Until last year I had never enjoyed the thrill of making my own photographic prints. When I needed a print, I’d send off a file (or slide) to whatever lab I was using at the time and they’d ship the print directly to me or my client. With only a few exceptions my image viewing experience consisted of staring at a photo on a computer monitor.
Then, I bought an Epson Stylus Photo R2880 printer and everything changed. If that sounds like a dramatic statement – it is. It’s also quite true. I started making my own prints. Whenever I wanted. On whatever paper I wanted. It didn’t take long and I was addicted to the smell of fresh ink on photographic paper as a new print rolled off the printer, landing ever so gently in the catch tray. Is there a difference between viewing an image on a computer monitor and holding an actual print, that you made, in your hands? You’d better believe it.
As an artist I like to have complete control over my work from start to finish. While it is true that you maintain a degree of control when you do all the post-processing on your photos before sending them off to a lab, you’re really not closing the loop. The ultimate control comes when you conclude the image making process by crafting your own print. Today’s inkjet printers are capable of producing professional quality archival prints that rival and, in my opinion, exceed those made using more traditional methods like Cibachromes. They’re sharper, more detailed, just as colorful and can be made using a diversity of papers.
While difficult to quantify, there is a certain pleasure and satisfaction in handling an honest to God hand-crafted print. It is a tactile experience. You feel the weight of the paper, the texture. Unseen details emerge. Perhaps you feel pride in the knowledge that the print you are holding was born of your own creativity, and that without your vision and skills it would cease to exist. I get none of this from viewing an image on a computer monitor.
I’ve also noticed that people react differently when viewing my photographs in print. On the computer (or iPad), they quickly flick through the images. When I hand over my portfolio book I’ve noticed that they linger on each image. They don’t madly flip from one page to the next. Do people, even non-photographers, appreciate a fine art print more than they do an image on a screen? It would seem so.
What is your experience with pixels vs. prints?
Learn more about Bret, view his images, scout his workshops and read his blog here.