Andre Kertez vs Ansel Adams : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Now here is a real curve ball. Is an Andre Kertez 35mm negative any less valuable or precious then an Ansel Adams 8x10 negative? Or is a 35mm negative of W. Gene Smith any less important then an Edward Weston 8x10?

The images these great photographers have produced have brought great joy, exhilaration, sorrow, tears to the viewing auidience for years and will continue to do so in the future. Yet their approach is essentially opposite. Though AA used 35mm many times, and in his later years, used Hasselblad exclusively.

Questions have been bantered about over what format to use, bigger smaller. Well, this is just more fuel to the fire.

-- Rob Pietri (, March 11, 2002


I'm sorry, but I don't see how this adds fuel to any fire I've seen discussed.

While it seems kind of silly to base your format choices on how much money certain master's negatives are worth, one COULD do that. In this case 8x10 would win by an overwhelming margin. The prints of Ansel Adams - made from big negs shot in his earlier years - have outearned all other fine art photos by far.

At one point in the 1980's, half the money spent on fine art photographs in America was for prints by Ansel Adams, and most of the money spent on Adams was on images from a handful of large format negatives.

Andre Kertez did not share Adam's access to well heeled tourists willing to pay hard cash for prints - and even so, how many visitors to Paris in the fifties would have bought one of his prints to hang on their wall?

Kertez worked at a time when few people imagined (especially in Europe!) that fine prints made under the artist's supervision could be a major generator of capital. He did what a smart guy in Paris at the time would do - make photography in a form that would appeal to the markets and earn himself a decent living. To him, the idea of gallery sales would have been farfetched indeed.

I think that very few people choose a format because of the income generating potential it had for somebody else fifty, sixty, or seventy years ago, but if you were to do so, Adams won by a huge margin.

-- Brian Yarvin (, March 11, 2002.

Hi Rob

Where is the fuel and where the fire? There is for any situation a different need of a camera. So every system has his pros. and cons. I had a teacher he told me go as big as possible, because it could be that you need it not for the first time very large but it could be later they want make a wall poster out of it! And then you are the winner with a MF or LF neg. or pos.

No fuel no fire;-))))

-- Armin Seeholzer (, March 11, 2002.

No difference, not by reason of the format size alone. There's only one negative of Moonrise and only one negative of dear old Andre's picture of the skyscraper with the little cloud to the left (can't think of the title, if there is one). If the Moonrise negative is worth more, and I suppose it is, it's because the image is more famous or Adams is more famous or something similar, not because of the difference in format. -jb

-- jeff buckels (, March 11, 2002.

It's all in the eye of the beholder and what you are willing to pay. Personally, I think Kertesz is by far one of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century and I would much rather buy (and would be willing to may more) for Kertesz's Chez Mondrian, Underwater Swimmer or Satiric Dancer than I would for any Adams photgraph. Same for Walker Evans. In my opinion (and that's all it is) I think they are more interesting photographers. I I was sat in A Christies auction, I'd be willing to pay for those. And I don't think anyone collecting in that way really cares what format the negatives are, they are buying they are buying the artistic image (unless they are just snobs with too much money) - it could be an Evans SX70 polaroid. Negative size has nothing to do with it.

tim a

-- Tim Atherton (, March 11, 2002.

Negative size doesn't mean anything. IT'S WHAT IS ON IT WHICH IS FUNDAMENTAL .

-- guillaume zuili (, March 11, 2002.

If one equates the worth of any image with the size camera used to take the photograph then you might as well be collecting black velvet paintings of Elvis. You are missing the point entirely. We use the gear we feel will give us the best chance to get an image we are happy with. 35mm, minox or 20x24 pihole cardboard box, it doesnt matter. People don't purchase photographs based on what camera you use (except a few nutcases... "If it wasn't taken with a Leica I am not interested" types maybe).

The image you see is the thing, not the camera you used to take it. If you go that route you might as well get snooty about how it was printed, contact or enlargement, and then go further... "are photos enlarged with an Apo Rodagon worth more than those enlarged with an El-Nikkor"?

There is no fire, you are making up fuel from thin air. We don't need that. Here in Utah we already have cold fusion & polygamy, no further foolishness is wanted.

-- Dan Smith (, March 11, 2002.

I've got an 11x14 neg (well, I guess technically they're called "Xrays") that measures about 150 square inches. I'll swap it for 100 HCB 35mm negs (each of which measures 1.5 square inches), if anyone's trading.

The value of any artwork isn't determined by square inches.


-- Terry (, March 11, 2002.

Seems to me much of the preceding, with which I naturally agree, really takes up the question of the relative worth of images by photographers as disparate as Adams and Kertesz--who happened to work in different formats--not the value of their negatives, which is another story. These tend to be priceless, which often means they're worth nothing at all, in economic terms. They can't be reprinted without accusations of fraud cropping up (think of the scuffle the reprinting of E.S. Curtis' gravure plates has generated in recent years), so from a curator's stand-point, they're a perpetually degrading resource, useful only for study purposes (for which, again, they're invaluable). I once asked the curator of a prominent museum photo collection what he did about negatives. "Avoid them like the plague," was his reply. It might even be argued that the value of prints of certain collected images increases in the absence of the negative, as it does in the absence of the photographer. To my knowledge, the Center for Creative Photography is the only museum collection of fine art photography that actively acquires negatives as well as prints--though there certainly are exceptions (MoMA's Atget negatives come to mind). Adams is exceptional here too: I believe he left his negs. to the Center with the stiplation they remain available to students to print from, modestly suggesting, they may as well learn from the best. At first I was stunned by this generous invitation to allow other photographers to forge potentially valuable prints from his negatives. Then I realized it was a dare--he knew full well no one could make his prints, not even from his negatives! The negatives alone are a score without a sound.

-- Stephen Longmire (, March 11, 2002.

Hi folks,

The medium is not the message. All that counts is the perception by the market place of the worth of a particular work.

That 'preceived value' is a delicate balance of a great many factors which may or may not have any relation to the image, its mode of capture, or its presentation.

The mythical figure of 'Ansel Adams' was an engineered and manipulated development of the real Ansel Adams. Hype, and Will Turnage's marketing skills, took a formidable artist and exalted him to the stellar status of being the 'Super Model' of photographers. That is not to take anything away from the man's vision and skills, but he was a length ahead of the rest of the field by the time 'Art' photography became acceptable and collectible in the 1970s/80s.

The efforts of the 'A. A.' machine certainly generated a great legacy for photographers and for the 'fine-art' photography market. Ansel himself, I believe, saw photography as an evolving entity: his acceptance of smaller formats in his later years, his expressed fascination with the possibilities of what would become digital capture and imaging. Salesman Ansel might have argued the toss over formats but I somehow like to feel that artist Ansel was less bogged down by such puerile constraints. Had the Hasselblad and modern films been around in the 1920s might he have opted for a lighter load on his treks? Who knows? Who cares, what's more?

To argue the merits of any photographer or his oeuvre based on the real estate of the materials he worked with is blasphemous and ridiculous. One of the greatest philosophers of all time never left a written word of his own thought to posterity. In fact, the only recorded instance of Jesus Christ ever writing is at the stoning of the prostitute - and then he writes in the sand ... hardly an enduring medium. Yet his thoughts have influenced the course of Western history and thinking for two-thousand plus years.

If the choice of film format adds to the communication of a message or idea well and good, but it should never dictate the value of the message. The message in any communication is all that matters.

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (, March 11, 2002.

That isn't a curve ball, just a bunch twine all balled up.

Even as a philosophic rant it is lame beyond belief.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 11, 2002.

If Adams made the *same* image with a Hassy and an 8x10, there is little doubt in my mind that the 8x10 would be more valuable. Since you cannot really compare the value of two different images, what format they were shot on is hardly relevant.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, March 11, 2002.

WOW! I got more then I bargained for! THANK YOU for the great comments. Though one reminded me to work on my slider and maybe get a cat to unwind my ball of twine.

Stephen, your comment brought to mind a situation, maybe 20 years ago, when someone at a local college showed me an AA 8x10 contact print, that was signed by Adams. However, I asked whether it was actually printed by him and the answer was no. It was printed by an assistant, with his guidence, under that program he started to make more affordable prints. It was around the time of his retropsetive at MOMA and book, Yosemite and the Range of Light.

The difference was obvious of Adam's prints, deeper richer blacks, more contrast when compared to the assistants prints. Whether the difference was intentional or different materials I do not know. Even the MOMO show had hung the same photograph from the same negative but printed at different times. His new book, celebrating 100 years compares prints done close to when the negative was made vs decades later. The differences are dramatic.

The format in which an image is made is immaterial to the message, thought, feeling, emotion that the photographer is trying to convey. Actually, if an image makes you think more of how it was made, then maybe the photographer did not accomplish what he set out to do.

Again, thanks for the comments!

-- Rob Pietri (, March 12, 2002.


A good print . . . is a good print.


Even mine.

-- Steve Feldman (, March 12, 2002.

Not a surve ball. More like a slow pitch right down the middle of home plate.

Noticethat each of these guys selected the tool best suited to the job at hand: which was expressing their creative vision.

By the way has anyone else noticed that photons are not as good as they used to be?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 13, 2002.

Not a curve ball. More like a slow pitch right down the middle of home plate.

Noticethat each of these guys selected the tool best suited to the job at hand: which was expressing their creative vision.

By the way has anyone else noticed that photons are not as good as they used to be?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, March 13, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ