Otto Steinert: 1915-1978, Subjective Photography

Otto Steinert, a German medical doctor and photographer who worked for the State School of Arts and Crafts, founded the Fotoform photography group in 1949. Then went on to teach at the Folkwag Hochschule of Design in Essen. He abandoned medicine to become a photographer in 1947 and focused on portraits. The Fotoform group primarily created abstract images from closeups of patterns from nature, in the group were: Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Toni Schneiders, and Ludwig Windstosser. However, he abandoned the group in the 1950s and eventually became the director of Staatliche Werkunstule. During this period, he was the director of Folkswagshule in Essen.

His influential exhibitions in the 50s called Subjective Fotografie emphasized abstraction and included László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray.

His description of subjective photography is expressed in some of the following quotes from his writings:

  • Photographs composed with regard to their form and content.
  • The frame-work embracing all aspects of individual photographic creation from the non-objective photograph to profound an aesthetically satisfying reportage.
  • “Humanized, individualized photography and implies the handling of a camera in order to win from the single object the views expressive of its character.” (pages 26, 27. Otto Steinert’s text)

Subjective Photography attempts to overcome the distinction between “straight photograph” and “experimental photography” by superseding it with the concept of selection. A photographer working from a subjective photograph includes both straight and experimental photography but focuses on how the photographer selects.

Steinert focused on experimental methods such as photograms, highly reduced black and white images, extensively cropped images and multiple exposures mostly carried out in the darkroom. 

Steinert’s approach to photography, he felt, can be distinguished by five elements: the act of isolating an image from nature; the transformation that occurs through the optics of lenses (which, unlike the human eye, is a static capture rather than a roving focus and peripheral impressions); transposition of the tone and colour; and how a photograph isolates the temporal. 

References

100mp MF Camera with a 63mm Lens

100mp Medium Format Sensor Cameras

It has been a few years since Fujifilm and Hasselblad produced their first mirrorless style medium format cameras, the GFX and the X2D. Since then, they have been refined and moved from an older 50 mp sensor to a new back BSI CMOS 100 mp sensor. In January 2024, Hasselblad released their 907x 100c camera, unlike the GFX or X2D cameras, as it is compatible with their older film cameras and is created in that style. It is a unique and beautiful camera and is highly modular. It does include one feature that is almost unique in the camera market: 1TB of onboard storage.

I thought the best way to compare pricing should someone want to get into a medium format camera was to compare the pricing of a number of these cameras with just the 63mm lens. The prices are Canadian pricing found at B&H. The following chart gives you pricing as of January 2024. Remember that most people considering medium format will not allow their choice to be driven by price, although some who want to dip their toe in the water might. In the latter’s case, I have included a used option at the bottom. In this way, you can see the whole range of entry points.

In my opinion, most looking at these cameras will make the choice based on other issues. Perhaps the appeal of the modular nature of the 907x, or the compact nature of the X2D. The larger GFX may appeal to those who want to adapt the camera to many brands of heritage lenses or its rugged, weather-sealed body. These are more likely to drive the decision.



Body63mm (50 equiv.)TaxPrice
Hasselblad 907X 100cCA$11080.95CA$3717.63CA$1775.83CA$16574.41
Hasselblad X2D 100cCA$11080.95CA$3717.63CA$1775.83CA$16574.41
GFX 100iiCA$10134.90CA$2025.90CA$1459.30CA$13620.10
GFX 100sCA$5845.25CA$2025.90CA$944.54CA$8815.69

Cheapest Acquisition of 100 mp camera kit
Used GFX  100s KEHCA$3835.09CA$2025.90CA$703.32CA$6564.31

Ted Forbes Review of the 907X

He does a very good overview of the camera’s features and operations. In addition, he discusses how it can be configured using accessories and older Hasselblad cameras and parts.

Three Blind Men and an Elephant Review of the 907X

Hasselblad 907X SPECIAL EDITION & 500C/M: Back to the Future

Hugh talks about the history and fame of the camera and then suggests it has one of the best software interfaces in the industry, dual UH2 card slots which support slower SD cards, can be charged by USB-C, and 1TB of onboard storage. He then isolates some of the downsides of the camera has no audio meters, no 24fps, no remove video stop/start in the Phocus app, no digital EVF yet, no ATMI port, lack of weather sealing and, in his opinion, the lack of IBIS is problematic. He then raises several minor issues that would improve the camera’s ergonomics, including how prone the sensor is to dust.

He also goes through how to operationalize the camera for different types of photography. He then talks about how different lenses will perform on this camera and which ones fit the camera’s flange.

He concludes by comparing this camera to other medium format, full-frame cameras, and discussion lenses.

References

Ascending Apex Peak, 10,600 feet

The following is from the 1960s and consists of a brief letter and photographs of a climbing expedition, among some papers I came across.

From our high camp at 6500 ft on the Clemenceau Glacier with John Peck in the lead, Ise Newbury, Johne Christian and I ascended the icefall to gain the SW ridge of Apex. John Peck found an excellent route with good snow bridges over the large canvases. Crampons were used all the way up the mountain until we reached the rock.

On the ridge we dropped down slightly, turning NE eventually making two hairpin bends to attain the West facing rocky slope over which we picked our way to the summit ridge.

It was cold and breezy on the summit and propped against the cairn we munched on an early lunch thinking how lucky we were to be there despite the chilly air. We were unable to find the register but when hamish and company climbed the mountain a few days later he signed our names for us with then notation that “we could neither read nor write.”

We descended the mountain by the SE ridge to low point between Apex and Norton. We then continued South up Mr Norton with the intention o traversing the entire ridge before descending to the neve to the West and returning to camp by the glacier. However as the weather was obviously going to white us out we decided to retrace our steps to the col and then cut across to where we had attained the SW ridge of Apex in the morning. Before reaching the ridge we commented on some strange looking bird like tracks before we realized they were our crampon tracks from the morning. Camp was reached at 5pm where we lost no time in brewing up the ever welcomed pot of tea.

Helen B

PS: Copies to John Peck, Ilsa Newbury, Hohn Christian, Dear Ilsa, John and JC. That wretch Ron Mathews has asked me to write up our climb of Apex. I am afraid I did not take any notes of the actual logistics of the climb so I would be very grateful to John if you would make any alterations that are necessary. I am not certain if we did clib Norton and I have no idea of the time. Please Ilsa and JC put your bits in also.

Helen B

Reference:

Preparing Images for Books

Preparing an image for a book is not quite the same as printing your image. With a book, the viewing distance is set to a standard; therefore, there is a more rigorous standard around resolution. If you are working with a book designer, you likely will be guided by their advice, and this article may only provide insight into why certain things are required.

Often, requests to prove an image for a publication will fail to specify the format and will ask for a specific size and resolution but not provide you with directions on how to create a file to that specification. If you are asked to provide images for a publication and are given these sorts of instructions, then the following may be of interest. Hopefully, they will help you put your best foot forward.

Using the Right File Format

A JPG or TIFF file will be best when you are not working with a designer. These can be created easily by exporting them from your photo processing programs. The export process will allow you to set not just the file format but also the resolution and size of the image. If you do not use photo processing programs, Mac has Preview, and Windows has Microsoft Photos.

Adjusting Resolution and then size in Apple’s free Preview programme

So, what is the difference between JPG and TIFF? JPG files are significantly smaller than TIFF files and much easier to send by email. However they, they use “lossy” compression, unlike TIFFs. This means every time you save a JPG file, its quality deteriorates. TIFF files, on the other hand, although larger, maintain their quality no matter how many times you save your file. The image below illustrates how JPG files degrade after multiple saves.

Image courtesy of Fstoppers, this link will take you to their article on JPG degradation.

Typically, most individuals will have a JPG file, which will work well provided that the resolution is correct, the camera has produced a good-quality image, and the files have not been saved multiple times.

If someone is laying out a book for you, a RAW file may be more desirable, so it is good to check. Keep in mind RAW here is being used as a generic term; each camera will have a different RAW format: ARW (Sony), NEF (Nikon), CRW (Canon), RAF (Fujifilm), ORF (Olympus), RAW (Leica), etc. RAW files have the advantage of containing significantly more information than a JPG file; this allows a book designer to correct camera errors and bring more uniformity to the publication.

If you export the image from a processing program, you may have the following options: JPG, TIFF, PNG, DNG and PSD.

File TypeCompressionProsConsUse for
JPEGLossyWidely supported small sizeLoss of quality after multiple saveshigh quality pictures, and web images
GIFLosslessSmall sizeLimited colour supportPrimarily used for web images
PNGLosslessSmall size larger file size, not widely supportedIcons, logos transparent images, web images
TIFFLosslessLarge File, high qualityCan quickly become a very large fileUsed widely in printing
PSDLosslessLarge fileLarge files may need to be converted for some usesUsed by graphic designers
Lossy Compression can be problematic if the file has been saved multiple times, as each time it is saved it degrades in quality.

Camera and Operator Errors

Camera errors can include mixed lighting problems, discolouring walls that should be white, objects that should be out of frame in a frame and angular distortions. Most of these are more easily corrected using a RAW file, and some of these are very difficult and sometimes impossible to correct using a JPG file. Focus issues due to the focus point not being set on the subject or setting your speed so slow the camera registers you hand movement, which both result in blurred image can not be fixed.

Resolution Coming from a Camera

The camera you use to create the image will determine the image resolution; for example, a 24mp camera will usually be 6000 X 4000 pixels, keeping in mind the file size, which may be 30MB or 48MB, does not tell you the resolution. The RAW image might be 30MB but converted to a TIFF; it could be 137MB or, as a JPG, 14MB, and all three could have the same resolution.

Two key elements that determine the resolution are DPI (dots per inch) or pixels per inch. In the image below, you can see a typical 24MP image from a camera. It produces a photo with a resolution of 240 pixels per inch and 25 inches on its longest side. Any resolution between 240dpi and 300dpi provides good print quality.

Typically, for book publishing, one would want to make sure the resolution was between 240 and 300 dpi and perhaps one or two inches more than the widest dimension of the book. This may not be technically necessary, but a little “fudge” room is always good. So, if the longest side of the book is ten by ten, I would not want the image to be less than 10 inches and not less than 240 dpi.

This shows a typical image in Pixels

This is the same image with the same pixels shown in inches.

Why Printing and Image for Wall Display is Different

Printing images for display on a wall involves taking into account the “circle of confusion,” which calculates the ability of an image to appear sharp, given the distance from which the viewer sees the image. I have left some links below if you want to read up on this, but I will not go into it in this article, only to say lower resolution images can appear sharp when enlarged and viewed from a distance. After all, the view distance of a work on a gallery wall often varies from that of a book. In today’s world of printing large images, individuals often step forward to look at the details of a print, so in these cases, the circle of confusion is misleading. I am not convinced that applying this theory to art photography is in the artist’s best interest. It likely works best when printing eight by ten images.

Resolution Coming from a Cell Phone

Typically, cell phones these days are 12MP. If you spend more money, the resolution can be much higher. The first image below is the size of a 12MP image from a typical smartphone. You will notice that although the image seems to be 14 inches on the longest side, the resolution is only 72 pixels per inch. This resolution is excellent for viewing on a computer screen but not for a book. If the resolution is changed to 300dpi, then the size of the image is only 3.4 inches on the longest edge. This is why a typical image from a cell phone does not translate well for most standard-size books, unless the image in the book is only 3 or 4 inches on its longest side.

Resizing and Cropping

Resizing and cropping both affect the quality of the image. Cropping reduces the size of an image, so if you have cropped your image to get rid of unwanted material, you have reduced the resolution. If this is the case or you are using a cell phone image, you might consider increasing the image size by resizing. This process basically uses an algorithm to produce more pixels based on pixels in the original image. Generally speaking, although the image’s resolution has been increased, the quality is not necessarily better. In many cases, it has just become fuzzier. Sometimes this method is necessary as a last resort, but an expert best does it to minimize the loss of quality. I have included references on the processing of resizing below.

Colour Space, Computer Screens and Paper

Colour space will often come up if you are working with a book designer; in this case, they will guide you through this issue. Printing uses CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) colour space, but the internet and cameras use RGB (Red, Green and Blue), to create the colours in your image. I don’t recommend that those unfamiliar with this issue attempt to convert files for printing, and conversion is unnecessary for more informal image requests. The takeaway here is the conversion process could change, to some degree, the colour and tone of your image. Also, a backlit computer screen will display colours and tones very differently from a sheet of paper. So, colour and tone must be adjusted to fit the medium through which it is presented.

References