I’m not a fan of resolutions. They have never been very successful for me. But looking at how I interact with photography online over the last couple of years has prompted me to change my relationship with looking at photos and the timing of my decision just happens to coincide with the last day of 2013…so, boom, a resolution.
Looking at photographs on a computer screen is one of the greatest things you can do.
And one of the worst.
I’m old enough to remember seeing my first color photograph on a computer monitor. It was a revelation. At the time, all computers were black and white and the ability to see color on the screen was fantastic. Since then, in technological leaps and bounds, the ability to see and consume photos on a computer via the internet has become second nature. You can consume a fantastic amount of work very quickly. Zoom in, zoom out. You can cross reference, hyperlink, download…all the things that make the internet great.
A photograph, presented large in high resolution on a good computer monitor is a thing of beauty. It’s almost perfect.
It’s also those very things, inherent in the nature of the internet, that makes viewing photography on a computer one of the worst ways to experience it.
The printing of a photograph, regardless of size, changes how you interact with it. Hanging on the wall of a gallery five feet across or postcard-size pasted in a scrapbook, it’s a different thing altogether.
There’s the obvious difference between a photograph illuminated on an RGB monitor bright and glowing, and a printed piece of paper that works
off reflective light.
But it’s more than that. When we view photographs on the web, there’s always another photo right below the one we are looking at. Or there is a thumbnail gallery to the right, beckoning you to come click, see another, move on through the line. Consuming is fast and quick.
You can try to take your time. Appreciate. But there’s always a hyperlink to deep analysis of the “early period,” or six more galleries waiting to be explored. There’s emails that just came in and new product rumors to be consumed. It’s a tough fight to keep an image on your screen long enough to really see it and understand it.
But on paper, there are those great things that happen. You can stack them. You can lay them out, look at them. Walk away. Come back.
Two prints overlay each other, and by covering part of one you see it completely differently. Or the room is dark at dusk and when you look over, suddenly the photos look completely different, you can’t really make out the detail. Maybe all you see is shapes from across the room and that opens a whole new way of seeing a piece of work.
And forget zooming in, pixel-peeping the details until you can definitively say that the Canikon 20mm SuperStabilized f1.2 macro zoom is “soft around the edges.”
The print is all you got.
There’s a certain freedom in printing on a basic printer, holding the print in your hand and just enjoying the photo, letting resolutions, dots-per-inch, sensor size and pin-sharp focus fall by the wayside. It’s just a photo, not a science experiment.
And so, my resolution this year is to print my photos. A lot of them.
I will be printing as much of my work as I can, on any printer that is handy. I will hang some, stack some up, lay them out. I’ll probably box a bunch up for posterity. But they will live outside my Lightroom catalogs, or stored on multiple hard drives where I rarely see them and often lose them.
The photos on this page are part of my resolution.
Years ago I purchased an odd blank book. It’s only about 5" x 7", hardbound and about 300 pages. I am printing small copies of my work and sticking the photos in the book until it’s full. Then I’ll start another.
And I’m printing out large prints too. I’ll frame some, but most I won’t. I just want to hold them, look at them, put them in piles and see how they look in the real world, free from the computer.
I’m not a Luddite, not an old-fashioned “it used to be better” kind of person. I love looking at photos on the web, opening them in Photoshop and zooming in on the details, studying shadow and depth. That’s one of the best ways to look at photography there is. It’s a revolution and it’s amazing.
But I’m also going to print.
I’m going to print more.
— Greg Needham