Image Makers vs. Print Makers


General Photography

There’s an interesting post over at Susana Raab’s blog about Image Makers vs. Print Makers. Quoting John Gossage (“There is a belief I have noticed among the best of the young, that a good picture is a good picture, no matter how it is reproduced. A belief I completely agree with.” - let’s ignore the “best of the young” bit), Susana notes that “I empathize with both a bit. Seeing the same image in I don’t know how many different complex incarnations leaves me a bit cold, but when I am looking at a gallery wall, I do want that print to be the best it can be […] - but I want content to be there as well.” (more)

This seems like one of those debates where you can talk forever without arriving at any conclusion that everybody can agree on. I used to think I looked at both, too, but the more I think about it, the more complex it all gets. It seems obvious that some people are image makers and others print makers. But even though we can think of obvious examples for both categories, I am almost tempted to think that maybe a lot of photographers are image makers and print makers, and, to make matters even more complicated, that the relationship between image making and print making is asymmetric. A great image will look great regardless where you see it - a great photograph reproduced in b/w in a newspaper will still be obviously a great picture - whereas a mediocre image won’t get saved by it being printed by a master printer.

As much as I am not very happy with badly printed photographs I often think that there also is some sort of fetish of the print around. It’s a bit like what we can see when we talk about photobooks, where for some people the only thing that matters is whether the book is printed on hand-made endangered-tree paper, using inks produced from rare minerals harvested in outer space. You know what I’m talking about. The danger of that is, of course, that with such an approach a photo book done in newsprint is unacceptable - whereas, in fact, there could be fantastic reasons for using just that.

And at the risk of getting tons of emails telling me that I don’t even know what I’m talking about, some ideas about printing frankly seem somewhat irrational, in particular when it comes to digital printing.

So I suppose I am focusing more on the image after all. What I remember, after all, is the image and rarely - if ever - what it looks like, unless it’s printed so badly that the bad printing ruins it. Or maybe another way of saying this is that when I notice a bad print it might be because the image itself doesn’t really grab me that much.

Feel free to email comments, I’m happy to add them here.