From Light to Ink: An Exhibit Using Canon’s imagePROGRAF printers
Just past the Highline stairs on W 28th Street (but not quite to the Hudson River) last Friday, Canon held their V.I.P. gallery opening for “From Light to Ink” at the Joshua Liner Gallery. The show was organized not only to highlight Canon’s line of imagePROGRAF printers, but also to promote discussion about printing photographs in the current digital landscape where photography currently largely exists. I was excited to be able to attend the event for photo.net. I’m a huge fan of seeing printed photographs, and as a photographer and with the retouching and toning work I do for other photographers and artists to prepare their work for books and large scale prints for shows, it’s always good to get to see the prints from a printer I’m less familiar with.
To give you a little background on the event, the “From Light to Ink” show featured 8 photographers: 4 established photographers as “Inspirers” and 4 “up and comers” who were chosen by the Inspirers. The Inspirers were John Stanmeyer, Rafael Concepcion, Karen Grubb, and Jacob Santiago and the winning selections were made from work that was submitted to the contest using #fromlighttoink on Instagram and/or Twitter with a theme of “Embrace,” though what was embraced was left up to the photographers. The winning photographers were flown to New York City for the show and their photographs professionally printed by Griffin Editions on Canon’s RC Premium Photo Luster paper using the imagePROGRAF iPF9400 60" printer at 30″×40″. The free trip to NYC is nice, but getting a large professional print of your work as a prize is amazing!
Canon went all out for this opening, with a film crew, open bar, and hors d’oeuvres. The Joshua Liner Gallery is a great space for this size show (twenty-one 30″×40″ prints) with a large front area and smaller back area. The winners’ images were on the right as I entered, and the first image that welcomed the attendees was a black-and-white image of a backlit father and infant called “Embrace Joy” by photographer Erin Monroe. Monroe comes from Florida and specializes in birth and newborn photography, and her image is incredibly effective as a large print; it really invites the viewer into a very personal and tender moment. The print also stands out by being the only black-and-white image in the show, and it shows off the tonal range produced by the Canon printers.
“Embrace Joy” by Erin Monroe
The next work was a dynamic photo titled “Salt Flats” from Shelby Hickenlooper, a wedding photographer from Utah. In the photograph, a figure flies above a reflective pastel expanse (a salt flat sheathed in frozen water) and he is the one solid point in an ephemeral landscape.
“Salt Flats” by Shelby Hickenlooper
Following and contrasting with Hickenlooper’s image is the photograph “Straw” from the third winner, Boston-based portrait and fine art photographer Rachel Tine. This image was all about shape, contrast, and line. A figure stands, bent at the waist, on a wooden boardwalk that wends its way through tall marsh grass. The image has been given a warm tone that enhances the earthiness of the color palette, and also a higher contrast that helps pop the shock of the bright orange hair that flows out from the figure’s lowered head like a flame. The color, contrast, and line create a visual crunchiness that was satisfying to the eyes.
“Straw” by Rachel Tine
The final winning image, “Sounds of the Pacific,” finds a wave crashing with a figure, lit by the rays of the setting sun, pushing her way through the water above it as seagulls float overhead. It seems like a lot going on, with the aggressive surf and the gentle airiness of the birds floating in the clouds, but California photographer Michelle Nicoloff pulls it off flawlessly: color, tone, and line moving the viewer’s eye through the whole image and back again.
“Sounds of the Pacific” by Michelle Nicoloff
Just past the winners’ photographs, Canon had an imagePROGRAF iPF8400S on display. It’s an impressive looking printer, though not nearly as colorful as the photos on the walls. However, the imagePROGRAF iPF8400S does have the ability to print 44" in width at 2,400 × 1,200 dpi, with 8 color inks, on a multitude of paper stocks.
Shortly after I arrived at the opening, a representative from Canon gave a brief speech welcoming everyone to the opening and then asked the Inspirers to introduce the winners. Rafael Concepcion introduced winners he selected: Erin Monroe and Rachel Tine. Karen Grubb introduced her selection: Michelle Nicoloff, and then Jacob Santiago introduced his pick: Shelby Hickenlooper. Next documentary and National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer was introduced as “lead Inspirer” and spoke briefly about the need for the printed image, how we as photographers, and the public at large, need to “physically see” photographs in a “tangible way.” He continued by saying that producing prints is a way to avoid the loss of our “photos and history” to a possible “digital dark age” (a time when we will not be able to view images as pixels on screen or on our digital devices). I fully agree with Stanmeyer’s sentiment and would add that printing photographs gives us the ability to consider them in a much deeper way, as well as being part of the tradition of photography that goes back to its origins.
I thought that the photographs selected for the show (both from the Inspirers and the winners) had a diversity of both color and tone that is important for an event organized in part around printing and printers. On viewing the prints, I felt that some lacked a bit of detail in the dark areas and that the yellows and greens seemed less saturated than the reds and blues, but my guess is that this was due to a mix between the files not being optimized for large scale (remember, if possible, always know what your final output is before you shoot) and having to be upscaled for 30″×40″ prints, and possibly also the glass and lighting in the gallery. Considering those factors, I have to say that the imagePROGRAF iPF9400 and Griffin Editions did an amazing job with the printing, because if these are the results from not 100% technically ideal files (which, face it, is what the majority of photographs today are), it gives us an idea of what can be expected in typical usage. It also speaks well of what can be done with the printer if a photograph is being shot specifically with this scale and the imagesPROGRAF’s range in mind.
With projects like “From Light to Ink” and gallery shows like this, Canon is doing a great job in their push to create a connected workflow from camera to printer (or “Light to Ink” as it were), and their outreach to photographers and on social media for this show is an important part of getting their message out there. A commitment to printing and creating physical documents is also important. If you, as a photographer/image maker aren’t printing at least a few of your own photographs, you’re doing yourself the disservice of never seeing your images fully realized. Printing allows you to take what was traditionally the final step of ownership of the a photograph in the creative process, not only in the look and feel of your image, but in the ability to share it and have it viewed in a different way. Projects and shows like this are a good reminder to us all of the power of printing.
Kevin Goggin is a New York-based photographer/retoucher who has been working in the field of photography for over 20 years. He has a BS in Studio Art from Skidmore College and a MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Kevin has worked as a photographer in many capacities, some recent projects include work for Banana Republic and Isopure. He also works as a Digital Retoucher and has worked for photographers and ad agencies on commercial projects, as well as artists such as Sarah Charlesworth, Matthew Pillsbury, Charles Traub, and Manjari Sharma, among others on their fine art and book projects. Kevin has also taught photography and retouching since the early 1990s and even spent time teaching in India.