Finding the Right Medium

The last thirty-plus years has brought technological waves of digital highs cresting into retrospective analog afterglows, and the arts have been—I believe—the clearest mirror of this trend. As a photographer, I remember the first digital camera a friend of mine purchased and his rapid-fire discourse on the specs and possibilities of this new tool. His excitement was palpable. He had his board in the water and an epic set was rolling in. Like many photographers at the time, he saw the end of the analog age and was not going to get left behind. Like many photographers, he has also witnessed a resurgent interest in film.

New mediums may add to the landscape, but the viability of existing forms means that they will still find expression as technology advances. For photographers, this means that we need to know which medium will best present our vision, and that the best medium may not always be the newest. It is important to research your options with the understanding that once your image is off the screen and tangibly in the world the choice you have made becomes as much a part of the image as the subject.

For my own work, I have come to the realization that I flow primarily in two streams. The first one—like the image above—is high contrast with crisp details generally processed in color. The second one also leans towards contrast, but uses gradations to add mood and atmosphere that favours a black and white process. These differences influence both my choice of processing and print medium.

Stretched canvas is a very popular choice for photographs these days, but for an image like the one above my feeling is that it softens the details too much. For this reason, this image is printed directly onto metal using a process that infuses archival inks onto aluminum. The effect is a depth and crispness that makes an image like this truly pop. These prints then have a float mount attached that invisibly holds the print 1/2" to 3/4" away from the wall, thus separating the print from its surroundings and highlighting it further.

Canvas still has its place for me, though. The different textures that are available in canvas offer a finishing touch to a black and white image that enhance a film quality that I love. A finer canvas will retain much of the detail while still adding depth and a heavier canvas will add a painterly effect as well as the appearance of film grain for a retro black and white presentation.

This final step is just as important as the first click of the shutter and your choice needs to be made based on what will enhance your work rather than simply following a trend.

(The links in this post will take you to Bay Photo's website where I have my work printed and where you will find a diverse array of professional options for completing your vision. In Canada, I have found Posterjack to be a great choice for professional printing with customer service that is second-to-none.)

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