Thoughts on printing

021-stray-hut-feb-2009

I’ve spent some time over the last couple of weeks scanning and printing some pictures taken in January and February, largely in Yorkshire, Suffolk and Cambridge. I’ve also a small number from the London day trip to clean up and print. Over the last couple of years I’ve made lots of prints of various sizes, often large. The result is that they have been piled up around the office with nowhere to go… However, over the same time I’ve also become interested in the nature of the archives that boxes of old photos offer – and have a few old glass plates from my grandfathers youth around the place waiting for me to scan them.

As a result of all this I’ve concluded that big prints are great for hanging, if the image suits that treatment, but that increasingly I’m making and enjoying images that work on a much smaller scale and wanted a way to keep paper prints of these pictures. Also, I still like the ability to hand around paper prints to (tolerant!) friends and much prefer these pictures to simply viewing on a computer, TV or phone screen – even though as a means of sharing they have their place. There is something about the tactility of a print, as well as the quality of the image being different from that on a screen, that I find captivating.

I’ve decided for the next few months at least to make the effort to print everything that I like – not necessarily great photos, just things that appeal – on half sheets of 19 by 13 inch paper. This gives a paper size of 13 by 9.5 inches, which works very well with prints around 10.5 by 7 inches. There is a nice border that I can write a description and date in and they are a good size to hold and view.

Currently I’m printing on Ilford’s Gold Fibre Silk paper with and HP Z3100, which I’m finding a great combination particularly for black and white work. The print above, on Harrogate Stray*, has lovely deep neutral to very slightly warm blacks and holds perfectly the detail in the upper third of the image. 

For storage, I’ve asked a friend who is a craftsman book-binder (http://www.haveitbound.com/) to make up an archival portfolio box that will hold a couple of hundred small prints. Stephen and David are real craftsman who love their trade and have bound a number of wedding albums for me as well as producing photo albums amongst their specialities. They have produced various very fine bindings and are also involved in book restoration. One paper that I have used for this sort of work is the Fotospeed double sided High White Smooth cotton rag paper, which is a fantastic book paper having a nice ‘drape’.

One thing that struck me today was that this has developed into a little mini prokject of it’s own – something discussed in and following one of Paul Butzi’s posts on photomusings – http://photomusings.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/project-progression-another-view/ –  and initially at Gordon McGreors site photo expressions – http://gordonmcgregor.blogspot.com/2009/02/project-progression.html.

Something else I’ve wrestled with during this process is how many good prints I can make over any period. Quite apart from my dismally low hit rate, the time taken to prepare an image to be a good print can be significant. I’m still working on the Aldborough beach images in my earlier post – https://photosojourner.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/the-perfect-lens/ – and have printed a number of each in an attempt to get the sky both luminous and the correct blue. The pictures of York Station each took a few evenings of cleaning up dust in the film emulsion before being fully printable. As a result of this I’m becoming happier to make a smaller number of pictures that I’m happy with, and am interested to see if the quality of work improves as a result. Certainly the selection process neeeds to be more rigorous if only to make sure that I’m not wasting time.

Mike

* The Yorkshire Strays are areas of common land that are subject to specific, ancient, local law. The Strays are protected and often have particular common grazing rights etc associated with them, although I’ve never seen any cattle on the Stray included in the image above. This area is known locally as West Park or 200 Acres. One interesting part of the law is that the land is common and is not owned by the council, although they administer it. If part of the stray is absorbed by a building project then there is a requirement to add land elsewhere to make good. Strays are also found in York as well as other North Yorkshire towns. – http://www.straydefence.co.uk/, http://www.answers.com/topic/strays-of-york

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