Why print when you can Instagram? – Anirban Chatterjee

Welcome back to a brand new blog series on Fuji X Aus. If you have been playing along at home, then you will have seen a steady stream of blogs containing insights, opinions and experiences from a diverse and talented range of members of our very own community. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these photographers and furthermore teasing out their personal stories and experiences. We have all taken up photography for various reasons and we all have varying skill levels. But often the best bits are the journeys we each undertake.

In this new series, I want to take a look at why many of us choose to only keep our images on digital platforms. Why don’t we print anymore? I remember the days of dropping off a spent roll of film at the local chemist and having to wait days and days for them to call to say it was ready to be picked up.  And the experience of seeing how many of your 24 negatives turned out to be ok prints.  I also remember being in art school and shooting, developing and processing my own film in poorly ventilated dark rooms.  A mate and I even took the time to make our own darkroom in one of the bathrooms in his parent’s house. Plumbing and the ability to black out a window was essential.

But today, we obviously tend to utilise digital and social platforms to showcase our work. Granted it is cheap and quick to drop an image with some hashtags and see it off into the cloud of social media. But we don’t hold on to our best images for our own pleasure as much as I think we should.  And that is a shame and a lost part of the art form. You don’t have to go to the trouble to take up a film camera and process your own images.  But why not take a small step back into an analogue world and print some of your favourites.  Even if you don’t frame and hang them but rather just flick through an album or collection now and then.

I have been a big fan of printing my images and often printing large sizes. Our cameras these days are power-houses that capture insane amounts of detail. Why only use that for an Instagram opportunity on a tiny screen. After returning from each of my trips from Japan I have chosen my favourite image and printed it large. From my trip there in 2017 I printed an image taken on the streets of Shinjuku. 30×40 inches with glass and a frame. And I love the feeling it gives me every-time I see it. Or any of the other printed images I have around my home. I also love the creative process and end result in making photo books. You can read more about my personal experiences with printing here. Riveting stuff.

But don’t just take my word for it. We are going to be chatting with a number of our group members about why they choose to print and how they balance that out with their social media presence. There is definitely something more tangible and textural to holding a print of your work that highlights your pride far greater than a fleeting moment on social media. Let’s get into it with Anirban Chatterjee.

Anirban Chatterjee

Can you please tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from and what is your photography background?

I am Anirban Chatterjee. I grew up in India but now live in Melbourne, Australia. These days I just love to take pictures and make photo books.

Question 2a-2c

Have you ever had the opportunity to process your own films and print them in a dark room?  How did you / do you find that experience?

I became a photographer in the digital age. 2007 to be precise. So, my exposure to darkroom is very limited. In the past, I have developed my own negatives, but I have never printed anything in the dark room. I always felt darkroom printing requires specific skillsets which I lacked and was too lazy to go through the learning curve.

Even with my digital files, I don’t print. Through trial and error, I have narrowed my choices to a single printer (so that I don’t have to play around with ICC profiles and calibrations), a certain type of paper which works for both colour and black & white (Canson Rag Photographique – 310 gsm Classic). Something  I am confident about the output. Also, I follow a very specific post-production process to suit these specs so that I can minimise any variations. Well, I did say I am lazy. Didn’t I?

Question 2b

What are the key reasons that you choose to print your images?

There are a few. First is the archival nature of a photographic print. If you are careful, they will last a long time. If Mr Murphy really strikes hard and all my digital backups fail, at least I know I have a high-quality print from which I can create another file.

Second, I find sequencing my images for photo books easier with prints. I can get those 10c prints, stick them on the wall and sequence for weeks. No need for me to get tied down to my computer. I can simply walk around do my stuff and just keep on looking at the wall.

Third, I find it much easier to show my work as a printed format. My main audience is gallery owners, curators and interior designers and they always prefer to see the final product which will go on the wall. I found it is a great way to manage expectations.

And finally, prints help people to notice finer details. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the relative size to viewing distance or maybe people tend to spend more time looking at a print than a screen. Most of my images rely heavily on those finer details. So I am a little biased towards an output which makes people stop and notice.

Question 3b

What do you do with your printed images? Do you display them? Put them in a folio?

The work prints (the 10c ones) goes inside old school photo albums. For the bigger prints, I do use archival paper and store them in an acid-free storage. I know it is not the best solution, but storage is a big concern for me at this moment. In short, I don’t have enough space to properly mount them before storing.

For the showcase books (or portfolios), I simply keep them in a plastic box as of now. Again, not an elegant solution but until I figure out how to get more storage, I try to do the best I can.  And for more traditional photo books (which I intend to sell), I simply keep them in my bookshelves. They are meant to be there after all.

Question 4

Have you ever put together a photo book and had it published? What was that process like?

Yes, I have. It is an interesting process, very different from printing a single image. A photo book is more about design compared to a single image.

For photo books, there is a conscious decision on the format, the type of cover and the type of paper since all these things need to go together. The decision I took when I created my portfolio or showcase photobook was very different from the one I took recently when I self-published Beneath The Lion’s Head, which is my first narrative photo book. I wanted the showcase book to be more formal so went with archival paper, a formally designed hardcover and a very neutral feel to it. While for BTLH, which I wanted to mimic a pulp magazine, I went with cheaper paper, louder colours and overall a more ‘cheaper’ feel. To an extent, the choice of paper was based on how it will fade or get scratched than archival. One of the reason there is no special edition for this book.

For me printing a single image is like painting where the focus is on the single object. While making a photo book is more like writing where it is more about the mood or theme than individual chapters or images in this case.

Question 5a

Have you ever had your prints on display in a gallery?

Yes. I have been fortunate enough to have a few of my images displayed in galleries as part of different exhibitions and shows. Printing for galleries, especially group exhibitions is relatively straightforward since most of the instructions are already provided. One just needs to follow them and most of the time it turns out to be alright. I am yet to have a solo exhibition in which I believe a bit more rigour and planning is required. But I don’t have a first-hand experience in a solo exhibition. So who knows?

Question 5c

What social media platforms do you prefer to use for displaying your images and why?

I don’t use social media. I know it is a bit odd. But I am too lazy to keep up with the shifting algorithms and like farms and stuff like that. I mostly put up my work on my website and sometimes write about them in my blog.

What are your printing goals for the future?

There is no goal as such. I want to print at home, but the learning curve, logistics and cost don’t stack up. It is more like a wish than a goal. The other idea which I am considering is to create a not for profit print archive of work which relates to Australia in general. I have acquired a few prints but it is still a long way out.

Questions 5b

What advice would you give someone considering getting images printed for the first time?

Printing is a speciality job. For first timers, my advice is to get in touch with commercial printers and take their help. In the process, one may learn a few things but honestly, I think one can either be a photographer or a printer. But I can be wrong.

3 thoughts on “Why print when you can Instagram? – Anirban Chatterjee

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