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Monday, 02 September 2019


I love prints. Maybe too much. I live in a small place and I now have a storage problem with all the mounted and framed prints I have purchased or been given over the years, not to mention all of my own prints. The secondary market appears to be non-existent so I've started giving away my collection to friends and relatives.

Strictly personal POV: the whole point of photography is the print.

I, too, have driven many miles over the years just to look at photographs exhibited in museums and galleries. It was there that, early on, I learned the content of the print is what matters and technical quality is secondary, at best. Many of the photographs made over the last century that are considered most historically significant have slightly missed focus, too slow of a shutter speed, not quite enough depth of field, poor tonal range and other what we would call “flaws” today. Those who think “good” photographs have to be technically perfect obviously have never visited museums to view the ones that have really made a difference.

I have been making photographs for about fifty years. I made my first color photo after I went digital about ten years ago.

To me, a photograph is not truly finished until it is printed (and mounted).

Do I enjoy prints? For me, a complete photography is the print. Not only I see the image and its nuances; I relish even the texture of the paper it's printed on. That is so, that I prefer handling photographs in my hand rather than watching them framed and hanged on a wall.

It's a pity most of the exhibitions I've been to in my country center too much on the image -especially, what it shows- and too litlle on the art of printing it to extract the most of its promise. I've seen very too few good prints.

So, yeah, I enjoy prints. Even printing!

In the late seventies to early eighties I worked for the MOD in London. I would be dispatched to a map shop to buy maps for the military that we did not hold. Nobody cared how much time I took and I would pop into the nearby Photographers Gallery to see what was on show and also have a coffee in their bar. Happy days.

One could happily wander unmolested by security down past 10 Downing street too, but that is another story from a pleasanter age.

I think it was a vital part of my photographic education to see what a good print looked like and I was exposed to the cutting edge of British photography.

Other photographers have often complemented me on my printing.

They also had a good bookshop. Just a pity I did not have the money or foresight to buy some of the books I liked that are now worth a fortune used. I do have a nice set of signed books by Faye Godwin though.

Around the year 2005 I read somewhere (that) ‘...now there is an affordable digital photoprinter that even prints black&white images which are in no way inferior to darkroom silver prints’. The printer in question was the Epson R2400. Reading that particular article marked the true beginning of my changing over to digital photography (to put this in perspective, I developed my first film in 1962, aged 13, in an improvised darkroom in my mother’s laundry room in the basement). Be it contact prints or enlargements, from the very beginning up till today, my ‘making photographs’ has always meant working towards, and then making, prints on paper. Love it - and can’t imagine my photography any other way. (That I have a website, is a means to an end, no end in itself.)

I enjoy viewing prints more than JPEGs too, even though those can be enjoyable in their own way. Museum visits always include any photography on display. Here, in Chicago, we have some excellent sources for this both at the Art Institute of Chicago and at Columbia College, in addition to local galleries. I've had the pleasure of viewing many famous photographs over the years (from the likes of Adams, Porter, Haas, Kertesz, Keyzys, Weston, Penn, Evans, White, Sherman, Lyons, Cartier-Bresson, Meyerowitz, Eggleston, Stieglitz, etc-too many to list them all). Viewing those, made online and books, a very distant second.
Our house is filled with prints of mine, some from friends and other photographers and even some from Magnum's print sale (And a TOP sale too!)
For myself, I really enjoy taking a great image all the way to print.Books offer an alternative viewing option for a great quantity of photographs at one time, but a print, especially in hand, is best. The tactile qualities add an extra dimension to the experience.

How small is too small? When I was young 21⁄4x31⁄4 was the standard drug-store print size—Jumbo 4x6 was the option. Years ago I was told that 4x5 was too small to contact print—5x7 is the minimum negative size for this.

So Mike, what do you think? If 4x5 is too small, is Jumbo 4x6 or maybe 6x8 the minimum size? What about un-matted prints (aluminum/acrylic), does this make a difference to you? BTW these aren't rhetorical questions—I'd really like to know your opinion.

The print is the ultimate aim of photography. For me this is not so much because of the superior image quality of the print compared with the image on the screen, it is rather because of the physicality of holding the photograph in my hands, as a real object. This could be a single silver or inkjet print, or a book, or a newspaper spread.

Digging a little deeper into my response to the photgraphic print, I find myself to be drawn to the output of the printing press rather than the fine-art photo lab. I wish it were otherwise, but personally I don't actually gain all that much aesthetic excitement from seeing the perfect print on the wall of a museum or gallery. I envy those (like Mike) who do. It just isn't a gift I posess. By contrast, place a book of good photographs into my hands, hopefully well-designed and carefully produced and with images that have at least moderate print quality --- and I am a happy man, ready to spend hours going through the pages. I always have some stacks of photography books lying next to my desk and my reading chair.

Interestingly, the situation is reversed for paintings. I own a lot of books with fine art reproductions, but for me these serve as reference points, not as sources of genuine aesthetic experience. For that I need to see the real painting. Hence for paintings, unlike for photographs, I love to go to museums and I have done so ever since I was a teenager. True, I also enjoy visiting photo exhibitions in galleries or museums, but for me this just isn't the main mode of engaging with photgraphic output.

The source of these differences is, I think, the fact that the output of photography has an inherent element of reproducibility. Because of this reproducibility, photography is the one visual art that is naturally aligned with the printing press and its modern variants. Printed books and photographic images just love each other. Incidentally, that is why I think that those self-publishing "zines" are a really important and genuine modern expression of the true nature of straight photgraphy. I haven't tried my hand at producing zines yet, but I will.

Mike, for your next Baker's Dozen why not suggest people submit a postcard print instead of a jpeg? For those who don't do their own printing a postcard service like Touchnote do a decent job at low cost, including postage. Think of all those prints in your mailbox!

A few weeks ago I attended a Photo Workshop (Rat City Roller Derby practice with Henry Horenstein) at PCNW (Photography Center North West) which included a "portfolio" review. I had attended workshops there before, with Henry, where the portfolio was brought in on a thumb drive. However, this time it was "bring in 15-20 prints" no digital portfolios.

Most of the attendees were students at PCNW, so they had a somewhat clear presentation of their work. I, on the other hand, had a obtuse collection of photographs I had printed out over the years. No real organization or subject with a date range on the prints from the mid 1970's to some images I took last year for a non-profit.

It was nice to see the prints instead of looking at the wall with its low res projector. Some of the images were nice, mostly digital with me being the only one who brought in old analogue prints I had made.

My "portfolio" did not knock anyone down or even gather many comments. Only one image was talked about all that much. A image of my wife taken in 1986 for a photo class in college. At first she hated it, but now she realizes that it is a really nice picture. I have the original print sitting on my nightstand, it is one of the first things I see every day.

In July 2018 Mike started a series of posts about printing by writing that he felt exploited by high priced ink. I did too but I got over it. A buck a sheet for paper and maybe the same for ink … how much do I spend for a cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop? Every day. And a muffin.

I took the bait and spent four hours (!) one Sunday afternoon trying to get my printer to listen to my computer. No joy. I was very unhappy with Mike.

The next morning, as if by magic everything worked. I took full credit for that.

Printing is not so much an extension of the photography many of us practice it as it is a separate, and difficult-to-master, skill. Difficult to master well that is. I don't always love a print of what I loved on the screen. "Needs more work" and back to the computer I go.

And I enjoy standing around (because we all know that prints are best viewed standing) discussing hard copies with friends and experts. Even if it means going back to the screen, making changes and printing another copy. Another $2 copy.

In the words of the great philosopher Alfred E. Neuman ... $2.00. Cheap!

Many years ago I joined a photographic society here in England. That was the beginning of a slide down the slippery slope of photographic obsession! In those days it was either colour reversal (slides) or prints. Frustrated by the impossibility of making any creative changes to a slide I started to print. This was black and white only. Colour was difficult and too expensive. I never looked back. I did eventually print in colour using the Cibachrome (later Ilfochrome) process but nearly bankrupted myself. I learnt that half of the creative process is in what nowadays is called post processing and that holding a finished physical object is so much more satisfying than looking at an image on a screen. The main outlet for the work was amateur exhibitions. Surprisingly, although digital images are in the majority now, prints are still exhibited in large numbers.

Now I am printing digitally I complain about the cost but believe me it was more expensive in the darkroom days. Sometimes the waste bin would be overflowing with rejects before I got that perfect print. Now colour is as cheap as mono - oh joy.

The print exhibition that stands out for me was Sebastio Salgado's "Genesis" which I saw in London. The man has to be in the running for the best living photographer. I have the book but it does not compare with seeing the prints.

Great timing for this post, Mike. I have just returned from a day out at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale in Central Victoria, Australia. Another of your readers, Ian K and I had a glorious day viewing prints from around the world, and you just could not get the same experience from on line viewing. So much to see; so little time. Return trip necessary. Huge landscapes of Norway, Bhutan's secrets, and the Martin Kantor portrait prize were highlights, but we agreed to disagree on the merit of the flagship exhibit of Liu Bolin from China. All prints. Challenging photos on sensitive subjects were juxtaposed with "how-did-she-do-that" (or, more interestingly, "why did he take that? ") photos. Haven't been to such a wide ranging examination of photographic prints for quite a while, -- well worth the hour and a bit train trip from Melbourne, -on till October 20th. Makes me want to get more of my own photos printed. An aside.. Ian is a Fuji photographer. He lent me one of his XT-2s for the day. I left my Olympus in the car. After uploading the pix just now, I think I've got a new love, but I don't think I can afford her with the wardrobe she needs to make her really shine! Aaah, her ergonomics and voice... er... shutter sound.

Sometimes large, sometimes small...color or B&W, one or multiple copies...I love printing !

Isn't it one of the nicest things we can do with pour photos?



I get where Martin D is coming from; no question that photo reproductions are not an adequate alternative to viewing a painting in person, particularly an oil painting where the physical texture of the paint is a big part of the experience. Skillful photography can close the gap a little; careful tangential lighting can give a hint of the impasto surface. And photo book reproduction has gotten very good; the D-max achievable by modern offset printing closely approximates that of a good darkroom or inkjet print.
On the other hand, there really is nothing quite like seeing an expertly crafted print in person. The paper's surface qualities, the size of the print, the color palette, the orchestration of values are all artistic tools. In his video The Tapestry of Creation, landscape photographer Christoper Burkett talks about how correct color filtration suddenly makes his Cibachrome prints come alive, something he calls 'clarity'. That's the kind of epiphany I strive for when I print.

Although I love the idea of prints in general, my love for any particular print depends on the subject matter and the quality of the print itself. To name two extremes, some prints have the garish look of neon colors encased in plastic while others seem to be more about the choice of print medium (rice paper, for example) than anything else. That's probably why, when you receive an exceptional print, you can't help but be drawn into it and caught in its muse.

Mike, I have also always loved physical prints, and I do the work to make them from my best work. I usually let picture’s age for a while , but if I really believe the picture is good, I print it. I make mostly three sizes 6x9 matted to 11x14 for pictures that work small, or 16 x24 on 17x26 (roll paper) most of the rest are panos of different sizes. I store them in multi drawer flat files and portfolio boxes. I display a few in rotation. I’m using an Epson 5000 with Epson latest 11 ink set and the image print RIP which makes a huge difference.
I agree with Speed that ink and paper are not cheap, but to be able to hold a physical print in your hands for the price of a cup of coffee is a wonderful deal.
A print good enough to place your signature on says this is the best I can do and I stand by it- removes all the variables of digital display and removes all your excuses. It’s Done, and it must stand on its own.
I believe printing my work makes me a better photographer.
With your new camera , I hope you revisit printing.

For me, the image is everything. I’m a storyteller by nature, and the picture is still worth a thousand words.

My photographic sensibilities seem to have been formed by the steady stream of good magazine photography I was able to digest since the early 1950s. In my eyes, the only technical stuff that mattered was mastery of craft, not grain, sometimes not even sharpness. For me,the images were so good that magazine reproduction worked fine.

Later, in the 70s, when photography became attractive to me as a form of expression, I was drawn more towards that side of the craft, the execution of the image, rather than the darkroom. I spent a lot of time reading photo books and looking at prints-this physical form of viewing was the only thing we had.

When I became reenergized by photography during the last decade, digital was prominent, and the wealth of images was astounding. I can get the same enjoyment from a jpeg as a print, but digital viewing is like drinking from a firehose- I quickly become numb, and the enjoyment fades into engorgement. However, one thing I find interesting about digital is that for the style of photography that appeals to me, often you can scan across a row of thumbnails, and the right image, the one that is the size of your, well, thumbnail, can still grab you, and if you click on it, you are often not disappointed.

The print is still vitally important, especially when considering scale. I have a couple of images that don’t digitally, viewers have routinely missed details that seem easier to spot when you can walk up and stick your nose into the frame. Not long ago, I was in a gallery where I stumbled on “Route 66, Albuquerque New Mexico, 1969”, by Ernst Haas. It was six feet long, and it knocked me back!
Sometimes, size matters

"Totally agree with you, the experience of seeing real gelatin silver prints on display, like those of Penn, Avedon, Weber, Horst, Beaton, et al., was thrilling."

And it becomes more thrilling as it becomes more rare. I'm not sure if that's a hopeful or depressing thought. Probably both.

While I grew up in a small to mid-sized community, I have been fortunate to have been able to go to world class museums in Chicago, Toronto, Rochester and Paris. I've not yet seen the major photography museums in Paris, but I will. Seeing Monet's lilies at L'Orangerie was life-altering. Seeing Toulouse Lautrec and Degas in Chicago, Degas' Dancer in Rochester, WPA Kodachrome prints in Buffalo, Weston, Adams, Palu, Towell, Hine, Mann, Abbott and many others in Rochester has helped me to stay sane.

Indelibly burned in my mind....is the time a got to view and handle Frederick Sommer's print "Arizona Landscape"......with no glass between me and the print, I was transfixed......such a glowing print I had and have never again seen.!!!!

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