I think that one of the biggest things that boosts my love of photography consistently is looking at prints. I’m not talking about scrolling away on Instagram — but instead moving away from the device that’s supposed to do everything for us. There’s a specific rewiring of my brain that acknowledges that the prints are just the print. They’re the knife you need when your Swiss Army Knife isn’t up to the task. And most importantly, they remove the distractions that you’d otherwise get.
When I pick up a photography book, there are no notifications of emails, texts from friends or family, reminders to water my plants, etc. Instead, it’s all about the book and I. There, I’m holding a book that’s designed to show me prints instead of a tablet or phone designed to do a ton of different things in a good enough way. To that end, it reminds me to have more respect for the still image.
But there’s a lot that goes into looking at prints.
- I need to be in the right light that makes the art on the pages look the best they can be.
- I need to be comfortable
- There needs to be time where I tell my brain that I’m not going to give into anything else
- I specifically make this time dedicated to myself and falling in love with my craft all over again.
This is an intellectual conversation that I have with myself and that’s critically missing from photography these days. With looking at prints in something like a dedicated photo book, we’re not double-tapping or saving the photos. Instead, we’re sitting there and soaking them in. I wouldn’t dare to fold a corner of the page of something so meticuously outlaid. Instead, I know that the prints will always be there when I open the book again. This means that I treat the images with far more respect. The act of looking through a photo book is to page through image carefully and not just scroll past them quickly on a screen. It’s the near equivalent of sitting in a theater to watch a movie while turning off all distractions vs watching netflix at home. The theatrical experience of feeling the sound on you when Batman beats down some thugs is iconic. And with photo books, you get to have more of a sensory perception of the photographs.
You’re seeing the images in a completely different way. There is no brightness screen, so you have to move and interact with the book and the prints in the same way that you would when using a prime lens vs a zoom.
You’re holding the book, so you need to get comfortable or have a nice table to look at them on.
You’re paging through the images — this is often a two handed affair instead of just using a single thumb. No, your entire hand goes into this process.
You’re hearing the sound of the pages turn and the book spine crack more and more.
Yes, you’re slowing down. And in the most ideal of times and aspects, you’re surrendering yourself to the experience in a way that’s similar to letting music overtake your body.
Looking at prints and going through images is an intense way to experience love of photography; and I encourage every photographer to start printing their work and getting to museums or reading photo books when they can.