Friday, 16 January 2009

Is it the print?

Ships sailing in, Scheveningen, January 2008

Following on from the review of photo LA at T.O.P., and the comments on these shows, I was thinking: does great printing separate the great from the also-rans? Every time I see comments by photographers on prints from great photographers, it is all about the impact of the image due to great printing. And there is apparently a rising scale of presentation - web (poor), book (acceptable), reproduction, original print.

So that raises a few issues. Is it only photographers who are actually interested in the print quality? For the most part it seems ordinary people's reactions to photography are related to the subject matter rather than the technical quality. I've had many good reactions to my own photographs when I rated them poor for various technical reasons. And I'm getting past the technical aspects of sharpness & focus here. Tonal range, precision composition and other aspects of content seem to matter.

Or maybe it is those with the technical knowledge who can analyse to reasons why certain images have so much impact. But that might conflict with the notion that content is all. Can people have the same reaction to a great image presented in a book as they do standing in front of an original in a great museum? But then we'd have to remove the variable of location. People go to galleries and museums expecting to see great things.

So if printing matters just as much, then any aspiring artists owe it to themselves to gain access to great printing - either by learning or employing someone. Focus has to be on quality

But if it is all about content, we just have to hope someone notices our stuff, and that means getting it out there in as many forms as possible. This is the quantity argument.

Trouble is, the notions are mutually exclusive.

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