Should the final stage of photography be the print?

As more consume more and more images online and digital screens, the question that is commonly raised is whether printing should be the final stage.

Henri Cartier – Bresson once said that “the final act of photography is the print.” His instincts were toward the final physical print as opposed to pages in books. For many years, this has been widely accepted by many. However, those were a different time and a film medium where the only way of seeing your work is by printing them. The idea of a final print being the final stage may not be so widely accepted during this digital era. Still, Henri Cartier – Bresson idea still resonates. Perhaps this is because the idea of their being a final act to the photographic process implies a finality in the development of the images as concept and forms.

The fact that there is a final act means that the photograph has been through a sort of process, an idea and concept, experience and has been processed and then presented as a fixed point and ready for viewing by others.

Every single image posted on Instagram or Facebook causes an effect that dissipates as quickly as it is posted. Don’t get me wrong, I do not hate any of these platforms nor that I love them but they have their purpose. On these mediums, you are bombarded with so many images that you have little time to process them let alone for them to become memorable. We simply do not have enough time to form any type of relationship with what is being viewed. It is possible that we all feel like there’s something missing as we swipe from image to image.

For a good reason, magazines are not dying out although its demise has been predicted. I have my favourite photography magazine that I pick up every month without fail even though I have the option of obtaining a digital copy. Nothing beats a high quality print in your hands. Each publication is the sum of great work, carefully selected images, layout and print quality. They are constructed with great care, love and risk and consumed by appreciative readers who know that by buying a copy, they are contributing to life  of the magazine and art.

One of the most powerful things about a printed photograph is that it is undeniable. It cannot be altered. It is a statement and fact that can be seen today, studied tomorrow and lived with for as long as you want. The same cannot be said for images viewed on screens. I can sadly say that I’ve scrolled through so many of my images on the screen that I some time have a hard knowing which are have been edited and which have not.

For the purpose of examining and and enjoying a photograph, a print is more useful because paper is reflective, light bounces off it surface at an easily controllable intensity. With a great quality print, details stand out, contrast are easily observed and the beauty of the image absorbed with intensity.

I never thought about printing my first series but then I was invited to participate in an exhibition where I printed them on aluminium. This was not the printing that envisioned but I went ahead carried as my printer advised. I did not dare to open the final print as I was nervous of the outcome until it was being hanged in the gallery. I was to hold my breath. The tonal range was insane, the contrast stood out and every tonal range perfectly highlighted. I was completely amazed. It is a feeling like no other.

Part of the Dark Hope series

A well made print can be small or large as it fits the subject while a screen dictates the dimensions. One thing we fail to realise that not social media platform can truly present our images as they are meant to. I recently posted the same image (same dimensions) on facebook and instagram. The image on facebook had terrible banding in the sky and frankly looked terrible. However, the same image on Instagram looked totally fine.

A print can be hang on the wall and admired every single day.

For many photographers, the act of printing pictures and stinking to them is a way of getting to know their own work intimately. Unfortunately, it is not something that I’m able to do at the moment but definitely I look forward to doing very soon.

The other marked option is in the form of photo-books of which I am an avid collector. One of the main reasons why I opted to put together my own zine. If you click on the link, you will notice that the major difference between my zine and others is the size. I always my work to be seen in a size no smaller than A4. My images have heavy contrasts along with plenty of lines and symmetry which I like to stand out.

To commit an image to paper is to honour poetry and time – resisting dynamics of art. A photograph needs to be fixed in the physical world.

The final act of photography certainly is “a print”.

 

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