I went to the International Center of Photography recently and was surprised to find that in two floors of exhibition, only a small section of around 7 photographs was presented as prints. The rest of the images were shown on digital screens.
Perhaps my shock says more about me than the ICP, and at the risk of sounding like an old fart, I can’t help but think something is lost when photos are presented on a screen. The images have a transient, ethereal quality to them, making them more disposable.
In fact, they are just that. We are all used to taking a bunch of pictures on our phones and deleting the bad ones. (Is there a giant warehouse somewhere full of deleted pictures?)
But it’s more than that. A print has its own history that it carries on its surface as a patina and scratches and creases. It has a scent, and fades, perhaps unevenly over time. It may have passed through many hands, and lives in a place and time in people’s memories.
There is a photograph of my mother as a young child that was hung on different walls as we moved from house to house as kids. The photo was taken before I was born, but I have memories of that image that are anchored to the parts of my life that are attached to each of those houses. Now the picture hangs in my sister’s house.
A print has soul, and these memories are carried in the soul of the print.
If you love a picture, have an archival print made by a professional photographer, and hang it on the wall.