Print is alive and well

Regarding rumors that the digital age is soon to render photographic prints as being no longer necessary or relevant (due to increasing numbers of photographic images being viewed on electronic monitors) speculators overlook the tremendous importance and historic relevance of the physical artifact as being a uniquely necessary and applicable aspect of photographic art. The electronic image could no more replace a fine photographic print, than a synthesizer could replace a violin!

Huntington Witherill

Each time a new technology comes along, it seems there are always a couple of early groups who make a lot of noise about it. Some resist the new thing because “this is useless — it isn’t the way we’ve always done it!” And some others immediately put it on a pedestal and declare “this will render everything before totally obsolete!”

Now, both of those can be true, sometimes. A new technology can fail, but usually not because it isn’t traditional. What came before can go away, but usually not just because the new thing is better in some narrow or simple way.

When I got started in photographic printing, I occasionally had people tell me it wouldn’t last, because sharing digital images on the Internet was going to replace print. Other people would ask me if I was worried that I was wasting my time and money building expertise at doing something that was going to die out soon.

So far, I’m happy to say that print is alive and well. In the era of digital print, by combining the best of digital workflow with the best of physical ink on paper, we now have the ability to make amazing prints on many papers and other media in an explosion of creative possibility.

Beyond that, in a time of digital media fire hoses and strained attention spans, the expressive print as a physical object in real space has never been more relevant. It provides a window into a place where we can slow down, experience, consider, and appreciate moments that are important, meaningful, unique, beautiful or interesting.

Look at a print today. Better yet, make one!

Print note: The image on this post shows a print I made on traditional Arches watercolour art paper with an Epson inkjet printer loaded with warm-toned carbon inks. It’s both timeless in its visual appearance, and state of the art in its production.

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