Or, is it just a series of pixels on a monitor?
I’m 65 years old. I started sniffing Dektol when I was 5 years old. There were years that I didn’t have access to a darkroom but, for the most part, the darkroom has been a place that I enjoyed.
My darkrooms have varied from the Community Darkroom at Antioch, to a garage in San Diego, to a laundry room in our little house in Yellow Springs, to the current darkroom which is quite large with an 8 foot sink and a film drying cabinet.
We printed a very high percentage of what we shot. We rarely printed black and white prints on RC paper. Fiber base double weight; Agfa or Ilford and, in the distant past, Dupont Varigam and Varilour. When color came to town with Cibachrome in the early 70′s I embraced it. I had been shooting slides for many years. When we traveled, we took 10 one gallon plastic bottles and and E4 (later E6) kit with us and processed film in motel bathrooms. When Agfa introduced the Agfachrome Speed process we used that,too. It sucked.
So we had negatives and we had transparencies and then we had prints. And we put the prints on our walls. We rotated them regularly and we were always re-living an experience by seeing the pictures.
Then digital imaging came to town. At first the quality of the cameras was so low that getting a decent 8X10 print was a struggle. As file sizes and sensors improved it became easier. It was still not easy to get a decent print at home. Printer and paper profiles were just coming along and I didn’t know anyone who had calibrated their monitor. There were quick fixes. Anyone remember Genuine Fractals? Take a small file and re-sample it to a big file. Right.
Then Epson made printers and ink began to flow. Actually, I think the first home printers of any quality were dye sub printers from some company that I can’t recall. Was it Primera Pro? You had to use their paper and ribbon and the quality wasn’t bad but the consistency wasn’t good. So, Epson basically gave away printers and hoped to sell ink by the gallon. And HP and Canon saw that this was a great idea so they came in, too. So, we entered the New Millenium of home printing. We had wide format printers that allowed 13 inch widths. We had many paper choices and we had either dye based printers or pigment based printers. For a few years everyone was printing. And oddly enough, as the software became better and the files became MUCH better and the sensors surpassed the resolving ability of lenses, people stopped printing. It didn’t happen overnight but you could see the decline. Pictures were shared on Facebook or by email or by websites like this one.
So now we have the conundrum. Serious photographers still argue at great length about ‘smearing’, ‘soft edges’ , ‘pixelation’ , ‘water color effect’ and which raw processor is best. And then they want to share an image that they’ve done on a poorly calibrated monitor and sent to someone who has NEVER calibrated their monitor. I know; this is a sweeping generalization, and maybe everyone reading this calibrates their monitor regularly. I’d be surprised, though, if that were the case.
So here’s what I suggest. Let’s print again. If you don’t want to make your own prints, and believe me, I understand if you don’t want to, go to Costco or Sam’s Club and have some prints made.
Personally, I just found a lab that makes analog prints from digital files. I’ve had three orders done by them and the quality is as good as anything that I could remotely hope to turn out and considerably less costly on a finished print basis. If anyone is interested, this is who I use
I have no connection to them except as being a satisfied customer.
So, stepping back to the wall. I have prints that I like. I also have an old Logan Mat Cutter. And I have Nielsen frames that I get from American Frame Company. Cut some mats, put some frames together and now I have pictures that I can hang on the wall and re-live our trip as I walk by and see them.