The Dilemmas of Digital Image Making

I must admit to being deeply conflicted as a digital image maker. I love the image making. But, and this is a big but, I really hate the physical stuff necessary to present my work, like printing and framing. Truly and profoundly hate it.

Photographers and digital artists come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, for sure. Some like the chemical darkroom, some like the alternative processes, some adore the perfect lab print and others love a perfect digital print they have done themselves. Others love to experiment with digital printing on all sorts of surfaces, doing transfers and such and others treat their print as only a starting point for a long development journey.

A recent conversation with a friend also showed that there is another type of image maker, the type who enjoys the making of the image, whether it is the capture with a camera or the rendering on the computer, but who do not really like the steps involved in presenting our work physically. I had thought it might just be me, but obviously not. And this got me thinking.

My wife is a painter and the great thing for her is that the process of making her art also makes the artefact that gets exhibited and sold. Now I know that is not quite true of all painters: watercolourists need to matt and frame their paintings, as do printmakers. But acrylic and oil painters can, if they want to, just exhibit and sell the painted, stretched canvas.

In discussing this with my friend Tony we both came to the conclusion that, in so many ways, the old Polaroid film that gave use both a nice print and a negative for later work, was perfect for us. Well of course it wasn’t perfect, with the negative and positive having different ISO settings. But the idea of a shooting process that automatically produces the resulting artefact to exhibit is not a bad one.

Sadly, it isn’t there with photography these days. We can shoot with digital or film, but either way this is only the start of a long process. And no matter what you do it is a lengthy process from there to a finished, exhibitable image.

Now the printer manufacturers claim it is a one stop job to print, but we all know that is not true. Aside from the processing to get your image ready to print, there is also the stuff to do just to get a good print, from calibrating your monitor to adjusting profiles and more.

It strikes me that my feeling about it cannot be that rare. We see masses of people uploading huge numbers of images to places like Flickr and Facebook (F is for Foto, after all). But those numbers are not also appearing in people producing hangable images. So something is stopping them, either the cost, time, expertise or just the interest in going to all that hassle.

So what is to be done? Well, for many people the solution is not to print, but to simply upload to some site.  For others it will involve only occasional printing. And of course many photographers and digital artists actually enjoy all that mucking around with printers, matt cutters, glass cutters and framing. It would be nice of the printer manufacturers and others found ways to make the whole process from printing to a hangable image much simpler.

Of course, it is also a waiting game. Eventually large electronic flat panel displays will be cheap enough to allow, those who want it, to avoid the whole issue of printing and then framing and go straight to the electronic display. I know I am one who can’t wait.



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