Sunday, November 28, 2010


Moving from the printed page to the moving image I just finished watching "The Genius of Photography", the BBC's 6 part history of photography.  Once again the historical treatment is very much one of considering photography as an art form and how the way that we think about and create art photography has evolved.  At the core is the question of what is photographic art.  It covers the usual suspects, the Parisians, the FSA, the New Topologists, and onto the Digital generation.  One aspect of the TV series versus many of the books I have read is that it gives a voice to the photographers and provides me with a chance to put a face to a name. of particular interest were the interviews with Robert Adams and Andreas Gursky.  I watched this during a couple of very dreary days when suffering from a nasty virus, in the midst of reading the accompanying book.

The Print: Watching all 6 episodes in a single day left a distinct impression of a particular aspect of photography and one that is starting to dwell in my mind.  This is the question of the uniqueness of a photographic print as an object.  Throughout the series and also in many written accounts, the detail of the final print, how it is made, with what materials, by whom is a key issue.  I have found it surprising that in history books, details are provided of the printing method and yet little of the camera used or the exposure chosen.  Currently I think about photography in terms of capture, giving very little thought to how the final object, the print, is produced and presented.

In the art market, much is made of the "Print", if it is made by the photographer, that adds value.  However, surely it is the negative that is the "Original", not the print. I can understand that different processes and decisions made during printing have a significant effect on what is the final output, however, the negative is the unique vision of the photographer as an artist.  This view is clearly a problem in my own practice of digital photography, what is a negative, where is the uniqueness of any image.  A RAW file is not even equivalent to a negative, it is more analogous to an exposed sheet of film prior to development.  Where can uniqueness enter into this environment, the RAW file can be copied, it can be "processed" in an infinite variety of ways!

Perhaps in the digital age, the print is even more significant as an expression of the art of the photographer.  Clearly it has the same uniqueness issues as an analog print, but at this point those issues coincide and apart from materials are essentially the same.  Many prints can be made, sure, however, only those that the artist makes and signs as original visions of their art can be seen as the "Object".

Currently I print almost all of my work onto simple HP Advanced Photo Paper, usually using a gloss finish.  I am now rethinking this approach, for the reasons stated above.  The choice of paper, its texture, size, the processes I use during printing, all of these add some degree of uniqueness to what is the final product.  I am wary of producing "Arty" stuff, but am starting to understand that even digital art has to produce an "Object".  In the past I have experimented with printing on watercolour paper, particularly for still life images of flowers.  I did not use any special "inkjet" paper, just regular textured paper bought from an art store. It is time to start to experiment with the final output stage of photography, I need to start to think of my photographs as art not images.

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