I survived and enjoyed another Photo Plus Expo in NYC this past weekend, and it was my fourth in four years as an ambassador with Canson Infinity. I want to thank the entire staff and management at Canson for inviting me and being an amazing team to work with. That’s not something you often find in this industry, and it’s an honor I take very seriously.
Anyhow, here are a few observations and notes on this years show in and out of the Canson booth that I hope you find useful.
Yes, that’s a list of the amazing artists who have used Canson paper over the past 400 years. I had someone come over and ask me what the connection to “Caravaggio” was, (a name he recognized.) When I explained that the company has been making traditional papers for hundreds of years, and Caravaggio used them, his eyes lit up in a “light bulb” moment. Digital papers are just a part of their whole product line. If you walk into any Michael’s, or other art store, you’ll see a whole line of drawing, sketching, and watercolor papers made by Canson. That’s a rich heritage dedicated to artists and their vision. In fact, if you visited the booth this weekend, you certainly noticed the incredible range of photography exhibited this year, and that’s by design. The “art” comes first for Canson, and that’s one of the main reasons I use their papers.
One of the topics that I often discuss at these shows is the “texture” or “tooth” of a particular paper, and how that affects the image. Many think that once you place a print behind glass, texture is lost and not relevant any longer. However, texture is not just a quality we can feel with our fingers, but can also see, because it affects how light reflects off a papers surface. The smoother the texture, the more direct those light rays reflect into our eyes, and the shinier, or more reflective a paper appears.
A paper with lots of texture, such as a watercolor paper, refracts those light rays much more randomly, and that makes the paper appear flatter, softer, and more dimensional. It also has an aesthetic affect on the image printed on the paper. None of these qualities is lost when you put a print behind glass, especially a good quality glass like anti-reflective museum glass, which is what I use for all my framed prints. Yes, I know you can’t touch the paper any longer, and so that important tactile quality is lost. But the effect of the paper on reflected light is still preserved, and that will still impact the softness or reflectiveness of the paper on the viewer.
In summary, when a person looks at your print, that observation is affected by the refraction of light on the papers surface, which is not affected by the glass in any significant way. The texture still matters.
The Experience of a Fine Art Paper
Another sentiment I heard, even from experienced printers, was that the texture and weight of a paper was largely irrelevant for them because most people do not handle paper by hand, but instead experience them behind glass. But why does this have to be the case, especially when handling a print is such a tactile, sensory experience? “Our customers don’t know anything about papers or printing,” they said, “and could care less.” I totally agree. But what does that matter? Do I know anything at all about how the iPhone is manufactured, or even with what materials? Does that stop me from appreciating the incredible attention to fit and finish, the design and aesthetics of it, and most importantly, the thought process that went into its design when I hold it in my hand? Of course not, and I would argue the same can be said for a fine art print on beautiful paper.
When someone holds a print in their hands, on a heavy 310gm paper, the psychological effect is immense. The print becomes an object unto itself, and they can feel the quality of not just the print, but the effort and attention to detail that went into the making of the print. You create an experience for the viewer, and that is something an iPad or computer monitor can never create.
In fact, when the stakes are high, I never show my work to anyone on an electronic device. I always have my portfolio with loose prints because I know that will make an impression on so many levels that I could never achieve with any other medium. As an example, I had a meeting with a marketing director for a major camera manufacturer this past weekend. I never approach that situation without my portfolio of 13×19 prints, and I made sure to place at least one into their hands. Marketing experts agree that getting a potential customer to touch and experience something physically leaves an impression you can’t achieve any other way.
So never underestimate the value of letting people handle your prints, (regardless of whether you made them or not,) and how that can influence the impression people have of your work and your dedication to your photography.
Updated Gura Gear backpack
Gura Gear released an “Art Wolfe” limited edition version of their Uinta backpack. It has a new brown/black color scheme that looks great. They’ve also developed shallower versions of the modules that fit inside the Uinta for those using mirror-less and smaller format cameras. This leaves more room inside the pack for other items, as well as making it lighter and giving it a smaller profile. Read my field review of the Uinta here.
FLM Tripods and Ball heads
I’m always being asked about tripods, and I’m always on the lookout for any new products worth checking out. I came across some VERY nice tripods from FLM, a German manufacturer which was showing their line of carbon fiber tripods and ball heads. They felt amazing in their quality and smoothness, and I was impressed with how well they felt and operated. I asked for a review unit, and should be receiving one in the coming weeks to put it through its paces. Considering I’ve been in the market for a new tripod system for a while, I’m interested to test a setup from FLM and see how it works for me. I’ll write about it here of course!
Finally, I want to mention a new photographer that Canson added to the ambassador program recently, Wilco Dragt. Based out of the Netherlands, his work is fantastic, and his sensitivity to the landscape and capturing more than just what the eye sees, is very refreshing. I met Wilco at Photokina this past September, and we immediately became friends based on our mutual approaches to photography and life. It was great to see his work prominently displayed in the booth this year. And of course, when he made his presentation to the Canson management, he used his beautifully printed portfolio using Canson paper.
Thanks for reading, and thank you if you came by the booth to say hello. I enjoyed talking to all of you and truly appreciate your friendship and support.