According to Wikipedia, DIY culture, with its grassroots societal overtones, spans a range of activities that includes Kit Cars (science fiction in a country overrun by administration such as France), naked cycling events, guerilla gardening, anarcho-punk and cult of the dead cow. But not home printing. I wonder why.
It hardly seems fair, too. After all, the perfect novice embarking on a printing journey soon encounters the same sort of anarchic impulses as The Psalters, Exit-Stanec and Poison girls. Here’s a world where it’s OK to sell you 50 dollars a product that costs 23 cents to make (ink). Not even the obscenely high markups of bottled water and designer jeans come even close to this. Revolt, I say. Here’s a world which, much like nude riding, can be political, recreational, artistic or any combination thereof. And I pledge to print a few photographs butt naked to support freedom. Here’s a world which, much like Cult of the Dead Cow, can provide all that’s needed for a powerful activist movement. Here’s a world which, much like guerilla gardening, can help make derelict areas look more attractive and promote a new way of thinking about property. Here’s a world which, much like kit cars, can provide hundred of hours of escapism (that’s a good thing) and redirect our GAS towards more grounded and creative preoccupations.
Anyway, rather than dwell on why the wiki overlords do not consider home printing a pursuit worthy of recognition in the DIY culture archives, maybe a better question should be “why in the world would any sane person want to print their own photographs ?“. I’m writing this as a deliberate counterpoint to Chris Stump’s very thought-provoking :
Who, honestly, who appreciates photography enough to have it around doesn’t produce and prefer their own? What photographer would buy another photographer’s original work unless one particular image was especially motivating or, if you’re well off, as an investment?
(believe me, that couple of sentences kept me awake for a long time …)
The correct answer to Chris’ question is probably “anyone who’s not yet printed their work”
The obvious reaction to mine is “to have prints of your work”. And that is very wrong. In fact, I’m tempted to think the last and worst reason to print at home is to have prints of your work. Printing is hard, frustrating, meandering, toxic and super expensive. If you want prints of your work, there are plenty of pro labs that will do a remarkable job of it for the cost of a couple of pints. Just do it.
Don’t believe me ?
I own 3 types of prints :
Still don’t believe me ? Check out this video review of the Epson P600 by Tony Northrup. He begins by explaining he threw away all his former inkjet gear long ago and swore never to return, just as I did. Early injket printing was an exercise in frustration comparable only to French administrative procedures. And, to me, he seems slightly flummoxed around the P600 (remember this is one of the most highly regarded experts in our industry). Printing doesn’t seem hard to people who have been doing it for the past 30 years. Just like walking. But look at all the one-year-olds holding on to their hair while precariously balancing on one leg before collapsing on the other. That’s how you feel when you begin digital printing from scratch (which is perfectly normal, since digital simplified everything, right?).
In no particular order of preference, here are a few of the stumbling blocks you’ll encounter along your way, and which have surfaced during my first days of bingesting YouTube expertise :
So, no, home printing really isn’t a good way of obtaining prints of your work. Which is why I’m so much looking forward to it.
Because, come on, bad ideas are often the most fun. But also because of less puerile considerations :
This is the first post in a new series about printing that will document my progress and lessons learned, so that others wishing to embark on the same path don’t have to make the same mistakes.
I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now. One of the most intense photographic moments of my life was at a Nick Brandt exhibition in Paris. Since the gallery was too small to host all the large prints, a “book” of 24″ prints made on thick paper and tied together with some sort of rope was available for viewing of whatever was missing on the walls. Dozens of real prints made with as much attention as the ones in the frames. Thick paper, gorgeous photographs. I’ve never been so close to shoplifting anything in my whole life. That was a pivotal moment, that’s only coming to fruition years later.
For once, I’m starting this intelligently, by using Chris’ prints (above) as benchmarks for my own efforts. He’s sent me close up photographs of each to help me evaluate texture, shadow and highlight details, harshness or smoothness of my PP … lovely experience. And now, the prints are one their way to my home. I will use these prints to set a goal that I know is achievable and will pester Chris whenever my efforts fall short (he doesn’t know, please don’t tell him). Chris might even join me in writing a few articles in this printing series and I’ll interview a few other specialists along the way. And if *you* want to share some experience, *please* do!
Still, to sum up this first instalment, if you’re a print virgin like me, please repeat this a million times before spending a cent on printing gear :
People don’t print at home for prints, they print at home because they enjoy the process of printing.
It’s a process, it’s a path. As far as I can tell, this really is one of those cases for which the only reason to start is to enjoy the trip itself, not for the destination. If you look forward to experimenting with ICC profiles, papers, ink sets, settings, post processing … that’s cool. If not, just send your files to a pro lab or, for a more personal service, to someone who will tailor your prints to your liking, like Chris has done for me (email@example.com). (Please note that this is not advertising, I’m not getting anything from mentioning his services. I’m just happy if two people who can be mutually beneficial to one another get in touch via DearSusan).
So, if you’re more expert than me, what have I missed? Care to share some insights in those coming articles? See you then.
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