It wasn’t very long ago that I really did not understand the people who dedicated full rooms in their homes to printers, paper, mounting equipment and matte board. I mean, I understood that hanging photos on the wall was something people did, people like me even, but it wasn’t something that really gripped me. I’ve had images printed and shipped to me, and I’ve even hung a few on my own walls, but I still wasn’t part of the “prints” crowd.
But now, looking back on it after getting my own printer and dedicated a whole room to it and printing supplies, I understand. There is a hell of a lot of difference between ordering your prints online, and doing them yourselves. It may not seem like there should be, but it’s akin to developing your own film. For those of you who did that, and now use a lab, there is a totally different feeling. I’ll try and explain.
The feeling of watching a print that I have worked on for hours, customized the process of, and seeing it slowly reveal itself out of my Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 provides me with the same feeling as developing and fixing a print in the darkroom.
When I first really “learned” photography, it was back in college at Gonzaga University in an elective course taught by a friend of mine, Fr. Brad Reynolds. That class required we shoot with film to start with, and then gave us the option to transition to digital after the first half of the class. Initially I was looking forward to getting through the film section and hurry into digital, but by the end of the class, I never let go of my Nikon F.
The reason I was so attached to film then, and why I love printing now, has a lot to do with the physical process and connection to my photography. I’m not trying to say printing has the exact same effect as physically “getting my hands dirty” in a darkroom, but in my digital photography world, it’s the closest thing that I have found.
The feeling of watching a print that I have worked on for hours, customized the process of, and seeing it slowly reveal itself out of my Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 provides me with the same feeling as developing and fixing a print in the darkroom. At the end of both processes, I am holding a physical embodiment of my labor, and I think that particular feeling has been lost, or was never even there to begin with, for many modern digital photographers.
And it’s a great feeling that we should all be able to experience.
When I started my commercial video and aerial photography business in San Francisco a few years ago, it was after a lot of research and testing the market. Originally, like many people, I learned classic portraiture and landscapes when honing my craft. What I found, however, is that the possible market for those two specialties was a lot smaller than what I do now. I put away much of what I considered to be a “fine art” skill, and moved to what was most marketable, and enough to keep rent paid in the ridiculous San Francisco housing market.
But more recently I have begun to flock back to what originally drew me to photography, and doing it for myself. Photography is now becoming not only my livelihood, but my hobby again. I have the physical attachment to my work to thank for that, and as ridiculous as it might sound out of context, I have my printer to thank for that.
Now when I print, I do so for myself and my friends. When I think of a gift for someone, and I really want that gift to be extremely personal, I provide a print. Anyone can buy something for someone special, but actually making something yourself has much greater meaning. Prints, especially prints you yourself put your heart and soul into, carry a great weight of meaning and love. It is something that is hard to replicate, and it’s found in the work of artists, among a few other scant places.
For me, now, prints are not just a wall-hanger. Prints aren’t just decoration. Prints are a physical embodiment of why I shoot, or why I even own a camera. They are reminders to myself that I still love this, and they serve as icons to my friends and family that say “I love you.”