I'm fortunate to have met one of my closest friends, Kao, at the beginning of our [young] adult lives. We grew in tandem, cultivating parallel lives in the world of computer science, eventually transitioning to the world of photography. It was my friend Kao, who turned me onto the magic of developing film and opened my eyes to the possibilities of producing color negatives on my own. Amazingly enough, he had gotten it down to a science, developing film in his shower, at a time when I was still making the regular pilgrimage to the drugstore to have my images developed. Following his lead, I too learned how to develop film in the comfort of my own home and to this day, I’ll never forget the feeling of developing my first roll of film, or calling Kao immediately after, raving about how amazing it was to see my own developed color negatives.
I became addicted to developing film and the gratifying feeling of really owning the creative process—the feeling of capturing an image and re-creating it in printed form. I transitioned from my makeshift (kitchen) workspace to developing in a darkroom and began printing black and white images on RC, in time, graduating to Fiber paper. After juggling the storage of contact sheets, selected images, and photo supplies, I bought a scanner. The purchase of the scanner led to the purchase of a multi-function printer, which of course led to printing.
At the time, I was convinced that digital cameras were a wasteful invention, given that slide film gave me everything I needed: the finished image, in sequence, with the film stock and numbering conveniently built into the design of the film. It was only after discovering the health implications of frequently cooking e6 chemistry over a kitchen stove that I considered purchasing a digital camera and (reluctantly) made the transition to digital photography, shelving my beloved Kodak Retina Ia.
I remain in contact with Kao, bonded by our love for life, photography, and technology, frequently picking his brain about all of the above, whenever we have a chance to meet. We were recently discussing the Ricoh GR2, musing about how Henri Cartier-Bresson (the quintessential photographer), would most likely have turned up his nose at the Ricoh, unimpressed by it’s 28mm lens and color sensor. We continued our conversation, discussing various other digital cameras on the market, when we were reminded of the looming possibility of data loss and the nature of preserving our images, in a now digital world. With our memories and most precious moments being captured through a digital medium, to be stored and displayed on a digital medium, the threat of loss is very real and very close to home.
That’s why we print...
Printing an image is one of the most expressive and meaningful ways to preserve a memory. While cloud storage and backup/data recovery services have grown to be exceptionally reliable, the fact still remains that in the digital realm, our images remain out of sight and out of mind, housed through whatever storage service can “do the job.” As a result, the majority of our most cherished memories are simply added to photo archives and never seen again. This absence of tangibility facilitates the feeling of expendability— something our memories and life experiences certainly are not.
The advantages to printing photos extend beyond preservation or nostalgia. Through printing, we learn to truly see what we have captured. We learn learn the value of seeing an image without backlighting. We learn how incident light affects a print image. We learn the best way to present our images and ideas. We rediscover the joy of photography. We share it. We become better photographers.
Not all printed images have to be “good” or “professional," to be shared. Believe me, I see plenty of terrible photographs on digital and museum walls alike. What it comes down to is that printed pictures have the power to move, inspire, and communicate, well beyond the digital workspace. The time for photography is now. Printing has reached an incredible point of quality, affordability, and convenience all rolled into one. No more excuses— start printing!