Admiralty Islands, Lord Howe Island. Part of the EAST exhibition by ND5 currently
on at Maud Creative gallery in Newstead, Brisbane.
Do you know what a great print really looks like? What should your blacks look like? How sharp and clear should it appear? Is it okay to push the colours, or are pastels a better fit?
Creating a print is what photography is all about. A lot of people start with digital cameras and their iPads or computer monitors, but once they see their images as a beautiful print, their aims and aspirations change. Immediately and for the better. Prints are wonderful! (And I admit I am biased.)
At the ND5 workshop in Brisbane (which will be repeated in Melbourne on the Sunday after Easter), I listened to Les Walkling talk about exhibitions and how he attains optimum print quality. Les also described how he learnt what a great print looked like and I'd like to paraphrase his explanation.
One of the greatest modernist photographers is Edward Weston. When you see an original Weston print, there is a presence and a luminosity about it that is transcendental. While working in America, Les would sneak into the public galleries early in the morning and, when no one was looking, hold up one of his prints next to one of Weston's. This would soon show him whether or not his print was on the right track. He says he did this for several weeks until he finally produced a single print he was happy with.
Les also talks about holding up his hand in front of a print. If your hand looks more alive than the print, you have failed. It's only when your hand looks like a lump of lifeless meat in comparison to your print that you know you have succeeded.
Now, I'm sure I have got these stories slightly wrong, but the message I took away was that we need to look at original prints to really understand what a great photograph looks like. The internet and photography books are great, but they are not as educational as the real thing.
So, how do you get to see a great print? Here are two suggestions. First, visit a gallery. Wow! That was easy! Check out the programs online at your major and regional galleries first as they have a range of photography shows throughout the year. Not all shows are by 'photographers', so be picky about who you use as a role model.
Second, come along to the next ND5 workshop in Melbourne and you will receive an A3 original print by one of the ND5 photographers. While some people may choose to frame and hang it, its intended purpose is for you to inspect and study. It will be an original print on Canson paper using Epson pigment inks, signed and embossed, but more importantly, you can get an idea of the fundamental building blocks of what makes a great print great.
The value of one of these prints is several hundred dollars, but we're including it in the $195 attendance fee. The seminar is on Sunday 12 April at the Monash Gallery of Art in Melbourne. For full details, click here or visit the Better Photography website and look in the shop under Workshops.
(And attendees at our Brisbane workshop should expect a surprise in the mail in a couple of weeks - we didn't forget you!)