more on presentation

by julie posted September 12, 2007

Considering presentation, and how it affects our perception of images, I wonder if it goes the other way as well – that some pictures have a natural inclination towards being shown in a particular way? Think about one picture: imagine it first as a snapshot, a 6×4 or 5×7 glossy lab print out of a wallet full that you shuffle through. Now, upgrade it to a small framed and mounted print, no more than 10×8 or A4 size. Then, imagine seeing it as you browse through a coffee table book… up the ante a little and maybe you have a 20×30 canvas wrap, or go all out on a 2 metre wide perspex backlit display! Now, does that change the way you perceive the image itself? Is it more difficult to visualise in some forms than others?

Can you do an image a disservice by showing it in an inappropriate format? I can imagine the impact of a busy forest scene being lost in a small print, or a simple, graphic shot too big to take in, at a couple of feet wide. I suspect there is an acceptable working range on average, but an optimum for each particular image.

It’s something that struck me when I printed and framed those little handmade paper rough edged postcards – they are 6×4 inches (ish) and even then, printed with a border so the image itself is relatively tiny. I used a generous mount and a A4 frame, and I think they look pretty good! I would usually never have conceived of framing such a small print before, and yet, it really seems to work with these.

It makes me wonder – should you be concerned about the ultimate presentation of the image before you see it on screen (or paper) for the first time? Is there a benefit to choosing a format, and appreciating that at the point of capture – to the extent that it actually affects the creative decisions you make at that point? It brings to mind someone like Michael Kenna who doesn’t seem to print large – usually 8×8 inches in fact. Sometimes this can be a product of the technology – I read today someone saying that they don’t enlarge, they only contact print, because that’s when you get the highest quality. “If you want to go bigger, use a bigger negative”. They also put it down to certain qualities of paper and chemicals, giving different tones from a contact print than an enlargement. But when we shoot digital, there are no concerns of this kind – so does it make any sense to limit our production methods? Could it possibly be like using a single prime lens, to refine our vision and take away all the extraneous complications involved with too much choice…?

One Response to more on presentation

  1. size matters in some cases. i first saw the work of laura letinsky in small prints and wasn’t impressed. now i’ve got a couple of 6×10″ prints in another book and i love’em. i can only imagine what one of the original 38×50″ chromogenic prints look like.

    her prints feature smallish objects on much larger table tops. without a decent sized reproduction the objects look like dots and the space just doesn’t sing like it should.

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