I’m printing the takeaway sheets for the In Motion show today. These takeaway sheets have artists’ and curators’ statements on one side, and print and book details and pricing on the other. I’m printing them on smooth 28 pound stock, and I’m using the Epson 4900. It would go a lot faster on another printer, and I wouldn’t have to feed the paper through the printer twice, but it wouldn’t look as nice.
Why am I going to so much trouble for something that most people will glance at and throw away? Why did I obsess over getting the print numbering information just right, even though it will be hidden by the mat, and in all likelihood no one will ever see it? Why did I throw away an entire set of prints because the signatures weren’t quite the way I wanted?
The way I see it, this is one of the great joys and privileges of making art. In the real world, I stop when things are good enough. I’ve got way too much to do to try to make everything perfect. When I’m trying to make art, I give myself the privilege of taking as much time as I want. It’s done when I say it’s done, and not a minute sooner. It’s like giving myself a vacation from compromise.
I don’t apply this philosophy to work prints, which I view as experimental and evanescent, but this is the way I treat photographs that I sell or exhibit. For me, it is a delightful mindset.
When I was printing in the darkroom, I couldn’t indulge myself in this practice as much as I can now. There were negatives that would have printed better with contrast-reduction masks, but I usually wouldn’t go to all that trouble. I would have to prioritize dodging areas, since you can’t dodge for more time than the basic exposure. My spotting was hardly ever perfect, but I refused to start with a stack of ten prints to get one exquisitely — but still not perfectly — spotted one. The tools that I use now are sufficiently powerful and repeatable that I can fix almost anything I want if I’m willing to put in the time and effort.
In some people, this attitude could turn into an excuse to never finish anything. For better or worse, that’s not a danger with me. I’m more biased the other way. Which may explain why this approach is so satisfying to me.