There have been many changes in the photographic world since the introduction of digital, and whether you like these changes or not, they are set to continue for many years to come. In the same way that we had CRT televisions, we now have flat screens, and the revolution of the mobile phone from house-brick to something smaller than a box of Swan Vestas has been nothing less than astonishing! We all know that the digital sensor will get better and better (the manufacturers probably have them on the shelves now!) and image quality will improve massively in the next ten years, but all of these advances are only one part of the photographic journey.
Digital cameras using CCD and CMOS chips are sensitive to the 'near infrared' but to avoid corrupting the image an IR blocking filter is built in.This camera is modified so that it can only shoot in infrared and this is accomplished by removing the camera's infrared blocking filter and then installing an infrared filter which is situated in front of the camera's sensor which blocks visible light. The camera will then function normally in almost every way with full auto focus, auto exposure and normal through-the-lens viewing.
I will state here that I embrace and love everything about the digital world of photography and I look forward to unimaginable improvements that are inevitable, but before all of this one thing was the ultimate goal. The print. Along with all of the above-mentioned advances, the modern computer monitors are wonderful pieces of kit and we can sit in awe of our images as they glow in luminance and detail, but is this where the digital age of photography has led us? Is this fast becoming the end of the so-called journey? I began my photographic days almost twenty-seven years ago using film cameras. The negative was only part of the journey, which had to be completed in the dark room, be it colour or black and white and this is where the difference lies. Your monitor is not a print.
Whether you are still using film or grasping the technology of digital photography, the process of printing a picture and holding it in your hand, for me, should never lose its poignancy. If I sound like an old stick in the mud I apologise, but there is substance to what I say. To glide your cursor over the button that says ’Print ’ is not printing at all. Printing is creating and nurturing the true potential and essence of your composition ’prior ’ to ’clicking print ’. It was for this reason alone that there were master printers who where consummate craftspeople in this very important part of the photographic process. In some instances you can rely on technology and in others you simply cannot.
I recall vividly the wave of technology that hit the music world in the early eighties and the power of synthesisers and more specifically ’sampling sounds ’. Many thought that was it! If you can sample an instrument ’s sound and process this on a computer then the job is done and you will no longer need musicians and the concerts halls of the nation would fall into ruin. Though this is not the case and the concert halls are full and thriving. Why is this? The human touch, creation and feeling, emotion and intuition. It is these ingredients that we need to bring to life the image as our sensors and film are not capable of this and only take us part way. Whatever post production software we use is academic, the very fact that we have, in much the same way as a dark room, the controls to refine the raw information in our digital files (or negative scans) is another step in the journey to producing what we saw when we actually made the exposure.
The next stage for me is the making of the print. As I mentioned, we can all look at them on our monitors after we have added, our refinements, but it is the final print that is the photograph for me. There are several reasons why I believe we should make prints as photographers. There is a certain degree of longevity about having a print to hand. Digital information can be stored and backed up but it remains as digital information and has to be processed every time we want to see the image again. To do this we have to switch our computer on and find the image and open it. Whatever you think of this process, it is a barrier that lends itself to images being forgotten about and generally not looked at often enough. There is of course also the concern of data security. I can trust a piece of paper but I would never trust a computer or external hard drive. These things often go wrong and I cannot believe how many times I have had a device fail only to breath a sigh of relief in the knowledge that all the data was backed up in triplicate!
On my return I converted the images into monochrome using Photoshop and with a few simple adjustments using colour sliders in the black and white converter and some simple selections with curves the images came to life. I was taken by the clarity and quality of the images from this camera and could not pull myself away from my monitor until I had processed many of the image files
In simple terms the print is the final solid testimony of your moment with your camera. It is the final script and the final performance. It is tactile and you actually experience it in your hand or when looking at it displayed on a wall. In a way it becomes yours for others to share. I do not expect everyone (nor do I myself) to print every image that you deem as a success, but the final print is the completion of what you went out there with your camera for. Let ’s not forget that our monitors emit light and in doing so glamorise the finished result. The print is quite an honest object presenting you with reflected light only, which is what we use to photograph with. As with the introduction of synthesiser, we now have small LED picture frames, but as with the concert halls, I suspect we will never see galleries filled with monitors displaying the works of great photographers. Thanks goodness for that! Long live the print
© Paul Gallagher