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Is perfect scene reproduction necessary?

Today I’m looking at images from The Mobile Darkroom, a project by Shane Arsenault and Natalia Barberis. They’re shooting Harman Direct Positive, a photograpic paper that produces a positive image directly without needing a negative, in a 16×20 view camera. (Their site is down currently, it was at https://www.themobiledarkroom.ca).

Arsenault and Barberis have me thinking about scene reproduction. Specifically, how important is it to maintain image detail through a wide range of subject brightnesses? Spend some time with their images. They’re beautiful. Direct Positive is quite contrasty and they’re shooting outdoors where the range of luminances definitely exceeds the range of the paper. Most of the images have large areas of deep, flat blacks and completely white whites. This would be a no-no for a zone system fanatic. But Arsenault and Barberis make it work by carefully placing the midtones and letting the brights and darks fall where they may.

Do these photographs perfectly describe the subject of the scene? Nope. But we get the feeling of the place and how the light falls there from every single one. I find the work really appealing and inspiring.

Another photograpaher who makes tasty compressed-range photographs is Kit Young. Young is a member of All Format Collective and maintains a gallery at kityoung.co.uk

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