Ah, The Difference a Print Makes

The photographic print defines today’s photographer. That’s it right there. Doesn’t matter if you originate on film or a digital sensor, it’s the print that defines the photographer.

What have you made lately? Show me your work, let’s see your photographs?

I’d go so far as to say that those making photographic prints are the only true photographers left in the sense of the word. The evolution of making “electronic still images”, which is how I think of digital photography–it’s dependent on a powered screen and the creation and delivery system are the same, the camera phone/screen for the most part–has changed what used to be photography into glances and note-taking. Hey, look here, I made an image, I sent it to you, neither of us will ever look at it again, we’re done! That cannot be considered photography in my opinion.

Costco photo print rates.
(Note: I have no affiliation with them.)

A print costs pennies. This is the price list from Costco, which prints on Fuji paper and makes prints if you don’t have the ability to print at home, either in a darkroom or a digital printer. You cannot say the cost is prohibitive!

It’s the complete lack of interest in printing that has changed, and has made a generation of electronic still image makers what they are, snappers and swipers, and has led to the decreased number of photographers.

Photographers. Because the photographer makes photographs.

A simple frame from the thrift store and a 19-cent print.

There will be no photo albums for young visitors to family homes to peruse in the future. There will be no gatherings to see the family photographs. There will be no snapshots to be found and looked back on.

They’re already gone. A small handful of photographers like myself can bring attention to it, can speak out about it, make it our cause, but we’re mostly speaking to other photographers.

I feel like both a DINOSAUR and a PHOTOGRAPHIC REBEL shouting out about the need to make photographs. I’ve told stories about how my partner MaryLee had a roll of color film to process, so she took it to the local Mike’s Camera shop here in Boulder and got prints made at the time of development, put the prints in small frames she found at a yard sale, and gifted the photos to the people she photographed. They were amazed and said, “What a great idea!” This isn’t a new idea, it’s just that we’re so far removed from doing it.

It would be like if someone liked to cook, but all cooking had evolved to being microwave only, and someone went back to cooking with real ingredients from scratch on the stove and in the oven. “What a great idea!” No, it’s not. It’s not about speed all the time. The quickest way is only one way, not necessarily the best way all the time. A phone snap is fine for simple notes, but it’s not photography.

You can drive the interstate and see nothing of an area, or the back roads and see small towns and meet people. You won’t get to your destination as fast, but is the destination the only thing that matters? What about the journey?

The journey is precisely why I shoot with film cameras and digital SLRs. Both have their purpose. I love reading when there’s a post online about why people shoot film nowadays and how adamant people are about being done with it.

I especially enjoy how they say film shooting is so expensive while they’re perusing a web site touting multiple thousands of dollars in new DSLRs, lenses, hard drive storage, cloud backups, computer upgrades and software subscriptions.

A roll of film in my Rolleiflex on Christmas Eve cost me $6, I processed it myself for maybe $1 at home in HC-110 and will print some photographs for the family and it was fun doing it. It was a treat to shoot that large negative TLR and now I have negatives that will last and photographs that will exist.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is film.jpg

I guess this is my crusade. What I feel is most important to write about, to talk about, to encourage new shooters to become photographers, to make photographs.

Why does it matter? Well, I guess to most it doesn’t. But I also know that once something is gone, there’s no way to go back and get it again, save it in a photograph, so I am trying to be forward-thinking. People in today’s culture might see no need for making photographs, but one day, I believe they will wish they had.

That’s why I write. That’s why I print my photographs and gift them to people.

Because these photographs are of the most important people in my world. Their photograph is their proof that they matter. Their photograph is lasting, and that’s something that’s become quite rare nowadays.

And why I’m a photographer.

Want to support my shows? You can, just visit this link at Paypal, or go to SupportKenneth.com to add your monthly contribution to keep the lights on!

Check out my YouTube Channel of Photography Talks: my 6×6 Portraits Blog (you’re here) and my Daily Photography Podcast. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Ah, The Difference a Print Makes

Add yours

  1. I *don’t* make prints very often. The reason is that I don’t want to store them! I have limited storage space. My negatives take up enough room already, as do the prints I made back in the pre-digital days.

    However, I have on my mind a project to review my work and print the best of it. I’d like to print these images enlarged but uncropped on 8×10 paper. I imagine having maybe 100 prints, a collection that would grow slowly with time. When I’m gone those are the ones I will want my kids to have. The rest of the scans on my hard drive, all the negs, they can just pitch.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A friend just asked if it could be right that Walgreens, while it says they develop film, it says they DON’T return negatives. Do not destroy negatives, definitely the most important part of the process!

        Liked by 2 people

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