TAMPA — About 300 artists will be arriving soon to set up booths in downtown Tampa for the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts on Saturday and Sunday. They're divided into 12 categories, distinctions that might seem arbitrary and even baffling.
Who cares, for example, that Ummarid "Tony" Eitharong is in mixed media when to look at his work is to think painting? That Duncan McClellan, in glass, is really a sculptor? Or that Richard Carner, in the nebulous catch-all called "other," works in wood?
When it comes to photography, though, it's worth knowing that a lot of changes are going on, and the well-informed viewer is a smarter collector.
You'll find two basic kinds of prints at the Gasparilla show. Those created in the traditional way got their start in a darkroom with chemicals. But you'll find far more created the newer way on a high-quality printer, called generically an ink-jet. Both are artistically acceptable, and you probably won't be able to tell the difference. Digital photography and ink-jet printing have come into their own over the last decade, but the process is still sometimes misunderstood, even maligned, because digital photographs can be greatly manipulated and ink-jet prints can be so easily and rapidly reproduced.
Artful manipulation is nothing new; it has been a method of some of the 20th century's greatest photographers. Neither are mass runs of photographic prints. Throughout photography's history, we have mostly had to trust in the integrity of the photographer in guaranteeing limited print editions.
Let's look at both issues using two seasoned photographers showing at Gasparilla who utilize this technology for different results. I'm not endorsing their art over others in the show since I haven't seen all the art in person.
Joe Hoynik, 57, of Los Angeles, uses manipulation to its full extent in creating dreamy, surrealist photographic prints such as Butterfly Walker, shown today on our Weekend cover. He is also a classically trained photographer who worked for 20 years in black and white, using a darkroom to make gelatin silver prints. He experimented with hand-tinting, then switched to color film and, more recently, digital and inkjet.
"I found it to be a whole different art form," he says. "You're limited only by your imagination." Though he's categorized as a digital artist, Hoynik considers himself a photographer first. For Butterfly Walker, Hoynik began with a background image of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris which he shot. The anonymous man comes from an old tintype he owns. In the original, his arm rested on a table. So Hoynik photographed his own raised arm and substituted it. Then he scanned in butterflies. He prints his finished compositions on an Epson 7600 printer, making them in various sizes. He signs the prints but does not number them.
"That's one of my biggest beefs," Hoynik says, "limited editions. Photography is made for reproduction. I don't limit the number of prints because I want to reach more people."
Hoynik exhibits at 12 to 15 shows a year. His prices range from about $130 to $350.
Brian Call, 44, of Pembroke Pines, was a commercial illustrator who had been a part-time photographer until about five years ago when he switched to full time. He, too, made the transition from film and darkroom to computer and ink-jet with enthusiasm, though he uses a lighter hand to portray his natural subjects.
"I'm an environmentalist," Call says. "I'm interested in preserving the integrity of the scene." So most of the drama in his panoramic photographs comes from an artful cut-and-paste, using Photoshop, of several overlapping shots taken from slightly different perspectives.
For Yellow Stilthouse, and in all his work, Call says he uses the computer to enhance colors or turn up the contrast, but he never changes them.
Call signs and numbers his prints. None of the editions exceeds 100.
"I was talking to Clyde Butcher, who's a friend," he says. "And he suggested that I don't do more than that. So I don't, though sometimes I wished I had raised it to 250."
Call is on the road most of the year, exhibiting at 30 to 40 shows annually, "as many as I can," he says. His prints, created on an Epson 4800, begin at $35 and go up to $875.
The great unknown about any ink-jet print is its durability. Color prints have usually been susceptible to fading, but old chemical prints such as Cibachromes have stood the test. Ink-jet prints have undergone laboratory aging, but we'll have to wait decades to see how they hold up. Hoynik, Call and other professionals think new inks that are pigment-based rather than dye-based are more archival. As with any type of print, buying one on high-quality cotton rag paper with an acid-free paper matte is important.
Hoynik choruses what most people in the art world believe: "Buy what you like."
And adds, a bit heretically: "Buy it because it'll look nice over the sofa. That's fine with me."
Lennie Bennett can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8293.