I interrupt the D850 and a7RIII tech-talk for a post about… wait for it… art. You know, the reason we have cameras in the first place.
Actually, this post isn’t about art itself, but about what do with the physical manifestation of our art.
This morning, I received an email:
Jim, this is out of your normal purview, but [flattering remark redacted], so I ask: how does one deal with all the photos we have? Are we doomed to have them only on electronic media? If we have a big pile of prints, how do you manage those, assuming you have run out of wall space? Must we have dealers? Mine is not selling much-my work is b/w. Being 81, I came up from LF in the 1950’s, so I qualify as a dinosaur. I am of the strong opinion that a photo on a screen is not as good as one in your hand, and nowhere near as good as on the wall.
I, too, am a print guy, but I’m coming around to alternatives. Digital photography changed my storage requirements, but in a convoluted way. Let me run through some history.
In the chemical era, if I wanted to walk into my darkroom and print an image I’d printed before, it would take at least 45 minutes of fiddling around before I got a print that looked a lot like the previous one. I had a notebook full of recipes, one for every decent print I’d ever made. I’d consult it, pick out paper and chemicals, and get everything set up. Then I’d do test strips, because the chemical concentrations, paper emulsions, and temperatures were never the same. Then I’d attempt to reproduce the dodging and burning. Then I’d simulate dry-down with a microwave oven, guess what would happen with the toning (to actually do the toning would take too long), and do bleaching if required. By the end of that time, I could produce as many prints as I wanted, as long as nothing changed. So I’d bang off six (more if there was bleaching or tricky toning). After a more few hours of boring processing (the creative part being over), one would be used for something, and five would go in a box awaiting a future order.
How often did I get such an order? Hardly ever. So the box pile would grow higher and higher. Every few years I’d go through it and throw stuff out.
What a waste.
Then came digital. No longer was reproducing a print a hugely time consuming product. It wasn’t quite “<control>-P and go get coffee”, more like “<control>-P and mess around with head cleaning, ink changing, finding the right paper (oops, the old paper was discontinued and I’m out), getting the right profile installed now that I’m using a different printer, swearing, and getting coffee”, but on average it took 10 or 15 minutes, not at least 45. So I changed my methods. If I wanted a print, I’d make a print. Sometimes I’d make two, but I’d never make 6 unless I needed 6.
That cut the number of boxes down a lot. Now I had boxes organized by series, to show to people wanted to see my prints, or folks with desirable wall space that I wanted to see my prints. I also had boxes of work in progress, and I used those to try things out and rotate them onto and off of my own walls. I hardly ever matted these images. I know if offends some people, but I thought that matting was unnecessary for show-and-tell now that the work lay flat without the support of a mat. I also did not make really big prints for this purpose. My standard size is C-size, or 17×22 inches. For some work, I’ll print on 24×30. But no larger. I love big prints, but won’t print them on spec. I don’t have the space, and they’re too fragile if not matted.
But there was one source of boxes that continued. If I’d have a show, I’d print a slew of pictures. Even worse, from a volume standpoint, I’d have them matted. The show would go up. The show would come down. Not all the work would sell. Sometimes, very little of the work would sell. So I’d get a stack of matted prints back. What to do with them? I have no good answer. I’d stack them somewhere for a few years, then eventually toss them sorrowfully out.
I’ve become interested in alternate ways to show my work, and for some newer series, I haven’t printed all the good pictures even once. There’s my website, for one. and an electronic display in the family room. But those are low-resolution compromises (even though I can get colors on a display that i can’t print).
I guess I don’t have a good answer to the question.