The last two years I’ve printed a collection of photos from the year for my nan. Last year she got about 20 A4 size prints on the second best quality paper Staples have. I put them in a project wallet I bought in the pound shop and gave them to her on Christmas day. She can see them online – my parents can easily show her pictures on their phones or computer. For her though, I always want to put the paper in her hand. It feels more real.
There’s just something that much more satisfying to me about a picture in hand. Today I got home from a study / shoot / eat burritos with Shane day out in Tokyo to my copy of Void Tokyo Vol. 1 sticking out of my mailbox. At ¥1900 (inc shipping) it’s one of the most beautiful things in my apartment right now. Long before the project was announced I followed a bunch of these photographers online. There was a few weeks when I was first really getting into shooting street where Tatsuo Suzuki‘s website was just open on my laptop. These are photographer’s whose work I’ve admired online for a long time. Actually having work in print on the table is a different thing altogether. Looking through this ‘zine’ – actually a fantastically put together book more or less – for the first time today actually had my heart racing. An experience an image on a screen very rarely brings about.
I can never quite put my finger on what it is about prints that I love so much. In January I was at the TOP museum where I stood for an absolutely ludicrous amount of time at a Takehiro Nakafuji print on the wall. I went through the rest of the exhibition, pausing for extended periods in other places, but I went back to that picture three or four times and just kept looking. I looked at that photograph for longer than all the pictures I saw on Instagram combined that day – and the TOP museum is a fair train ride from here. There’s always an picture or a painting at an exhibition that really fucks me up and I can’t get away from. On multiple occasions since I arrived home today I’ve sat back down at the table, opened up Void Tokyo Vol. 1 and just poured over it.
Maybe it’s just the size of a print. I find myself noticing things like wedding rings and watches that would be lost in a smaller format. In this book there’s a Tadashi Yamashita photo of a girl with ホームページ (Homepage) written on her hand. No matter how hard I try and convince myself that an image on a screen is enough, it never is. I don’t think the ebook will ever replace the book (although I love the ebook). I don’t think the MP3 will ever replace the record (although I love mp3s). I don’t think the think Line or WhatsApp will ever replace sitting down down somewhere and talking (although I love Line and WhatsApp). I don’t think Instagram or web portfolios will ever replace the feeling of a photograph in my hands (although I love (and sometimes hate) Instagram and web portfolios (which I don’t hate at all)). Nothing beats the tactile beauty of a printed picture.
When I sit down to edit my own photographs, doing my quick keep / delete scan, I find my attention pulled away unless I’ve got the lights off and sides closed in Lightroom. Just the photograph, everything else completely blacked out. And it’s still not the same as having it in your hand. Over the last few days, since watching this Nick Exposed video about zines, I’ve returned to the idea of putting something together for people other than my grandmother. I have almost no idea what that something is or if it’ll ever go further than asking Yuka to look at the convenience store printed contact sheet I made today. I think I’d like to though. I’m happier with anything I’ve made when I can hold it in my hands.
Today I printed 50 photos in Kyodo Family Mart. One A3 contact sheet and then small prints of each picture, roughly cut. I went to Slow Hands (wonderful coffee shop) and just started sifting through them. Laying them out in different ways on the the table, seeing what was there. With prints it’s so much easier to move things around and when things are easier to move around, it’s so much easier to see patterns. It’s so much easier to pull a photo out and look closer. To pull a photo out and stick it out of the way for a moment.
I scroll through Lightroom looking for something. I scroll through Instagram looking for something. But with a book or a print I feel like I’m looking at something I’ve already found. On the other hand, there are an incredible number of photographs I love deeply that I’ve never seen a print copy of. Photographs that I look up when I want a little inspiration. Of course I think there’s incredible value in photography online. Shit, I made a website that’s just a bunch of photos online and me talking about photos online. For all that though, nothing makes me more excited to shoot than a photograph in my hands.
Tokyo, April 2017