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My 4 Reasons to Print Photographs

I often compare cinema to photography, in fact both mediums have much in common and are based on the same foundations.

However, cinema (and television) is of transient nature. The images flow in a defined time, established by the director or editor, and never return. Each frame is appreciable only for one twenty-fourth of a second.

Not that cinema is a lesser mean of expression-in fact it’s not–but its nature is very different from that of photography. The photograph is “static” (in the best use of the term). You can appreciate a photograph for an indefinite time, capturing all the details that it has to offer.

You can’t dictate the time of use of a photograph, if not at the opening and closing hour of a gallery. A photograph makes a fraction of a second immortal and makes it eternal in the memory.

Given this characteristics of photography, printing becomes a natural completion of the transformation of a moment in a tangible object. Unlike a movie, you can touch, hold and smell photography prints.

A photograph, as an object, grows old with time and acquires a patina that adds a different flavour to the image, to the extent that today it is fashionable to simulate ageing using digital processing. It is the sabi of the dualism wabi-sabi, the quintessence of Japanese aesthetics.

I consider a photograph “finished” only when it is printed. The photograph on a computer monitor is only at one stage of its evolutionary process, just like the image impressed on film.

Thinking about why I print my photographs, four basic reasons come to mind:

1. Prints are material objects to show

Printed photographs can be hung on the walls or collected in albums to be shown or given away. Holding onto a physical object, touching the paper and smelling its scent adds extra pleasure to reading an image.

Printed photographs are not virtual objects that exist only on the monitors of our computers. Looking at or showing a photograph doesn’t require to turn on an electronic device. Printed photographs are always “on”, enjoyable even by candlelight.

2. Prints represent the vision of the photographer

A print made correctly is the culmination of the vision of the photographer: this is the picture exactly as imagined; there are no intermediaries between the vision of the photographer and the viewer.

Monitors of electronic devices aren’t constant and, unless they’re calibrated, hardly two monitors represent hues, colours and tones in the same way. The same image doesn’t appear the same on two different monitors.

The prints, on the other hand, are constant and faithful to themselves.

A photographer can spend days in tuning an image by adjusting contrast and hue, but to ensure that his audience appreciates it exactly how he has imagined it, he’ll have to print it, anchoring it for ever to his vision.

3. Prints are made to remain

Photos printed on archival paper and with quality inks (or prints made in a traditional darkroom ) survive more than a hundred years. In contrast, there have been countless cases of damaged digital media that led to losses of entire archives.

Of course, prints do not replace a proper backup of your digital archives-practice that every serious photographer should take. However, knowing that there are printed copies of our photographs can give us a little peace of mind.

4. Prints are more beautiful

Finally, prints are frankly more beautiful. A printed photograph has a different light and a unique depth and three-dimensionality that pixels are not able to offer.

In addition, the choice of the type of paper and ink adds another layer to the creative photographer who has one more tool to fine-tune the look he wants for the photograph, just to be faithful to his vision.

Tell me about yourself: do you print your photos? Why? Let’s continue our discussion in the comments below!


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