Photography and Art

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Joy of Printing

In this era of the camera phone and the quick point and shoot, I fear that printing photographs may become a thing of the past. Many of my friends and co-workers think that photography ends once their images have been uploaded to their computer and perhaps to a photo sharing website like flickr. Personally, I find nothing wrong with this as a way of enjoying and sharing photos, but viewing all your images on the small screen is a very different experience from seeing them on paper in an album, on an easel or hanging on a wall.

Recently, I upgraded from an Epson R800 printer to an R1800 wide format printer. There were two reasons for this: the R1800 will allow me to print up to 13 inches by 19 inches for mounting on the wall and it can print on thicker paper such as fine art paper.

Since buying the new printer, I've been doing a bit of printing. My wife has noticed. The other evening, she was watching me produce several beautiful (if I do say so myself) prints on fine art paper and she accused me of spending our children's inheritance. She was right - the cost of paper and ink is fairly high and, in the past, I've used Costco and Walmart to produce nice large prints at a lower cost.

But, that's not the point. There is a joy to printing that warms my heart. There is a lovely tactile feel of good paper. In this case, I'd had a box of Premiere Fine Art Paper sitting in my desk, unused because my R800 choked on it. The paper is lovely to the touch; rather thick and stiff, but smooth with a beautiful off-white colour. Loading it in to the paper feeder with an image cued up on the computer, one is filled with suspense. Will the image fulfill the promise of the virtual image? What will it look like on this lovely paper?

Then, the printer starts up and out comes an image that is redolent with colour and glowing with something I can only describe as magic. It has a presence that just isn't there on the computer screen. Part of it is the reflective nature of the medium. The image reflects the light that you give to it, so you can take it to different parts of the room and view it under incandescent or fluorescent light, or by the window under natural light. Part of it is the colour of the paper itself. Depending on the whiteness and texture of the paper, the image takes on an entirely different luster. But, there is a secret ingredient, something that comes from handling the print, feeling the paper, being able to vary the distance between you and the print.

This is no longer just an anonymous image on a screen, it is a photograph.

No comments:

Post a Comment