Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Art of Printmaking

I'll open this entry with one of my very favorite recent images. In this shot, the son of the groom was a little bit apprehensive about his father's marriage and how it would impact his relationship with his dad. The groom's step-father noticed the young man off to one side, and went to comfort him. Capturing moments like this is a truly humbling experience for me as a photographer, and I feel a tremendous responsibility to respect the fundamental dignity and beauty of my clients and their families as they deal with the emotions of the day, both joyous and poignant.

As a photographer who works in both the film and digital mediums, I'm perpetually fascinated in the ways that the rise of the digital camera has changed the way we make and enjoy images. Many of the changes are positive: digital cameras have democratized the art form by making it easier for more people to experience the joys of photography. Digital manipulation has offered new avenues for artistic expression, and entirely new mixed mediums have evolved.

One area that I believe has suffered, however, is an appreciation for great printmaking. Shooting photographs on film is inherently a print-based medium: even if one is only viewing contact sheets, there is a process of physical creation for almost every frame. Most people would at-least order a set of 4x6 prints from every roll they sent off to the lab. Prior to the internet, photographers were primarily judged on the quality of the prints hanging on their studio walls, or those in their portfolio books. Brilliant artists like George Tice became known specifically for their expertise in the darkroom and the amazing quality of their prints.

I haven't seen any studies, but I will guess based on my own experience that most digital photographers and/or their clients probably print only a small fraction of what they shoot. When images are printed, they are typically done from merely adequate home printers or only-slightly-better automated devices at local "labs." Further, when images are printed from digital, there is often the assumption that what looks good on one's screen will look equally good in print.

There is an art to taking a great image and turning it into an amazing print, whether its film or digital. Even if one works on a calibrated monitor, it takes a comprehensive understanding of how a printer renders information to predict the subtleties of how that information will be translated into a physical rendering of the image. Whether shooting film or digital, it often requires test-runs to completely perfect a print to its fullest interperetation of the original image. Black & white images in particular put huge demands on the printer, as the subtle and sensitive rendering of tonality can make-or-break a piece of art.

If you'd like to see for yourself, compare the majesty of a Yousuf Karsh silver gelatin print in a museum to its more mundane doppelganger in a book of Karsh's images.

I'm now offering my clients three print options. Clients can:

1. Print the image themself from the digital files

2. Order a very nice, carefully prepared print from me that will be executed on the best equipment available at a reasonable price.

3. For those clients who want a piece of fine art for their walls, I offer signature prints that I produce in conjunction with a handful of master printers around the country. Whether film or digital, no expense is spared in the production of the fullest possible interperetation of the image. These are the only prints that will bear my signature.

I'm very, very excited about these signature prints, and I welcome clients and potential clients to meet with me and examine my samples in person to witness the difference for themselves.


Sam Hassas said...

So you're a pro-photographer, military vet, ,fisherman, lock picker and you can write a mean article. Wanna add any more hobbies bud? Enjoyed your words Evan. A blog looks good on you.


Kelly Ingle said...

This is beautiful Evan. Thank you!