Thursday, March 31, 2016

Back to the Print, But Why?

The last few pieces covered some methods I use for handling hard-copy photographs, but I haven't really talked about the why. Why do I do these things? You might well think the question is dumb, but that's probably because you have your own answer, so it seems obvious. This is my answer.

There are really two separate things here that have pushed me down this specific path.

The first is the digital revolution. When I was a kid, the standard family photography film roll in the USA had a Christmas tree on each end, and covered one year. This was a common joke, at any rate, and rooted in reality. In my family, we shot a bit more than that. Nonetheless a few hundred exposures a year was a pretty high count for even a photographically inclined family. These days I shoot several thousand frames a year, and many people shoot a lot more. Even if you're not particularly good, you're likely to wind up with dozens of photographs of your kids, your family, your life, that are worth printing. These are the pictures that are good enough to get through every stage of culling, good enough to commit to that final endpoint: the print, the hard-copy.

So I have, simply by the vagaries of statistics, more pictures flowing out of this pipeline than did, say, my father.

The second factor is my movement toward project based photography projects. I no longer see particular value in chasing the single iconic picture, which I will then print out large, frame, and stick on my wall like a stuffed tiger's head. This is simply not something that resonates with me. It makes no sense. Therefore my "Art" such as it is consists of making groups of pictures.

These two factors result in my having quite a few pictures that I want to make a part of my life. Some of them need to enter my life in a group, not as a set of one-by-one pictures.

By entering my life, I mean being integrated into my life. I could use digital picture frames, I suppose, but that's a lot of money and probably hackers get into them and replace my pictures with porn. Probably not even good porn. I dunno. Digital picture frames also typically operate in a slideshow mode to show more pictures, and that's absolutely unacceptable to me. I am not going to stand around and wait for the picture I want to look at. I am not going to accept the picture I want to look at sliding away after the designated interval. Nope. This is a personal problem, but it's my house so I get to decide.

The computers are in designated areas, or small, or in-use, so that's out as a mode of complete integration with my life. Phones are too small.

Anyways, digital screens are awful. I very much need not to be able to check my email on my picture viewing system.

The prints on my wall are present, always. They don't distract me like a tablet, phone, computer. I can mass 20 or 30 prints (remember, I have a lot of pictures) for a few dollars a print using my cheapskate DIY mounting methods. The books are also present, portable, and single-purpose. I can take a book to bed and simply look at pictures without wandering off to facebook or email. A book doesn't need to be charged. It's tactile and beautiful in its own right. It simply suits me better, in so many ways. And, again, it provides a way to collect a number of prints, and to group them up sensibly.

These things allow me to integrate my pictures into my life, seamlessly, easily, inexpensively, beautifully, and without unnecessary distraction.

That's my answer.

And by the way, screw those guys at LuLa. The latest installment of their version of Get Back To The Print is literally Kevin Raber, Jeff Schewe, and an Epson rep standing around an Epson printer pointing out various random features of the thing and extolling its virtues. It is explicitly not a review, and not a tutorial. To be exact, it is literally an ad for the Epson P800, which you have to be a LuLa subscriber to watch. That's not just lame, it's utterly insulting. The sheer hubris of these men, their utter disdain for their subscribers, is staggering.


  1. If you work project-oriented, you probably frequently encounter the problem to assess how a set of pictures (as prints) works together. What I found quite helpful is a wall painted with "magnetic paint", which is an acrylic paint mixed with iron filings. This paint works like a precoat and has to be painted over by some neutral, ordinary wall paint of your choice. Then, you can stick your prints to the wall using neodymium magnets, just like a huge refridgerator door. The paint can be obtained in art supplies stores and sometimes even in DIY markets, but it is not cheap. I found it well worth the money (and effort), though.

    Best, Thomas

    1. That's pretty cool! Maybe some day.. Maybe some day soon! Thanks!

      Blurb's book making tools are pretty good at this job too, although obviously you're looking at the things on a screen with the associated distractions and limitation (hat tip to Mike C for this awesome tip).