Has Photography Gotten Too Big?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by ReginaldSMith, Jun 16, 2018.

  1. ReginaldSMith

    ReginaldSMith Subscriber

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    Printed photographs just keep getting bigger. I mean REALLY bigger. Yes, there is Gursky with his 12 foot photos,. but even less accomplished photogs are printing out ever larger images now that dot printers can come in billboard sizes.

    Does size make pictures better? Is 16 feet by 20 feet somehow really better than 16" x 20"? I guess so. Or maybe not.

    Size of photographs seems to be correlated to the size of hamburgers, which now have four patties, plus bacon, plus a chicken breast or two.

    Personally, I think it is a stretch.
     
  2. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    Ha ha... a 'stretch'. :D I think you may be blowing it out of proportion. :smile:
     
  3. Bruce Walker

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    Yes, but it's a not-too-big / not-too-small situation for me.

    I like to be able to appreciate nuance and detail in photographs. In printed books 11"x14" is about as large as is comfortable to hold -- though that size means kind of squashing my lap. Vincent Peters' Personal is an example.

    Small books and tablets with 8" long side are as small as I'm happy with. Images can be enjoyed, but detail is invisible.

    Smaller than that, especially smartphones, forget it. Only good for quickly scrolling Instagram and almost immediately forgetting the images.

    Really huge prints are useful to "compete" with gallery art. I had a landscape exhibited at a local art show a few years ago (my personal moment of fame!) and it was dwarfed by the other media works in the show. The bulk of the photography was grouped into a neat cluster on one wall, probably so the pieces wouldn't be ignored. One guy had a landscape photo (Gursky-like) printed about 6'x6' and it was magnificent looking. Very impressive in that gallery setting.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Not really.
    Big has become accessible though.
    It used to be that it was really difficult and expensive to obtain big prints. It is still fairly expensive, but it isn't nearly as difficult.
    It remains really difficult to obtain high quality big prints.
    Big has its place though. Jeff Wall's Cibachrome/Ilfochrome (and now inkjet) wall size pieces come to mind. They were/are however envisioned, designed and executed with that type of presentation in mind.
     
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    ReginaldSMith

    ReginaldSMith Subscriber

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    So, in most of the galleries I've visited in the last 10 years or so, the average photograph seems to be about 45" wide and greater. And in the average home the average TV has grown to about 65" or so. Correlation?

    I don't find that the pictures improve with just size. Now, if they are making them bigger because homes have become so much bigger and therefore the wall over the ever larger sofa needs a bigger piece of art, then that might be an explanation.

    Super size me?

    I believe painters needed bigger canvas to perhaps include better detail. That doesn't really hold true for photos though.

    Bigness is its own virtue?
     
  6. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i don't know ...
    30 years ago i was talking to an old photo teacher i had. i told him i had a 11x14 print washer and he said
    if he ever got one of those he'd need a huge one because he prints large ( i think at that time he was either making 16x20s or 20x24s )
    i asked why so big he said photography competes with painting and "printmaking" and prints and paintings are very large so photography has to be ..

    i think it is great that technology allows photographs to be any size the end product needs to be. i got a text message from a client showing where
    some of my work is on the wall and it makes a grand piano look like a child's toy, its kind of fun :smile: is it necessary ? nope
    i would rather print small .. like smaller than 8x10 .. i think it allows the viewer to have a more of a personal connection to hold in their hands and
    see how the design of the image works &c .. big enough to fall into is nice too but not the same feeling.
     
  7. Luckless

    Luckless Member

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    To me it comes down to What is the photo's purpose? Where is it being displayed, and why is it going there?

    Are you putting together a collection of photos to go in a book that one can enjoy while sitting somewhere comfortable and flipping through while sipping away at a coffee? Well then something in an 8x10, or even smaller, probably makes the most sense.
    Is the photo going to be going up as a wall display as part of an interior design space?

    I much prefer the overall interior design of a fairly limited number of individual visual items in a space. I find it cleaner and more pleasing, but at the same time I'm not super keen on having a tiny little frame around a small photo on a giant and otherwise bare wall. While it would of course meet the desire for a limited visual distraction in a space, it would still feel overly empty for the most part - In comes a larger print and frame.

    The larger prints also come with more technical geekiness as they still require more skill and ability to do well. A small 4x5 can hide minor sins in an image that become far more glaring if you try to print them at 48".


    But at the end of the day it really comes down to being able to print at a range of sizes as it offers more flexibility in how you build up a space. Decorating isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of problem. Maybe a 48" print is what would work in a space. Maybe a dozen 8x10s in an arrangement would work better. I rather have a body of work on hand that allows me to product what works best for the space I'm in.
     
  8. Bob Carnie

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    No - I love big prints, just the same as I love small prints.... We are all in agreement that big prints from sketch input is not good , but when you get the right input and output a big print rocks.
     
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    ReginaldSMith

    ReginaldSMith Subscriber

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    For just decor reasons, I suppose anything goes.

    For viewing a photograph, the same rules apply as to distance, resolution, cone of confusion and all that. Billboards are big because you are far away. If I hang a nice 16" x 20" print on a wall you can view nicely from say 3 feet or so. If I make it 16 feet and 20 feet (Gursky'esque) you really have to be back about 100 feet to have the same viewing experience.

    I had a photog pal who shot 8 x 10 and refused adamantly to ever make anything other than a contact print. He did marvelous work, and I never thought less of any picture he made because it was "only" 8 x 10.

    I suppose ultimately the answer - as always - is: Because we can.
     
  10. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

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    And yet, painters and muralists have been making huge paintings and murals for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    If you start by considering a criterion based solely on (very recently established) "rules" propagated only by technicians and practitioners of a single medium (photography), you're massively limiting how humans respond to art, let alone what intentions an artist may have in producing a huge-scale work.

    A suggestion that a Gursky might fail some sort of 'viewing experience' test because "you can't get far enough away" itself fails a test - that of recognising there are extensive criteria for judging whether an artwork has been a "success" in anyone's eyes.

    The one that immediately springs to mind is that of the immersive experience of being in the presence of a huge piece mounted in a relatively confined space.

    There are dozens of others to think about.

    My suggestion: Read some books about art in general - art history, art crticism, art theory.

    If you read only books on photography you'll end up only being able to think photographically, and that's a pretty rotten cu-de-sac to end up in.
     
  11. halfaman

    halfaman Member

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    As mentioned before, digital printing (inkjet specially) has made a lot easier to do bigger prints. Optical enlargements in the scale of foots are very complicated to do regularly, demands equipment that it is not at hand for many people.

    For me smaller prints need proximity of the viewer giving a more intimate conection. Larger prints increase the size of the detail and give a more inmersive experience.
     
  12. mooseontheloose

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    I do think larger prints have become the default over the last decade or so, but for me, I still prefer smaller prints. My favourite photographer, Michael Kenna, prints small - he used to do 8x8 and has gone slightly larger, but not by much. I've gone to exhibitions to see older photographs (HCB, Weegee, etc) - again, small prints. That said, I agree that larger prints can provide a more overwhelming experience, but it depends on the subject matter. And unfortunately I've seen large prints set up in small spaces where there is not enough room to stand back to appreciate the entire work. I prefer the smaller print experience - I feel like it's more immersive, since it's just me and the photograph - no one is going to step in front of me to ruin the connection I have with the print, and I love seeing little details (like the texture of the print) that is missing with more larger, more modern prints.
     
  13. awty

    awty Subscriber

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    It should be in proportion to the distance away from the picture the viewer is able to glance at the picture with one eye closed and see the whole picture. Other wise its just decorative. So to me it is about the space. Nothing worse than a big picture in a hallway.
     
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  15. Sirius Glass

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    No, not really. You print the size you want and they can print any size they want. It is not like they need your permission.
     
  16. jtk

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    Seems like the usual reason for defense of small (including contact prints from 8X10) is an alibi for not having technical/financial capability to print big.

    Galleries that commonly show small prints do so because they are badly laid out physically (and then, badly lit) ...they don't expect many viewers.

    IF one is interested in viewers other than oneself, one might consider that other viewers might WANT to view big prints.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
  17. faberryman

    faberryman Subscriber

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    How big do you have to print before it is no longer an alibi?
     
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    ReginaldSMith

    ReginaldSMith Subscriber

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    I was speaking of photography specifically.... Just so we don't go of the rails.

    As to immersive experiences with a photograph, would anyone name a specific photograph for which the size in particular enhanced the viewers understanding? Again, I'm not refer to the demands of decor.... I'll let the interior designers justify that. I'm referring to the nature, meaning, content of a photograph. (Yes, I've viewed some really, really huge ones.)
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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    Laughing my arse off. Possibly the funniest and sharpest reply I've ever read on this forum.
     
  20. jtk

    jtk Subscriber

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    I print as large as I can manage.

    The test and goal of any image, for me, is my maximum: 13X19. If that image works at any size it'll work at 13X19. Same, same.

    This isn't a philosophical issue.
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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    A modest size by nearly any standard.
     
  22. faberryman

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    It's got alibi written all over it.
     
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    ReginaldSMith

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  24. jtk

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    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018
  25. jtk

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  26. Theo Sulphate

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    My feelings as well.
     
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