I have once again fallen in love with printed photographs.
I started in photography in the age of film, when you could shoot 24 or 36 frames at a time (the 64 GB CF card in my Canon SLR easily holds 1000+ high-res images). Then you didn't really know what you had until you dropped the film canisters off at the local drug store or Fotomat counter, then waited a few days to get the prints or slides developed. The feeling of anticipation waiting to see how things came out is something we no longer experience in the digital age. I remember how excited I was when 1-hour turnaround was introduced. Instant Gratification! Well, almost.
I still have an old cedar box of family photographs from my childhood, and many old albums with yellowing, fading prints inside. It's uncanny how looking at these physical objects, holding them in your hands, can conjure up memories and emotions.
Digital photography has opened up so much in the way of creative possibilities. With modern digital camera sensors and cutting-edge digital processing software we are able to bring the photo lab right onto our desktops, and even our mobile phones. No longer are we at the mercy of a faceless, nameless lab technician to properly develop what we shot in camera. Every step of the creative process is controlled by the photographer, from conception to end product.
However, by their nature digital images are ephemeral. Most of the images we capture end up sitting on hard drives or cloud storage, never to be seen by anyone. The best of them we'll post on social media platforms and maybe get a few hundred views and a few dozen 'likes'. Then they'll be gone. Gone from the collective memory of anyone who saw them, and sadly often gone from the experience of the artist that created them. Like digital ghosts they disappear into the cyber ether, either gone forever, or often popping up somewhere in a completely unauthorized use (but that's another story).
I have been quite content to live in that world since I took up photograph as a serious pursuit more than five years ago. In that time I have been continuously working on developing my craft. I feel I have evolved as a photographer from 'taking' pictures to 'creating' photographs. I now have the skill and expertise to envision an image, then plan, execute and create that image as I imagined it. As my work as progressed, I have slowly built a healthy online following, and I enjoy the feedback I get for my work.
However there has always been one thing missing, and I wasn't sure what it was until a good friend of mine mentioned he had bought a large-format inkjet photo printer. I was blown away by the quality of the images he produced, and then I realized what I had been missing. So I recently took the plunge.
I now have a whole new appreciation for the printed photograph. Something I can hold in my hands, something I created. Imagine a play written that is never performed, or a song written that is never sung. That's how I feel now about a great photograph that isn't printed. It isn't finished. Instead of languishing on my hard drives after posting, my favourite images are now preserved on paper. They are reminders to me every time I look at them of the time and place, the experience I had, the feelings I felt. They have the capacity to calm and inspire. I am constantly seeing those images in new and different ways. Add a nice frame and matte, and you have—dare I say it—art.
With the current sate-of-the-art of inkjet printing, and the selection of beautiful fine art papers available, anyone can have a print lab at home that professional photographers could only dream about a generation ago. I'll never look back.