Why We Print.

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.

Do you make prints? What do you think? Leave us a comment or let us know @crismanphoto, @robertluessen.

13 replies to “Why We Print.”

  1. Chris I love your work, and (more importantly) your work ETHIC. You are an inspiration. If you have a extra card, I’d love a postcard for my board at work.
    132 park st. B
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  2. I’ve just recently bought my first photo printer to master that final step in the process of photography. And I agree with you: commitment to a certain final output is what printing is all about. Locking an image into a certain form, size and color is difficult yet also relieving, because once it’s done, it’s done. This finalization helps me to put stuff behind me and start something new. There’s always something you might change when looking at your older images, but that’s the way you wanted it at the time and I think that’s part of the image now and should be preserved.
    Unfortunately George Lucas didn’t get that memo.

  3. This is a very interesting question…”Do I make prints?”. If I just read your question by itself, I would have answered yes. But in reading the entire story, I would have to say no. I don’t physically print my images, I have them sent out at the clients request. All the time spent creating the digital image only to hand it off to an assembly line from time to time. In a way it’s a broken process not actually creating the final product. I have a office printer sitting at my desk and never considered just printing out images, not worrying about quality or type of paper. Something I will do more of! Great read, thanks for sharing!

  4. I worry that we, as a people, will loose decades of recorded history, personal and otherwise, because we, as a people, are not printing our work.

    So much will be lost into the ether as files are erased, lost or just plain non-retrievable as technology passes us by. Did anyone leave images on a floppy drive? CD’s will go the same way and so will hard drives at some point.

    Thanks Robert and Chris for the reminder!

  5. I love printing my work, it really validates that what I’ve done with my photography is something that pleases me, and also pleases others. It shows me where flaws are, and where/ how I can make images look better, cleaner, clearer, brighter, sharper, whatever they need when I see them in print. When I don’t print an image, most of the time it means I haven’t gotten it where I want it yet. Printing is the proof of the pudding for me, and an exciting, vital part of the process of making art.

  6. inspiring…we in India are working on a concept wherein we are trying to bring to life the photographs that are trapped digitally..would like you to expand on the bit of how you manage consistency and ensure high quality when it comes to printing??

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