Quantity is quality

There is a story in Art
And Fear
that goes:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he
was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of
the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work
they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would
in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group:
fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those
being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one
pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of
highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for
quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning
out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group
had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to
show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I first heard this story in a photography class given by the authors of  Art and Fear, Ted Orland and David Bayles and it seems to go against everything I have heard about Art Photography. Art Photography, almost by definition, is shot with a big camera on a tripod – think the great Ansel Adams. (double click for full impact)


The upside is that these pictures can be blown up to huge sizes – like 30×40 inches; the problem is – using a big camera, even a 4×5 (inch negative) – the photographer gets very few pictures. That means the learning curve is pretty flat. With digital cameras, after the initial investment, the pictures are almost free. The photographer can take lots of pictures and, if the photographer is interested, the learning curve can be much steeper.

As the following photos from The Big Picture ( Boston.com), at a place and time like the Olympics, where there are lots of photographers shooting digital and paying attention, the results can be pronominal. If you are at all interested in photography, check it out. (Again, they get bigger if you double click.)



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