Don’t miss Arnold Newman: Masterclass

The start of the Masterclass, Harry Ransom Center - Austin, Texas

The start of the Masterclass, Harry Ransom Center – Austin, Texas

People around Austin, you have 3 more days to see Arnold Newman: Masterclass at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus. I went to the exhibit with my friend Mike a couple of months ago. It was fantastic. It closes this Sunday, May 12, 2013. And it’s free.

Anyone that likes photography, especially black and white portraiture, this is the exhibit to see. Arnold Newman is one of the greats in photography with iconic images of the famous and not so famous. The Ransom Center has on display, over 200 of his works, from his early career in Philadelphia, to his creative collages to his world-famous images.

Mike and I marveled at the tonal range of these large format black and whites. No blown highlights and mottled shadows. This is pure, analog film photography at its best.

You hear from some people about this romantic notion of film photography. How it was different and more pure than digital. How people would get the photograph right in camera and never post process. You hear about how people would take that one perfect shot, well-considered instead of the multi-shot approach in digital.

Well I learned that this is bull.

The best of photographic art, Harry Ransom Center - Austin, Texas

The best of photographic art, Harry Ransom Center – Austin, Texas

At least Arnold Newman didn’t approach it that way. And I rather learn from a master then some person with a distorted view of history. Here are two examples from the exhibit.

1. Quoting the exhibit, it said “Newman might take 10, 20, 30 and in special cases even more than 50 individual photographs of the sitter, making minor adjustments each time. Sometimes the differences between the frames would be minuscule, though highly significant…”

2. The Ransom Center had the original of the famous Picasso portrait and showed how it was cropped to create the well-known, final version. I was shocked that Mr. Newman cropped like 70% of it away. He was shooting with a large format camera so his negative was still big enough to support a high quality image. Here is another quote “Cropping was also a practice Newman valued highly. His edges were determined with minute precision”.

So I encourage you to go. Learn from a master. You won’t regret it. Perhaps it will bust some myths out there from the ancient and mystical world of film photography.

Click on the photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure detail.

11 thoughts on “Don’t miss Arnold Newman: Masterclass

  1. The new Olympus EP-5 came out this evening. I knew it was coming as soon as the price on the PM2 dropped. Well, I’m out of money and I have a feeling my computer is about to croak, so here’s to all the new generations of cameras to come! Have fun with the master class! Austin’s a little too far for me 🙂

  2. “How people would get the photograph right in camera and never post process….”

    Yeah would a load of crap that is and I’m shocked that some buy into it.

  3. For those who don’t have the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time for this exhibit a trip to will provide an online summary of his work.

    Click on the “portraits” selection, then see his 1963 photo of Alfred Krupp in the middle of the top row.

    Then, for a first person account of how the picture was made, see this interview excerpt:

  4. Whoever told you that we professional photographers didn’t take lots of frames in the film day was misinformed. A typical portrait shoot in our studio would have been six or seven rolls of 12 exposure film. (not the 200 or 300 casual digital frames). Yes, we all cropped but we didn’t put gooey filters and weird crap over the images. Cropping is different that cotton candy post processing. In film Newman had to get all the important stuff right. There was no liquify back then….. It really did take technical skill sets.

    1. Kirk, always great to have another informed professional to set the record straight. You get certain Internet memes going and you know where that ends up. Lots of ignorant amateurs blowing smoke….

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