British photographic history

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Folks, I need some feedback, and not necessarily some attaboys. It’s called Fifty Prints but at this point is only 23. Maybe 25 is enough? This is in 2nd draft mode, and somewhat formatted. At first I thought of self publishing it, but now thinking maybe finding a publisher, or an agent if I can find one. Any help along that line would be appreciated.

Every print except one of my photographs is before 1924, so is in the public domain in the U.S. The UK is a bit iffy as their copyright law is a bigger mess than ours. Add to the issue of public domain is the educational exemption which, yes I know is often not really that but here I think it is real critique and educational, but more on that if you have information.

The audience here on the British Photo History site is relatively sophisticated, no kidding! So this seems a proper venue for advice.

I plan on running it through Prowriteaid and then Grammarly, then off to a friend who edits books for a living. So skip over missing comas, etc. I’ve opted for a chatty informality. Is it too informal?

Though the comments are about a specific print, a platinum print, the critical scope is much broader and I want to cover areas of discussion that are unique. I built my first darkroom in 1960, so I have had 60 years of serious photography and 40 running Bostick & Sullivan. I am both a FRPS and a HonFRPS, I am hoping those might establish some credibility.

Comments please.

Dick Sullivan HonFRPS

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Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on August 11, 2020 at 14:52

OK, I get it. I was pulling together several versions, and some pieces from my memoirs, and yes, I see where some commentary can be jarring so I have cut those out. 


Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on August 10, 2020 at 20:52


I have a revisionist view of Pictorialism. In brief, there is two conceptual areas of Pictorial Photography. One is the Information of the photo, the other is the object of the photo. Much of what are considered to be artistic decisions turned out to be determined by the photographic process used. One good example is:

During a lecture a photo historian pointed out that Carleton Watkins had a distaste for the vertical format. Until some one pointed out, he shot 22 x 30 inch plated and pulling 30 inch dark slide up would have required bringing a ladder. I will change the subtitle to "Personal Commentary on Pictorial Issues." I needed to remind myself that this group is an "academic" group, where such informality and mixing of serious and personal commentary is not appropriate, and rightfully so. 

Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on August 10, 2020 at 16:19
The replies make sense as they are coming from an audience of well educated Photographic Historians. I am targeting someone beginning to make a print in platinum, and wants to be Ansel Adams. Many of them know how to make a platinum print but do not know how to read one, taking in account the process. Or knowing how to work the process to their advantage.

Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on August 10, 2020 at 16:03


Thanks! I am writing mostly to folks today who are interested in the alt-process world, and are thinking of making their own prints. As for the academic world, mostly teachers of advanced photography. I want to show the variety of work that has been done historically, without the f64 idea of what a good print is. I think this may be an American affliction. I have worked with graduates in photography, who believe a print needs a good black and a good white and send a message. 

My department head, the Photography Department, at a community college, asked me once what was Camera Work was when I mentioned it. Of course, this would not happen here at the British Photo History Forum, but to have a photographic department head asking that question is quite normal here.

I am planning another book on contemporary work, broader than just platinum.

Thanks again, for the comments. It is perhaps a bit too informal and autobiographical, but the complaints about my memoirs were they were too technical.

--Dick Sullivan

Comment by David Partner on August 10, 2020 at 11:52

Hi Dick, as a photographer I am interested in the personal, I think it's essential for that audience to relate to the actual experience of making prints, so I would ask the question of who are you writing for? it seems to me that the academic audience has a monopoly on publicly available information, particularly here in the UK. Photographers need this information to help them make their choices when they trigger the shutter, so thank you for this. I would expand to 50 prints if you can and perhaps include more contemporary images, post WW2 anyway... I have some questions for you if you would contact me via my website please,

Comment by Jennifer Jenkins on August 10, 2020 at 10:52
Hi there. Love the subject matter, information about the images and your critiques of each. I am distracted then by your personal anecdotes. These are interesting in another direction. I think the publication comes across a little autobiographical rather than educational. What are you aiming for? I hope these words are of benefit rather than wounding. Best wishes

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