The Samsung Frame TV Mike wrote about yesterday and the day before is a commercial iteration of a concept many of us have envisioned for quite some time. I believe the concept will prevail and flourish, but the end game will be when flat panel displays reach panel bezel width, thickness, and energy consumption, features that will allow them to be placed seamlessly by your local picture framer into almost any traditional frame and displayed anywhere in a home, not just on a wall with a dedicated electrical socket nearby. We aren’t quite there yet, but I have no doubt the technology will be achieved within my lifetime.
I welcome the new electronic image display options, and I don’t see them as a foreboding sign of extinction for traditional handcrafted prints. The photographic print is already a niche market in our modern age of smart phones and electronic social media (not a newsworthy statement to most TOP readers!). Hard copy printing is entirely optional. A relatively small percentage of consumers bother to routinely make them anymore, but that said, traditional reflection prints are still a viable market. They persist for good reasons and will continue to do so. Photographic prints have a universally perceived physical integrity that digital images simply don’t have. Signing a digital image in a way that has an intimate and tactile connection to the artist isn’t possible, so I’m not worried at all about digital image files entirely eliminating the need for a traditional handcrafted print.
Last year I made three full 1:1 life-size scale prints of a digital image taken by my daughter-in-law of my first grandchild. I scaled the image from known measurements in the original scene. My daughter-in-law’s photo shoot with her one-year-old daughter paid subtle homage to Irving Penn’s Corner Portraits, but the primary impact of this printed image to those who see it has mostly to do with its 1:1 scale. The finished work is pencil-signed by the artist, overmatted with 8-ply conservation rag board, and mounted in a traditional wood frame under acrylic glazing. Digital signatures and flat panel displays somehow aren’t quite the same, in my humble opinion, and I wouldn’t know how to ensure color, tone, and physical attributes of the image remain the same after today’s modern flat panel displays get discarded for the next generation of displays in just a few years.
I always print for longevity. I believe that photographs by their nature tend to hold out the promise of a persisting image, i.e., long life, whether that promise is realized or not. Thus, I choose materials and processes that have been vetted with this goal in mind. Barring fire or flood or some other unforeseen catastrophe, the three signed and framed copies should hold color and tone and physical attributes for a very long time...well beyond my lifetime, and well enough for my granddaughter's grandchildren to view the image colors and tones as I intended them to be seen. I have no idea how to achieve this provenance with a digital image hosted on a flat panel display or using digital files stored with no matter how many redundant copies in the electronic cloud.
Mark McCormick-Goodhart is the Director of Aardenburg Imaging and Archives.
©2017 by Mark McCormick-Goodhart, all rights reserved
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