I recently had a discussion about printing with Jeff Carlson and Kirk McElhearn for their PhotoActive podcast. The episode, “What to Print,” covered a wide range of topics: we chatted about how I choose which photos to print, why I feel that printing is important to your growth as a photographer, and what it means to call yourself an artist. It was a fun and lively exchange (and yes, Jeff has finally bought a printer!).
As many readers know, I feel quite strongly about the power of the photographic print. It doesn’t matter if you print to your own device or upload to an online service. In this day of small screens and Instagram, Flickr and 500px, we have lost some of the tactile magic that we get in seeing our photographs on paper. There are times when I worry about what will happen to the snapshots and artistic photos we all take over the course of our lives; the digital ‘shoebox’ just doesn’t feel as real to me as the actual ones that many of us grew up with. (I wrote a piece on my personal blog a few years ago, A Life, Photographed, about why the print is such an important part of our lives.)
Ben and I have spoken with Jeff and Kirk before on PhotoActive, and I love their short, focused approach to podcasts. The episodes are only about 30 minutes in length, and they move quickly.
If you’re interested at all about printing, please give it a listen. As I noted during the episode — and in my recent post about the West photo project — I have been printing quite a bit more recently. I should have a review of the new Epson inkjets later this summer, and I am also working on a short book for CDP Press about printing, which we’re hoping to have out later this year.
Elsa Dorfman, the photographer best-known for her portraits captured with a 20×24-inch Polaroid camera, passed away this week at the age of 83. We wrote a little bit about her in our January newsletter, in reference to Errol Morris’ delightful documentary from 2017, The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography.
Living in Cambridge, Mass. (the hometown of Polaroid), Dorfman was a master of the Polaroid 20×24 large-format camera, a behemoth of which only a handful were made. Over the course of 30+ years, Dorfman photographed family members and celebrities in her studio with the large camera, usually preparing two photographs on the instant-film format: one for her and the other for her subject. Now, as supplies of the film are drying up, and with her own advancing age, Dorfman is winding her studio down. (If you’d like a deeper dive into Dorfman and her work, Harvard Magazine did an extensive feature on her, “The Portraitist,” a few years ago.)
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Rick and Ben
I have been in a photographic funk of late, unable to get into the right frame of mind to shoot. Last week, in the midst of this struggle, I knew that I needed to force myself back into my photography practice. I gave myself an assignment: go out for an afternoon and challenge myself, using one lens at a single focal length.
I use this exercise from time to time, to push me out of my comfort zone and get my mind unstuck. I’m not looking for great photographs; I’m looking to practice the art of seeing. And the great thing about choosing a single focal length — whether using one setting on a zoom or a prime lens — is that it forces me to move around a scene. If I find that I’m receptive to the exercise (it doesn’t always work), it can help me see.
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