I’ve always printed my final images. While reading an article recently, I got the impression that because of the internet, web pages and digital imaging, printmaking was losing ground to the computer monitor. I may be wrong but I’ll address it anyway.
Digital technology is wonderful and the ease of looking at pictures on my monitor keeps me sharp, motivated and creative. I still believe, however, that fine photographs should be placed on media; touchable, “archivable” material, like paper.
I made this photograph of Texas Ranger Wallace Spillar using 120 roll film in my Hasselblad and later scanned the black and white negative to produce a digital file that I used to print the image on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper.
Traditional wet darkroom materials run the gamut from metal to paper to glass. Digital imaging is new so the variety of output materials just isn’t there yet. A tintype or albumen print has a presence and quality that electrons don’t.
Surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the variety of papers available to inkjet printers. I still use a lot of glossy papers but find that my photographs have a softer quality using the matte papers. Although it doesn’t suit all my images well, Epson’s Velvet Fine Art paper is heavy, has a lot of texture, archival quality and a feel that let’s you know you’re holding something substantial. Digital imaging has revived many paper manufacturers such as Hahnemuehle and introduced new papers like Moab. All good in my opinion.
While I have embraced digital imaging wholeheartedly, looking at photographs on a monitor is still too much like watching TV. Quality printmaking has always been an important, and necessary, step in our craft. Some photographs do very well no matter how they are printed; the actions, relationships or events they depict simply hold enough weight to stand alone. However, when printmaking itself is as much of the process as making the image, it becomes a truly magical result. When you look at the results that fine printers such as Ansel Adams, John Sexton or Paul Caponigro produce it is extraordinary to behold. They create an image that would not exist without their hand having created it. Tones comes alive, blacks have inky depth, highlights have just enough detail and midtones pull everything together. Art.
I’m not in their league and few of us are. It is the reason, though, that I always print my final images and never let them exist only on my monitor or hard drive.