Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's Not the Same, It's Not the Same, It's Not...

Sometimes, it's not a matter of learning something new, it's simply just a matter of remembering what we already know. I keep reminding myself every time I look at photographs online, that online reproductions are not prints, they don't even match good print reproductions. Sure, we all know this intrinsically, but how very, very easy it is to forget in our daily, everyday, domestic viewing habits. Every, single, time I finally get to see the actual print of a photograph that I thought I was familiar with from viewing online, it's like seeing the damn thing for the very first time- because I am seeing it for the very first time! It's not unlike watching Fox News- you may be aware of the event, but you have no real idea of the actual facts, the actual truths surrounding said event.

I've seen the photo above by Amy Stein many a time online. Nice light, good composition, and definitely got that whole childhood thing down- pleasing snapshot overall. And then I finally get to see the actual print, and... Wham!!! The thing is stunning, breathtaking- night and day!

So what's missing in the online version? To start, the very depth and vibrancy of the color that is its heart and soul; the incredible, luminescent catch light on the child's eye (yeah, you can "see" it above, but no way can you truly appreciate it); the subtle interplay of light and shadow on the child's body; the "oh, shit, we're doomed look" in those tiny little goldfish eyes; and totally absent is that the child's left hand has a sculptural presence in the print that would have done Michelangelo proud. In short, everything that makes this image rise from the level of a nice snapshot to that of a moving masterwork is not even visible in the online reproduction! How many other worthy photographs have I, have we, so readily dismissed because we simply have not truly seen them?

Ms. Steins's photographic reenactments of chance human/animal encounters are truly amazing, and can be currently seen in all their glory at The Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco.

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