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Re: why not small prints?
As Bill Collins said, there is probably no answer to this. Yet, I would
venture a guess that the common idea of "bigger is better" is a hold over
from painting and drawing. And can be seen as a function over form thing.
Westerners seem to have a problem with getting up close and intimate with
just about everything, so why wouldn't photographs be included.
Additionally, have we all not seen large pictures referred to as "gallery
prints"? I could be way off base with this but, there is probably more sales
of couch art (the piece that one hangs on the wall behind the sofa) than
other forms. This way the owner can view the image from the safety of the
other side if the room. In this we could say that the market is driving
print size. The other side of this is image size can be driven by function.
The placing of large prints in a narrow hallway will be counter productive.
I once attended a gallery show that placed an immense Longo drawing in a
four foot wide hallway. It was ludicrous placement. What made it worse was
that it was the only thing in the hall. Obviously the idea was to "get up
and personal" with the work. Didn't work. In general it would be safe to say
that we Westerners are obsessed with the bigger is better mind set. You
don't have to be from Texas to subscribe to this. What I am feebly trying to
say is that the large picture preference is a cultural thing.
One of the most successful shows I have ever seen was all made up of small
4X5 gum prints. The images were of a very personal and intimate nature.
The prints were mounted in 16X20 over mats. The prints were like tiny jewels
floating in the sea of white. These prints called to the viewer to get up
close and look at me. It worked exceedingly well. I doubt that these images
would have worked larger.
You stated that your images were primarily landscapes. For many people the
idea of small landscapes is counter intuitive. Could it be conditioning
again? Is it one of those old tired rules of photography, like the one third
rule, that landscapes must be huge to show the grandeur of nature? (A hold
over from the Saint Ansel school of thought)
FWIW, you do what pleases you. Don't worry about the opinions of others. You
are your toughest audience. If you are making art to please others, you are
begging for problems and let downs. Do what you do for yourself, everything
else will fall into place.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Shannon Stoney" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, August 04, 2001 6:49 PM
Subject: why not small prints?
> This is a sort of related question to the current thread about negative
> enlargement via Photoshop and various printers and ink systems: how do
> people on this list feel about small prints? I have been making contact
> prints with my 4x5 negatives all summer, in cyanotype. I shot these
> negatives intending to enlarge them, but in the end I decided to print
> as contact prints. I've only shown them to a few people, and after they
> over the shock of the blue, people think they are too small or that they
> would be better if they were bigger. I wonder if this is true as an
> aesthetic judgement, or if it's just that we've grown accustomed to big
> prints in galleries (unless we're looking at snapshots or postcards) and
> could get used to small prints. I mean, why not small prints? We accept
> smallness in the above mentioned snapshots and postcards. My images are
> mostly landscapes; so are many postcards. I wonder if they would "read"
> more acceptably if I called them postcards?
> I guess this question has to do with expectations and how malleable they
> are. I have gotten used to the blue and I hardly see it any more: I see
> range of values and textures and details. I wonder if we could also get
> used to small fine art prints. The first photography shows that Stieglitz
> put together I think were mostly small prints by today's standards.
> Nowadays, photographers tend to make huge prints to show in galleries, I
> suppose to give them more presence and help them compete with paintings.
> But small prints have an appealing intimacy I think.
> Also, when you are making negatives intending to make small contact
> prints, do you restrict yourself to certain subject matter or compositions
> that you feel will "work" with small prints?