Does holding a print change the photograph

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Christopher Colley, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. Christopher Colley

    Christopher Colley Member

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    ello I am sure this has come up around here.. maybe not so directly. ...maybe more so..


    How do you feel a photograph changes, or not.. when a print goes from being in your hands to being hung on a wall.. or perhaps even in a mat that you can hold

    More directly.. Does having a tactile experience with a print change ones experience with a photograph? How we see it? View it? Change its effectiveness?



    My personal bias as a printer is toward the tactile, i enjoy books of photographs.. I like how paper feels, textures.. the stiffness.. when I choose printing materials I go for tactile properties than tonal properties.


    I remember as a student being exposed to the photography print room at the art institute of chicago.. Being up close and personal with some of that work really changed how I felt about photographs.. There was no picture frame, No Glass..Just prints, some with no mat. If I wanted I could pick up a print in a mat and hold it at an angle to see the texture and gloss in the light.. I was in control of how I got to experience that photograph at that time.. It was just like how I experienced my own work at home. With very little limitation.


    Once my prints are on a wall in a frame I feel like they become a different kind of object and therefore in someway they feel like a different kind of photograph..

    I am used to printing my work and organizing the good prints from the bad ones.. sometimes something goes in a mat on the wall.. sometimes the prints get bound in a book.. but rarely ever framed and behind glass. I nearly only have tactile experiences with my work..

    It feels odd to lose that tactile experience for me. And I wonder how much of other peoples work I may have missed by not having a tactile experience.
     
  2. David Lyga

    David Lyga Subscriber

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    Yes, texture is part of the aesthetic experience. Brush strokes and lighting direction are highly relevant factors in the painting world. Thus, 'painting with light' is really (at least potentially) more of the same.

    There really WAS a reason for all the surface types available when photo paper was king (30s through 60s). 'Tactile' is not a dirty word and sorrily, today, the 'tech crowd' thinks that viewing on a screen is a 'better' and a more advanced way of imparting images. (I do hate those 'Kindles' which rob one of the 'right' to make penciled notes.)

    I am so happy that I am no one's 'facebook friend' (whatever that means in real parlance or infers in actual communicative, humanistic value). - David Lyga
     
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  3. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I never make borderless prints (so they can be handled without touching the image) and for the most part print smaller as opposed to larger. I too like books and have a nice collection. Framing behind glass or having photographs online are just another way of displaying one's work and sharing it with others. Each has its purpose. Without books or the internet our exposure to the vast number of excellent photographs would be lost. IMOP, I'm comfortable with all of it.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  4. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    My favorite print size to hold in hand is 18x24 cm, and I always print on this size with 1-2 cm white border around so that you can hold paper comfortably in your hands :smile:
     
  5. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    To me mounting the print and under an over-mat sort of elevates its status a little bit. I feel that I am able to view the picture differently in that I see the whole picture better.
    When I hold a print in my hands, which I love to do, I always wonder what it'll look like behind an over-mat.
    My preferred sizes are 6x8" or 9x12" (same aspect ratio of 3:4) with 1" border for rectangular pictures, and square I print 6x6" on 8x10" paper, 8x8" on 11x14" paper, and 13x13" on 16x20" paper. I absolutely love holding these prints in my hands, study them, feel them. You mentioned how the print feels in your hands - this is why I love matte paper for example.

    In summary I think putting the print behind a window mat or a frame will distance it from me, allowing me to view it from a 'big picture' perspective where I pay much less attention to the details and appreciate it more from a subject matter perspective, as well as visual impact. But it also robs me of the intimate viewing experience and the wonderful sensation of holding the prints in my (freshly washed) hands.
    My goal is, however, always to get the prints I love at least behind a window mat. To me that's sort of its final destination.

    - Thomas
     
  6. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Christopher - I don’t know how I missed this thread, it must have been that period around the holidays where I was a bit preoccupied. I was just going to start a thread re this same topic but figured I would do a search and wa-la, you started the same a few weeks ago.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your premise that there is this tactile aspect to photography, which I enjoy. I love to print a stack of photos, sit with my family and we all leaf through them. Most prints in my house are hung on an art line, with other forms of art next to them that the family produce. I am so interested in the tactile aspects of my prints that I print on a surface that gives me the most sensory connection with the print (which I won’t mention so as to keep the discussion not about the technicals of the paper brand/weight/finish/etc that I like, but more about the reaction to it). I tried a different brand than my favorite recently, it had a feel to it that wasn’t as good as the incumbent, even thought its attributes were on par visually/technically with my favorite paper and it was cheaper but didn’t pass the tactile test. I agree that one’s appreciation of photography can extend from the capture, from visual presentation all the way down to the physical feel of it. Art is about emotion, senses and reactions to it, and thus all is fair, and to each his or her own - there is no right answer. Great topic!
     
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  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i am kind of torn.
    i love the look of an image in a window mount,
    i love the look of an image framed and even plak mounted ..
    but i make hand stitched books and love the feeling of holding
    an object made of objects and touching the pages..

    i feel like i drink both coke and pepsi and can't decide ...
     
  8. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    A print not finished and hung is kind of like a piece of music not played. That is the performance. While I certainly can relate to the process and materials, a photograph is to be looked at. The content is more important than the form--although the form imparts qualities to the content.
     
  9. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Disagree. This is equating prints/photographs as ultimately vessels of visual consumption.

    One could play devil's advocate and say that if the photograph is seen at all, then that's enough. But to be reasonable, I think round-tabling an archive box of 5x7 prints with friends or other photographers is a heck of a lot more nourishing to the soul then staring at a 16x20 on the wall.

    Saying an unmounted print is like unplayed music is like saying a contact sheet has no point or is "unsung" because it's a collection of frames of no ultimate destination. Even the contact sheet itself has fundamental meaning behind it, mounted or not.
     
  10. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    Ansel said the print was the performance. (The negative, the score.) Perhaps the galley wall is the theater. I think the print in hand and the matted print generate two different experiences. For me my experience changes with the viewing conditions. I like both experiences, but like the print in hand better.
     
  11. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Like you, Doug, I experience the two different ways of viewing the print gives me a different experience.

    I really enjoy holding a print in my hands; it's a very intimate experience that I value dearly. You can feel the texture and weight of the paper in your very hands.

    At the same time I view a print that's mounted behind a window mat as more 'complete', and it's easier for me to step back from scrutinizing the details and focus on the bigger picture (literally). When I finish a series of prints, I try to have them all mounted and put behind a window mat, because it sort of seals the project and allows me to break free and move on to the next one.

    Strangely, though, I don't like viewing prints when they're framed on the wall and behind glass anymore. I still display some of my work and other people's work on my walls this way, mainly because it's the only practical way with dust flying around and cats acting upon their curiosity 'can't help myself but I gotta scratch it' drive.

    I guess I love it all, but how the picture is displayed alters how I view the it, with most certainty.
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    When I'm working on a print, getting exposure and contrast right, dodging or burning, toning, drying and spotting, I have been so close to that image that I see every wart and every wrinkle.

    Handling an unframed or unmounted print often brings me so close that I can't see the forest for the trees. I see every little pinprick, every little dust spot and every little place I should have done something different. At minimum, I need to have them mounted in a portfolio book or else my eyes start going over the print with a fine toothed comb.

    Putting a print into a frame and hanging it on the wall lets me stand back three feet and say, "Done!"

    I was recently working on a bunch of prints, sitting at the dining room table, dabbing all the spots out with my brush. I was bitching and hollering like I always do. While I don't "hate" spotting, I find it so tedious that it sometimes makes me grouchy, especially when I can't make it come out the way I want.
    So, my wife came over and tried to be supportive. She looked at the four prints we have hanging on the dining room wall and said, "These don't have spots."

    I got up close and looked for a minute. Soon, I found them but it took a while.

    Now that I have the latest batch of pictures in frames, I would have to go up close and look at them for a minute, too, in order to see the spots.

    Putting a photo in a frame smooths out the proverbial wrinkles and makes it so I can look at them without over analyzing.
     
  13. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    Ultimately, I'd like to show my work wet in the tray.
    They really do look the best that way.
    Platinum and palladium never look better.
    They gleam and glisten when wet and wetter.

    Doug
     
  14. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Since photography is essentially a visual medium, it's sort of cheating to bring in the tactile element because you are adding an extra sensory experience to the viewer.

    So to me, naturally adding an extra element should increase the enjoyment but most prints are framed and hung so they can only offer the visual experience.

    In all human experience, adding more sensory elements bumps up the intimacy and reaction to something.

    In a practicality point of view though, most people don't have the luxury or adding more sensory elements to their photographs because most photography is frame and touching is frowned upon for obvious reasons. (

    Size also can enhance a print. Because the size of a print is really all about viewing distance, eg: smaller print closer viewing, larger print further viewing, so by definition a smaller closer print is more intimate.
     
  15. ROL

    ROL Member

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    No stating a choice here, but the gallery is theatre. Treating bricks and mortar any other way doesn't serve the work or its audience. That was paramount when I designed and built my gallery. I used theater techniques and terminology in building it, much to the confused looks of the subcontractors: house lights, spots, staging, presentation, ambience, etc. Today's "viewing public", with all the visual opportunities for their eyes, demands dramatic presentation. Proper lighting and presentation sets the stage (literally) for a print on an otherwise blank wall. This is why I take presentation as seriously as the print itself. Many, many galleries and museums are so dreary, with poorly lit artwork, admittedly and unfortunately due to the decided un-archivalness of many works, only the reputations of known artwork typically draws viewers. They are not fit to show robust classically produced photography as intended by the artist (witness the dreary Elliot Porter show at the Getty from several years ago).

    By objective reckoning, how successful were my methods? The gallery, underfunded at the time of its eventual opening, the very day of the October 2008 Stock Market Crash and subsequent depression, did not survive economically. A total and abject failure. Yet, prior to its restructuring into a straight bank, the investment firm of Morgan Stanley, adopted it as their preferred location in which to host their clients. Vogue magazine scheduled a fashion shoot within my walls. Ahem.

    ...Hmmm, maybe I am stating a choice after all.
     
  16. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Good point. Try holding a 30"x40" in your hands. :eek:
     
  17. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    I think that not only does mounting make a difference - but the type and size and colour of the mount matters, too.

    I entered some prints into a competition. They were black and white 16 X 12". I spent quite some time with in the local art shop with the guy who was going to mount them, who was an artist, discussing and trying different sizes and colours of mounts. We settled on a 2 inch mount in chocolate brown with the edges painted (rather than left white). This seemed to lift the highlights and make them glow more than a pale mount would - but a black mount seemed to make the shadows in the pictures seem less impressive.

    I liked the effect, I felt it added a lot to the images.

    I got some sort of prize in the competition (nothing special) and my prints were displayed, along with the other winners and commended entries, in a local gallery. Without my permission the organisers had decided to mount every entry the same way - in a huge white mount. IMHO It made the pictures look terrible.
    I was furious. Never entered a competition since :-(
     
  18. clayne

    clayne Member

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    Which is one of the main reasons galleries/dealers love unmounted (dry mounted) prints. It's all disguised as "it's more archival to not dry mount" when in reality they only care for their own presentation reasons. They want to control the identity and consistency presentation at the expense of individual prints.

    -cl
     
  19. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Subscriber

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    I agree with many points here. But ultimately for me the issue is the way glass changes how a print appears. Unless you have the lighting just perfect on a print framed behind glass, the glass ruins it. It takes away your strong blacks and adds a hint of green to the image, as well as adds glare from lights. I know there's AR glass, but for the money it's not reasonable. I enjoy viewing my finest prints with a matting and holding in my hands. Every bit of detail, tonality, and print color comes across amazingly. It's funny, many prints are framed on my walls. Once in a while I will take them out and view them with just the mat and think 'wow, why can't I enjoy this view all the time??' I have no track lighting in my home, and am considering adding some. All prints are simply viewed with weak ambient room light or sunlight from outside.

    For shows, prints go behind glass which offers protection obviously, but lighting has to be right as well to bring out all the print has to offer.
     
  20. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    This whole thread seems to be arguing that making love to a beautiful woman is better with a fireplace, fur rug, glass of wine, candle light and soft music is superior to a lights out, smack down at midnight with an unwilling participant or a warm quickey before the fucking alarm goes off, will get no argument from me.

    Of course life is not a Harlequin Romance and the closest most of us get to this sensuous experience is boffing our sons teacher in the back of her Mini Cooper after the PTA meeting in the parking lot of the overpriced private school we mistakingly thought would give our brat a leg up.

    So while you lay there fondling your perfect print in front of the fireplace try to remember the rough and tumble world the rest of us live in, with frames and glass and smelly sprays and nail holes in the wall.
     
  21. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    In a Mini Cooper?! At 6"4, 250 pounds, all I would get is a major cramp! But thanks for the post, anyway...I enjoyed it very much!

    How one experiences an image -- hand-held, in a frame on the wall, or on a computer screen -- all has a big influence on how one responds/experiences to the image. All the experiences are valid, just as as my experiences making love -- from the quickies to the all-nighters -- are important to me.