Twins, Cherries, 20×20”, Inkjet Print, 2012
Can a photograph produced on any modern printer compare to a silver Gelatin print in quality of image?
I don’t believe they are the same objects. I should say that this does not apply to color, which digital ink jet and light jet printers are doing a gorgeous job with. There is something about the embedded silver halides of a traditional BW print that ink laid onto the surface paper can closely replicate, but not replace. Also, the process of printing black and white is special – it’s done in darkness, with heavy chemicals, zero ventilation, and usually music blasting from an old stereo covered in crusted fixer. I spent five years printing BW for a photographer in Providence, Rhode Island where eight-hour days in the darkroom sometimes yielded only 1-2 prints. There is a romantic quality to the wet darkroom. You are engaged with that print, you watch it appear, you touch it. On the other hand, printing digitally allows for a sort of stream of consciousness decision-making that encourages more experimentation and risk-taking due to immediate evaluation. I think we are seeing an exciting intersection between the two now in the fine art photography world, where there has been resurgence in materiality as process and subject.
This Isn’t What it Looks Like, 18×30”, Inkjet Prints mounted to aluminum, 2014
In Darkroom Development, the process the choosing of the image to print becomes much more important because of the time invested in the process of developing and printing. Does this contemplation of wisely spent time lead to better editing decisions for the photographer that chooses to develop images using the darkroom?
No, not necessarily. Some of the best decisions are made in-camera, but we lose track of that later. So I don’t believe that the best decisions are necessarily made from a labored place. Spontaneity, flexibility and play as an artist are very important to the process of making. As a photographer, you have to figure out a way to connect your shooting self to your editing self to your printing self to your exhibiting self. Sometimes work happens in small windows of time, other increments are separated by months or years. Photography is bound to time, the photographer decides how to use it.
Other Human Things, 10×10”, Inkjet Print, 2011
Where is photography going?
The medium is being expanded continually, particularly as camera and imaging technology becomes more and more ubiquitous. The stability of photographic “truth” continues to be challenged as images are constructed through varied sources and captured continually. There is now a place in fine art photography for craft, anti-craft, work that sources pop Internet imagery, works that mimic traditional and construct histories. There will be a continued blurring of commercial, conceptual, and documentary lines, and between still, moving, and interactive media. Photography is actor and spectator. Its self-reflexivity invites constant commentary on the everyday while obscuring it. It bears witness, inflates, describes, then consumes and reduces once again. Social media will perpetuate a desire for constant, streamlined documentation of our lives, and we will get it.