End Uses?

Micheal David Murphy, over at 2point8, recently postulated that, infinitely reproducible prints, ie digital prints have lowered the value of photography and prints in general and completely defeats the purpose of creating limited & numbered 'editions'. He equates ease of use, as a driving force for many photographers who decide to print.

While I agree that, choosing a medium based on it's ease of use is wrong, I disagree that making prints is the 'be all and end' all of photography. I also disagree that making a colour print in a darkroom is somehow inherently better than making a print on a screen.

Before I proceed, let me make myself clear, I have made prints in a wet darkroom context now for more years than I ever dreamed possible, the 'look' of a well made print, is a sight to behold. The number of those prints I've seen is a percentage of a fraction of the total I've looked at. [Ira Glass' vlog that I blogged a few days ago is a perfect explanation as to why.]

Notice I said, making a print on a screen. What this means is that I will give an image as much time and effort on a screen in a post production tool like photoshop, [but usually Live Picture], as I would in a wet darkroom. Using the same ideas on a global but in particular local scale, as I would in ANY darkroom. And given that these digital tools allow me a greater degree of control, than I could ever imagine in a colour wet darkroom context, I prefer that approach now, [mainly for colour or large scale work, mind you].

Let me give you an example. Masks in Photoshop and many editing tools are often easily made, they require you to know where to push a button or two and they add a great deal of flexibility, sophistication and control to the image manipulation process. The analogue equivalent requires that you be able to make a registration mask using either engineering or chemical means. I have not the skills nor the tools to do this, and in fact few do. All this to make a 'beautiful' 8 x 10 print. Forget much bigger; the bigger the print the more amplified your errors become. Good quality large prints are made possible for most people by digital*.

So BIG prints are made possible by digital tools, but I still need a high level of understanding & control over the process, to produce the results I desire, and my own understanding of the shortfalls of digital. Colour management is the big issue for most photographers, even if they deal with labs, or print at home. Matching your vision, to your screen, to the labs screen or your home printer, adds a level of complexity to the process that few people have the inclination and temerity to deal with. Let alone even know exists, or can see, or feel is important to 'the process'.

But really what I think that Michael is missing, is the ways that screen based work can be used to add another layer of complexity and context to the way an image is viewed.

A series of prints on the wall, or in a book, can only be read in a certain order. Text can be added of course to add some meaning or context to the image, or even distort the image, but it's all still pretty linear.

When I first started on flickr all those years ago, the idea of this extension of linearity was a deciding factor in me throwing myself into the process. I could add context to an image by simply putting it in 2, [or more] sets, or multiple groups. What I find the most interesting idea about a photograph when exhibited or in a book, is the connections between each image and the way that can be used to tell a story or evoke a respones. Images used this way become more like a performance than a 'picture'. These days anyone can make a good picture, given time and little and a handful of technical skills, but to apply that over an extended period of time, to produce a body of work that says something, now that's not so easy, but not impossible either. Ultimately though, I have NO CONTROL how the viewer sees or finds the image, but that, to my mind just adds to the charm of it all. It is one of the driving factors behind my mophone blog, and, my neo-documentary set. Digital, also, allows me to 'publish' books of my work. None of this would be feasible without digital, playing some part in the process.

*More people can make 20 inch prints now than ever before, are they good prints though, well that's a whole other kettle of fish.

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This page contains a single entry by s2art published on August 24, 2008 9:55 AM.

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