Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Seed Ball :: Objectivity

Chapter 25 of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.

Seed Ball :: Objectivity

© Ian Talbot

“There are no leaps in nature: everything in it is graduated, shaded.” Bonnet

At the dawn of photography the two rival processes neatly illustrated the two “tendencies” in photographic practice. Daguerre’s process proved a technical dead end due to its “one off” nature, Talbot’s Calotype process, on the other hand, had the inestimable advantage of reproducibility because of its concept of the paper negative.

These weren’t the only differences, though; the Daguerrotype was by far the sharper and, it could be argued, more prosaic method; whereas the Calotype, due to its many variables, the less easily controlled, more arbitrary and, yes, more “lyrical” process. This endowed Talbot’s invention with a far richer palette of expressive possibilities. In Talbot’s own words it left “ample room for the exercise of skill and judgement”.

In creating the image shown here I could have decided to make the subject sharp and clear from front to back. That I haven’t is partly due to to a desire for a certain “look” that I tend to favour in most of my work but that’s not the only reason. By just making a small part of the seed ball detailed and sharp any function of “showing” the nature of the subject is adequately achieved. The rest of the image, the “unfocused” part, are the visual equivalent of the linguistic device “ditto” and serve the same purpose; it’s a sort of visual shorthand and by using it I leave myself “ample room for the exercise of skill and judgement”. Otherwise the creation of the image would have been mere monkey work.

Monkey work is when someone shows you how to do something and thereafter it’s just “monkey see, monkey do”. The basic skills and techniques of photography are basically trivial to learn, you could almost train a chimp to do it. Matters of what to photograph, why and what techniques to use to best express your intent and meaning are somewhat more difficult. With that, you’re on your own…

    Ian Talbot

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