Printing midwife

Artists need a series of midwives to take their creations out into the world, printers, framers, gallerists, publicists and more …

As a digital photographer, one of my most important midwives is the printer. Before being printed my images are gestating in the belly of my computer.

Photographs look marvelous on a backlit screen, especially the high resolution screens of my camera and the computer. The hard part is to translate that brilliance of light, colour, texture and clarity onto dull absorbant paper.

From screen to paper, this is where the magic happens or this is where the deep disappointment begins. These days one doesn’t have to physically go into a place to hand over high res image files, they can speed through the net to their destination and return, via courier, printed.

This is a most nerve wracking time, as at that point, I have never seen a whole, full resolution printed image. I have only seen a test print sliver of it. I imagine it’s like having horse blinkers on, one can only see whats in front and not the sides. For one exhibition I never saw the full images until they were framed and hanging in the gallery. Giving birth, from digital to physical is a nail biting time, one needs a printer midwife one can trust.

The first question I am always asked when people look at my images is, “What is it?”. I know people are not referring to my subject matter, but are referring to the fact that they can’t work out whether the image is a painting, a drawing, or a photograph. I enjoy leaving them in that liminal, ambiguous space and refer the question back to them, what do you think it is? They usually go through a series of out loud deductions, well the colour looks like rich watercolour, but the image looks so sharp yet in places it is blurred…

People seem to need to satisfy the left brain with the technical details first before they can proceed to visually appreciate the image. They often reach their own conclusion that the work is a mix of painting and photography. This is not too far off a mark since the technique I use is I termed light painting but I tell people that they are looking at a photographic print. This usually really surprises them.

I tell them that I have a special printer who creates this magic for me and they are called ArtLab and are based at the Biscuit Mill in Salt River, Cape Town.

Prints of my images from ArtLab are always super sharp, full of rich color, bright with light with the blacks are how I like them, deep and velvety. Getting that balance right is a trapeze act and I can honestly say that I have never been disappointed, no not even by one print.

For the sake of transparency ArtLab have sponsored some of my exhibition printing, but they would get a glowing review, sponsorship or not.

Printing is the most crucial for photography, it brings an image to life or asphyxiates it.

With ArtLab I have found my printing midwife.


Printing midwife

Laugh out loud in the face of death

I feel like I have tunnel vision. I am busy compositing my images in photoshop, it is not my favourite process. It means day and night on the computer, shifting things a little bit this way a little bit that way, making them bigger making them smaller. It is a bit like editing a film when one is endlessly making cuts, one frame longer or shorter, shifting sequences here or there. It is fiddle precise and tedious. With all those millions of small movements day after day wears down your tendons and muscles in your wrist, elbow and shoulder. My shoulder rotator cuff was just recovering, almost a year later from my last intense bout of compositing, and now I’m wearing it out again.

When making long form documentaries which had budgets, I always had an editor. That was truly fabulous to have some one who could help you sort through the immense piled up knot of raw material you had and put it together so that you had a comprehensible, well paced film. You are always too close to the material to do a really good job yourself. How I wish I had an editor now who could sort through the thousands upon thousands of photographic images I have created and magically put them together into some wonderful composite image. Making films, I would be the control freak on the sidelines, saying do this, do that. My editors would invariably kick me out of the edit suite to go and have a break and get out of their hair. Upon my return they would have put things together in a different way but somehow it worked. With compositing stills, like editing movies, there seem to be no absolute rules. It requires fiddling and fiddling until an intuitive voice inside you says …yes that works.

I wish I had an editor now. But alas I have to fiddle on my own and it is driving me crazy. I look back on a day and realize I have only shifted a few items a little to the left, a little to the right, a little up, a little down. Made it a little bigger, a little smaller, rotated it a little clockwise, a little anti clockwise etc etc. There is no great sense of accomplishment. But like editing all those small adjustments create the final art work or film, otherwise all you have are unwatachbly boring long takes of raw footage and an endless stream of similar looking images.

I don’t know if someone else could create my art works but I would love to have the money to employ someone to try. I love creating the photographs. I find it deeply meditative too look so deeply at and into form, lighting it up from all different angles. This is when I get into the zone, when I find myself so present in the moment that all else falls away, where subject and object become fused into one beingness. It is such a peaceful, joyful, awake state of deep satisfaction that there is nothing that is needed nor wanted nor missing.

It’s hard to return to the everyday mind of needing and wanting, feeling like something is missing. I wish the zone could be a  permanent state but the harder I try to achieve it the further it moves away. Because it’s a state without striving and therefor not achievable.

During the tedious hours of editing, Ruby Wax has been keeping me in hilarious, witty, intelligent, mischievous company. I have watched just about every prankish interview she has conducted on the net and still have not tired or been bored. She has such chutzpah, pizzaz, bravery and clownishness but ultimately delivers a penetrating gaze into contemporary culture and the narcissistic ego, her own and those of her celebrity subjects. She is always surprising.

More recently Ruby Wax has become serious, studying the brain at Oxford and exploring depression, her own and that of others. I suppose her spritely, prankish self couldn’t last forever, or it would become caricature.

So I fiddle on endlessly with Ruby keeping me hilarious, dated company from her old shows. Even if my images are about death, one needs to laugh out loud in the face of the terminal.


Laugh out loud in the face of death