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Author Topic: Print Small!  (Read 27416 times)

elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2015, 04:31:29 pm »

So if I present you with a 4x5 print, an 8x10, and a 16x20 print, all viewed from, let's say, the same viewing distance of 5 feet, is your assertion that you will apprehend them in essentially the same way?

That there will be no fundamental difference in the way you grasp these things visually?



In that scenario, I will enjoy the 16x20 print, and I will feel frustrated that you're not letting me get any closer to the smaller prints.

People view smaller prints at a closer distance.
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2015, 05:23:25 pm »

I'm sorry - I only realised after posting. It's the cover of the Penguin Classics edition of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling.

http://www.penguin.com.au/jpg-large/9780140444490.jpg
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2015, 06:32:42 pm »

Regardless of the phenomenology of print viewing, the trend in the art world is towards smaller prints. The huge prints of the likes of Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky are starting to look dated.
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2015, 07:53:16 pm »

You don't have to take my word for it. Hold your hand out, palm away from you, fingers spread, at arm's length. Make a note of how much of the visual field that covers.

- Find a print, a painting, any kind of picture that appears about that big. Look away from it, then turn briskly back and fix your view on it.

- Find a similar picture about 4 handspans across, it could be the same one viewed at 1/4 the distance. Look away from it, then turn briskly back and fix your view on it.

Observe what happens in these two cases in terms of eye movement and attention. I find the two cases to be quite different.

-----

Related: what do YOU think it means for a photograph to look like a photograph? Not in some facile sense, but in the sense that the modernists were talking about when they were rejecting pictorialism.


« Last Edit: June 10, 2015, 01:15:30 pm by amolitor »
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2015, 10:11:39 pm »

If all galleries were skinny corridors (i.e. arm's length) your demand for small prints would make sense. An 8x10 print is comfortably viewed at that distance. A 30x40 needs more space, say 4ft.

Given the appropriate viewing distance, I don't believe the process of looking is fundamentally different. The eyes scan, according to the whims of the mind, and a picture is constructed.
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2015, 10:16:27 pm »


Related: what do YOU think it means for a photograph to look like a photograph? Not in some facile sense, but in the sense that the modernists were talking about when they were rejecting pictorialism.




I'm not sure. But rejecting pictorialism was a mistake.
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Isaac

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #26 on: June 09, 2015, 01:35:28 am »

Observe what happens in these two cases in terms of eye movement and attention.

Read a page of text and observe what happens in terms of eye movement.

Sorry, what you think you observe won't actually correspond to the movements your eye makes.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool."
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 01:41:31 am by Isaac »
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BJL

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #27 on: June 09, 2015, 04:34:04 am »

What photography does is two things:

First, it folds up a bunch of the world into a much smaller portion of the visual field. ...
Only for some combination of wide-angle scenes and/or prints "viewed small", meaning from a distance significantly larger than the diagonal size of the print.

Even ignoring the issue of "print viewing size", an image shot with roughly "normal" field of view [focal length matching format diagonal size] and then viewed about "normally" [vewing distance equal to print diagonal] is viewed at the _same_ apparent size as the original scene, and this is hardly an unusual situation. And part of the charm of telephoto and macro photography is seeing the scene "larger than life size"!

All in all, you seem to be taking a feature of _some_ combinations of scenes and print viewing condition -- one that is often an undesired or unintended side effect of print size/cost limits -- and arguing that it is a virtue, or even an imperative given the phrasing of your title and opening sentence.
« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 04:38:27 am by BJL »
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #28 on: June 09, 2015, 09:38:40 am »

Precisely, BJL. I am so pleased to see that someone has actually read and grasped the point!
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Isaac

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #29 on: June 09, 2015, 11:20:37 am »

Precisely, BJL. I am so pleased to see that someone has actually read and grasped the point!

There you go again, not accepting that what you wrote was read, and what was grasped had a great deal to do with what you wrote.

What if you'd titled your comment here -- Seeing "Photographically" ?
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Telecaster

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #30 on: June 09, 2015, 05:20:54 pm »

Whatever the arguments presented here, I've long preferred smaller prints—in the 6x8/9" to 12x16/18" range—to larger ones. This goes for other people's photos as well as my own. IMO larger prints are necessary in an environment where your ability to get up close is restricted. Otherwise not.

-Dave-
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #31 on: June 09, 2015, 05:26:06 pm »

"Print small" is arguably poor phrasing on my part, really. I'm talking about small viewing angles, I think fairly obviously?

Anyways.

That's how photos are actually viewed, in the real world. Sure, there are a few 20x24 prints lying around out there, but most photos are 4x6 or 3x5 or on a phone or on a computer screen or in a book or a magazine, and simply not that big.

I'm constantly frustrated by people who seem to think the internet is a debate society, where the job is to knock the other guy's argument over as efficiently as possible. So, don't bother to try to get what's being said, go nitpick an interpretation of a quote, nitpick a word choice, argue about a minor side detail, whatever you do don't even address the central thesis.

And I am occasionally gratified when someone clearly does grasp the central thesis, and takes a moment to address it. Even if to say "No, I don't think that's right" and sometimes even ".. and here's why".
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #32 on: June 09, 2015, 06:19:37 pm »


Related: what do YOU think it means for a photograph to look like a photograph? Not in some facile sense, but in the sense that the modernists were talking about when they were rejecting pictorialism.


I always thought the modernists (Weston, Strand etc) were appealing for deep focus / clarity (i.e. no blur effects, whether from wide open apertures, specialist lenses, filters, darkroom manipulations, or working-up of the print). Did they have anything to say about the size of prints or the way the eye/mind reads a print? (I'm not well-read on the subject.)

These days the question 'what do does it mean for a photograph to look like a photograph?' is much more complicated. Many of the things that look like photographs are not photographs. They are CGI renders that bear no indexical relation to reality. They would however pass all the modernist tests.
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #33 on: June 09, 2015, 06:38:23 pm »

I always thought the modernists (Weston, Strand etc) were appealing for deep focus / clarity (i.e. no blur effects, whether from wide open apertures, specialist lenses, filters, darkroom manipulations, or working-up of the print). Did they have anything to say about the size of prints or the way the eye/mind reads a print? (I'm not well-read on the subject.)

I'm not aware of any of them, particularly, advocating small prints, or of calling out small prints as being especially "photographic". As far as I know most of them weren't especially interested in "well, what makes a photograph look like a photograph" either. The earliest remark I'm aware of was from a critic. The photographers, for the most part, seem to have been mainly just doing their own thing, which was certainly based on lots of sharpness throughout.

Some of them did print small, however, and they were certainly doing something different, which didn't look like painting.

As far as I know, my thesis that some essential portion of "looking like a photograph" is bound up in, or at any rate enhanced by, small viewing-angle, is new with me.
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #34 on: June 09, 2015, 07:09:26 pm »

If you redefine 'small print' as 'small viewing angle' you then get the strange situation where a large print, say a Jeff Wall, looks like a photograph when you enter the gallery, but looks less like a photograph as you walk towards it. That's not my experience. But I can accept that it might be yours. Generally big prints are shown in big galleries, and if you have an aversion to wide viewing angles it's not difficult to keep a safe distance from the artwork.

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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #35 on: June 09, 2015, 07:14:13 pm »

Print size should be based on image content and the dynamics of the exhibition space.
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #36 on: June 09, 2015, 09:12:46 pm »

Consider your giant print in the gallery:

"The viewing experience from close up is quite different from the viewing experience from a distance" - this is surely not a controversial statement? Dunderheadedly obvious seems more like it.

"One can get more of a sense of the print in a single glance from far away than one can close up" - I don't feel like this refinement is particularly problematic.

"The viewing experience from a distance can be seen as a kind of distillation, one gets less detail, but can grasp more of the gestalt, in an instant, than one can from close up" - starting to bump in to controversy here, perhaps? I think it's a reasonable statement, but not really unarguable. I happen to think it's correct, obviously.

"This distillation, when applied to a photograph of a real thing, can viewed as presenting perhaps a large scene as a single distilled digestible visual object, a distillation of the reality, in a sense" - now I think we're getting to the meat of my thesis, and arguments are likely to arise.

"this distillation is an essential photographic thing, and it represents an important way in which 'a photograph may look like a photograph'"

And thus we have arrived, by relatively easy steps, at the conclusion that indeed a large print may "look more like a photograph from farther away"
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elliot_n

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #37 on: June 10, 2015, 04:57:35 am »

And if the large print looks less like a photograph as we approach it, what does it instead become? A painting? Reality?
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amolitor

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #38 on: June 10, 2015, 09:10:11 am »

How would I know? If I tell you a bird has feathers, and you reply 'this thing has no feathers' then you are on your own in terms of identifying the thing.

Obviously it continues to be literally identifiable as a photograph. But I think I have made a reasonable argument that it loses something essentially photographic as you approach it. Presumably it gains some things as well.
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Isaac

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Re: Print Small!
« Reply #39 on: June 11, 2015, 01:25:18 pm »

All else being equal I think printing large or small should depend on what one wants to accomplish with the print.

"For example, an image that I feel requires extreme sharpness may appear sufficiently sharp at one of the smaller sizes, but is unsharp at 16x20 or larger. Another consideration would be the size of an area with low tonal variation. It may be quite acceptable in a 5x7 image, but it becomes boring or oppressive in a larger size. Sometimes the image may hold up technically in every way, but I simply don't want a large image because it negates the delicacy of the feeling I want to convey."

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