; never a language for the masses. Salesmen talk about photography as though it was such a universal communicator, but it isn’t. It can’t be. The foundation of culture – death fear fire – aren’t even communicable across time based culture.

problem: all styles filter through the same skills solutions. Growth occurs with conceptual as well as formal applications of process, by understanding it more completely, not just longer.

Printmakers are changing again; these changes will leave additional remains for the Carnie folks to gather round and claim as their ground. These are rock sitters at the debris field. Fine printing is always discovering new problems, not renewed solutions.

Tools Are

Paper, ink, and mark makers.

factors in their selection are driven, bounded by the goal of the artist. Craft isn’t the limitation since it isn’t either foundation nor goal of esthetic problems.

Craft is an aspect of commerce. Fine papers are sold in packs, 25 sheets is common in printmaking paper. If your paper need is low, you will probably buy in single sheets. Such low volume is the mark of a trial user, not an accomplished craftsman. If you’re not doing enough work to warrant inventory, then you will be forced to confirm the quality of materials with every shipment. Generally, this is considered scrap time —

paper as wet system, like cotton cloth it will shrink and stretch; but only so much, so many times. if your process requires 5 wet dry cycles, test your paper for 6 wet dry cycles, measuring the durability and the shrink, or stretch amount. If you don’t know your paper, you aren’t a printmaker. Fine paper is packed in 25 sheet ‘bags’ – if you don’t work much, then you probably buy in single sheet lots. This is risky, but cheap.

Getting Stuff:

manufacturer > distributor > dealer > you

which means: your ability to solve problems is based upon how high you can reach. Most paper companies have contact information. They are the source of ‘fixes,’ and corrections. If you aren’t happy with a paper: tell your dealer, and the manufacturer. Telling your forum friends doesn’t get you replacement paper.

it makes a difference who you hang out with… solve a problem by asking more probing question.. dig deeper to uncover more

A printmaker businessman would ask their distributor for explanation, not the guy on the virtual barstool next to them. And they would get the correct answer quickly — I did. It took less than 36 hours to find out that Arches had a supply problem. By way of apology, they shipped me an new package of paper, telling me to send one sheet back using the call tag they supplied. In that replacement pack was included sheets of other paper they made — all in 22×30 size

Paper Sources:

knowing the paper, isn’t thinking in paper…

arches platine

Arches has said (Feb, 2017): “Our ARCHES® paper mill  is aware of a recent paper absorbency issue which appears to be related to some of the sheets of a single run of ARCHES® Platine.Paper making is a complex process and every effort is made to be consistent.””… if you have any other contacts who had some problems with our Arches Platine®, feel free to give them our name.” maryvonne.humiliere at  

Where to Buy Platine:

  •  Bostick & Sullivan
  •  Dolphin Papers
  • Graphic Chemical
  • Takach Paper
  • Talas

Papers For Hand-coated Photography

(platinum, cyanotype, gum…)

For silver papers OR as high gloss print:

  • Adox Art Baryta … for azo type self coating … also see adox colloida.. this paper accentuates brush strokes of emulsion (chloride) coating. [11/17]