When things take a really long time to happen, either it’s because they are genuinely complex and require a lot of effort over a long period to come to fruition, or a lot of procrastination is involved. In the case of my printing efforts, it’s fair to say the latter explains the long wait for first results much more accurately than any technical difficulty along the way.
Very often, in life, procrastination is caused by one of two situations:
* Not knowing what the next step is. When someone’s lazy at school or at work, it’s usually because they have no precise clue of what they are supposed to do next. Hence the evasion to something they understand and enjoy better. The big picture is great in the boss’s head but those on the shop floor need precise instructions.
*Knowing the subject at hand is important work. Transformative work. We all resist transformation, even for the better. 99% of people would rather continue a life of misery than face their demons. Mistreated wifes rarely leave their husbands. Mistreated employees rarely leave their abusive bosses. An antilope will often face lions on solid ground rather than jump into the water. The unknown is scary.
I knew what to do but was subconsciously afraid to get started. The dent in my hobbyist satisfaction created by my lack of printing was obvious and clear to me, but hardly powerful enough to spur me on.
For a happy and proficient darkroom printer, the first digital printing experiences with an clog-addict Espon (10 years ago) and a lackluster (in my hands) Canon Pro 100 had put a serious damper on my enthusiasm and brought my print making days to a bitter end.
Still, I eventually did my research, opted for the Canon Pro-1000 in spite of its lack of paper roll support or digital transparency compatibility, purely on the basis of its rumoured out-of-the-box printing sparkle. Even so, I waited for the last week of the sales, and the very last hours of the week-end to set it up and click the PRINT button. Aaah, dear lizard brain …
As if to mock my timidity, the Canon’s first act as supreme ruler of paper-base arts at Casa Jappy, was to embark on a 40 minutes long firmware update. Take that, procrastinator! In the end, though, I hesitantly clicked go from Capture One, having placed an A4 sheet of some decade-old Canon semi-gloss 290g/m2, and waited.
Oh my! Out came a monochrome print that made my jaw drop. First time around. Warmer and less contrasty than on screen. But beautiful by itself. I’d set myself a very low bar for the week-end : produce one OK print. And that worked on the very first attempt. By that time, smug elation had shoved fear out of the room, and I didn’t want to stop. Funny how you feel like a hero with more powerful toys on your side, right? 😉
I tried three more, from different cameras, both in monochrome and in colour, with similar results : warmer, lower contrast and slightly denser than on-screen. The less PP the image had received, the closer it looked to the on-screen version. But I had clue why or what to do about it.
So, time to stop the childish heroics and give procrastination a second chance to gain a foothold on my future artistic ambitions again, as I embark on the arduous road to getting prints that predictably resemble what my screen is showing. But there’s a renewed spring in my step, knowing that results are already high-five, if not entirely hi-fi.
(scrumptious happy camper sounds)
The joy is not just linked to my new-found ability to plaster my (and my relatives’) walls with ink-drenched awagami paper. I’ve been giving the Printswapping project a lot of though, based on the large amount of feedback received after the first post I published about the idea. But it was kinda hard, cred-wise, to spearhead a galactic printing revival without running a printer myself, right ? 😉 😉 😉
Well, no more. With a solid 12 minutes of printing experience, and 4 A4 prints – on what feels like identity photo paper – under my belt, I now feel completely legitimised. So let’s talk shop. And first of all, I’d like to extend a huge THANK YOU to all those who sent that precious feedback. I learned a lot and it changed my vision significantly.
Here’s a summary of what you gals & guys shared with me :
(*) Print groups exist all over the place. People meet up, show prints to one another, and share techniques. Nothing can replace seeing the prints first-hand. The feedback is great, but also very limited to what/who is available in your area.
(*) Some don’t feel comfortable sharing their prints, worrying that they are not good enough to swap for someone else’s. These people would like to learn a lot from the project.
(*) Conversely, some fear they might send a labour of love and receive a poorly-executed 6×4 in exchange. Some sort of marketplace approach is needed to ensure a standard for quality and valuation is needed.
(*) Some people want to sell, not swap. Some people want to buy, not swap.
(*) Some would like a sort of library from which to borrow prints for a limited time.
(*) Some would like anonymity, so as to avoid cult-like following of a few famous actors, at the expense of 99% of the pack, as is the case on social media.
(*) Some are interested in printing, but have no clue about what it is they want to do. They’re hoping to find inspiration for their own work, swapping or no swapping.
(*) Some want to learn from scratch.
That’s a lot to process, but it’s obvious there’s huge interest in a print-centric community. We all realise that photographs on a screen are just ephemeral configurations of electrons that bring no lasting contentment.
I’ll discuss solutions in a future post. And this will evolve step by step, based on constant feedback loops. But here are a few ideas worth sharing now and about which I would love more feedback from you :
(*) I’ll create a separate website, so as not to be limited by the feature set of the ageing theme used for this blog.
(*) One of my main ambitions is to talk about and promote a common language for discussing photographs in general and prints in particular. When a good wine merchant discusses a bottle with an educated customer, the buyer has an accurate taste in mouth long before the cork is popped. Because both have trained on the same scent boxes and used the same reference wines for semantic calibration, there is neither subjectivity nor ambiguity in their description. We need the same accurate reference set to describe prints.
(*) Another direction I have already started work on is print valuation. How can you tell whether a price or swap is fair if you are unable to share a common agreement on what defines the value of a print, right?
(*) Technical training will come from me as I share what I’ve learned, but also from much more experienced printers who have agreed to share tips and tricks. We’ll also curate great external sources of info.
(*) Swapping, sharing, selling and buying will be possible. I make no guarantees for traffic or sales volumes 😉
(*) A centralised library is a definite no go (at least I’m not handling that, anyone else is welcome to try). But prints can be passed on from on person to the next so you don’t have to keep them forever if you don’t want to.
(*) KISS is the name of the game (as with everything I do seriously). The simplest solution (for me and for users) will always be the one that gets the go-ahead.
(*) This will cost money. On top of what DS already costs me to run. I’ll look into how this can be monetized later, if/when there is sufficient momentum. Maybe affiliate links to printing products, small cuts on sales ? No idea, but I feel it’s important to mention the possibility from day one.
(*) Finally, I’ll keep doing this for as long as there’s enthusiasm for the project. I’m not doing it alone. Life. Too. Short. I’m looking forward to (1) feedback (2) your experiences (3) suggestions (4) spontaneous help from one user to the other and much more. Scared, yet? 😀
As a consequence of all this, a change of name is also in order. So Printswap is dead, long live Pwintshop. No, that’s not a typo, but a fun-serious combo. Just trying to be pwitty. Let me explain :
Thoughts? Feedback up to now ? 😉
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