In the digital world of Flickr and the plethora of online photography applications, we don’t often think about making actual prints. Hell, Polaroid has even stopped making film. In my staff photographer position, 90% of my work goes straight into printed publications, but rarely do we have a need for actual photography prints. I find this interesting, especially because prints where the basis of my interest in photography until I started shooting professionally. When I was a kid running around with small point and shoot, having the film developed was the unveiling, the moment when I found out if I’d actually made any good photographs.
This continued on a grander scale in college when I was developing and printing my own photographs. For the first time I was holding 8×10 prints in my hands – what a magnificent feeling. Seeing your work on such a scale, on heavy, glossy paper which gives even ordinary photos a sense of gravitas, is one of the things that first pulled me into serious photography as an adult. The same goes for theÂ darkroom – these sour odors and the rituals of developing film in cannisters and loading negatives onto the enlarger while maintaining light purity made me feel important, made the work seem more important, perhaps than it was at the time.
Despite all this, I never develop film or make my own prints, mainly because I never shoot film. Everything is digital and in a lot of ways I miss that ritual of creation and the ability to hold prints in my hands. Recently I made photos of an engagement party for some friends, and afterwards I sent my files to Adorama for prints. When I picked up the photos yesterday, I felt that old feeling of satisfaction at being able to physically hold my work in my hands. The 80+ photos (printed snapshot size at 4×6) came in a manilla envelope, which felt, as I tucked it into my jacket pocket, like a heavy envelope of payoff money, mob style. Those snapshots of an event seemed so much more important because I was holding them physically in my hands.
Of course, making prints of all my work seems like a frivolous expense. Not to mention, where does one store thousands of prints in a New York City apartment? But none the less, I think that I miss prints enough that I’m going to do more, find a way. While digital is the future, and we should embrace it as the industry changes, I have to remember to go back and hold my art in my hands.