I really love how connected computers and phones have made the photography community. I love how accessible and democratized photography can be because of the Internet and social media. I love how brilliant colors are on screens, and I love backlit photos immensely. But I hate how hard it is to really see photos on screens
Outside of maybe the largest computer monitor, you’re cheating the size of most images. Even side-to-side, an 8x10 image on screen just doesn’t seem to have the oomph and readability it does when it’s a really nice print. It’s dramatically worse when you’re viewing on smartphones. This isn’t a major problem for some head shots and some mid shots, but for wider photos? It’s rough. And my online viewership seems to mirror this.
It seems like my most successful images on Instagram tend to be mid-to-close photos, and some of the ones I am some of the most disappointing reactions seem to come from wide shots where the subject seems to shrink out of existence on even phablet screens.
I’m down with playing to the audience, but I also have a detail obsession, and those are particularly lost on phone screens. It’s a bit disappointing, but current trends also promise to boost plans of mine to remedy this.
In this New York Times piece** , David Sax calls analog the “yin to digital’s yang.” Instead of advocating some unrealistic luddite rebellion, Sax suggests that the older technology can provide a balance for digital’s shortcomings.
Indeed, I love shooting film and I love making wet prints, but that’s not really the point here – my point is that digital photography is groovy, but when it comes time to view it, it’s really tough to beat a fine print. I’ve been spitting out proofs of my shots for months and I always swoon over the photos in print, and always wonder why I don’t just print everything. That kind of thinking has been mixing with those digital shortcomings to change my social output of late.
After trying to post a picture I am pretty fond of, only to realize Instagram just has to trim a bit off the top or bottom of it (an image I think can bear no significant cropping), I threw up my arms. The only solution left was to put white bars on the side, and then it would be even smaller than normal. I pack 50 megapixels of medium format detail and color into every shot I can, and I obsess over shadow and highlight details to boot. The answer can’t be “oh well.”
Sure, those details don’t determine if they’re good or bad photos, but I feel like the emotional oomph of an image can be subliminally influenced by such lushness. And how am I to fully impress upon you the vastness of something you can hold in the palm of your hands? How easy is it for you to get lost in a print with notifications buzzing, new pictures loading and scrolling to do?
It’s why I’ve decided I’m just not. If you want to see the photos I’m working on, you can see them in an upcoming printed book like I've been talking about, and on the walls of a gallery space. I’m super into democratizing the gallery experience, so … I’ve got ideas.
So hang in there, I’ve got a few more photos to shoot and edit, and we’ll finally have that book. I’m not going to hang onto it forever, and I’m going to try to take a small, experimental, approach to this, and not apply the pressure of making some *real* photo book.
* What, I can't make a Prince pun?
**https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/19/nyregion/photo-darkrooms-high-schools.html Also worth a look.