A few months after I started working for Chris, I came in to the studio one morning to find a post-it note on my desk. Simply stated and in all capital letters it read “WE MAKE PRINTS.”
Puzzled for a moment, curious if I was being reprimanded for some unknown offense or unmentioned procedure, I stared at the note and began to ask a very valid question – why?
Although I failed to realize at that moment, the answer was right in front of me. Whether sitting in Chris’s portfolios on the shelves, hanging on the walls of our studio, or cut and stacked ready to be mailed to potential clients.
Prints are absolute. The physical act of putting down ink of paper has a finality to it that completes the image making process. Whether that final outcome is to be hung on a gallery wall, sent to a client, shown in a portfolio, or bound in a handmade book – once you put the ink down on paper, you’re making a statement. You’re confirming that you value your work enough to take it beyond its digital and arguably transient state.
The workflow of digital photography allows for and often encourages a constant state of change and modification in our photos. This is an amazingly powerful creative tool that allows you to continually hone your process and refine your result – it can also be a crutch that keeps you from finishing a photograph, and therefore committing to your vision. The process of making a print may not be the be all end all, but it’s a step in the right direction of finalizing your creative process.
In the end of 2010, we made room in the studio for an upgrade of sorts, a bigger brother to the desktop printer Chris has had for years. The Epson 7900 is a behemoth, sitting on its own custom stand, sucking up ink from ten different tanks and spitting out yards and yards of paper. This upgrade wasn’t merely a “bigger is better” decision, it was the logical next step to allow for our work to be seen in a new way. Why did we make the move to a larger format? It was that same year, 2010 that Chris started to work with landscape photography and shoot photos that ultimately became long horizontal images – this new work was best shown on a grander scale than our desktop printer could provide.
It was also in 2010 that we decided our studio needed new wallpaper – a constant reminder of our process and the photographs that it creates. We decided to fill the walls with these images, adding and subtracting as we create new work, evolving the space around us in order to reflect and inspire. We make prints to commit to our photographs, and we put those those photographs up on the wall as a reminder of why we’re shooting them in the first place.
So what is the takeaway? We could easily write a blog post that outlines the technical details of our printing process and how we achieve consistency across multiple printers and paper surfaces (and if you want us to, I certainly will), but we felt it was more important to answer the “why?” rather than the “how?”
If you don’t have a printer of your own, then make friends with someone who does – make a few prints, the quality doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve selected your work and committed to it. Hang them on your wall or put them on your desk, look at them, interact with them, learn from them.