you ever opened your e-mail to find in your inbox several e-mails
with the subject: "Does Size Matter?"
I think you might have. I read somewhere that around 250 billion
of such spam e-mails have been sent all over the world.
In the prestigious Journal of Photographic Arts, CAMERAWORK published
in San Francisco, Vol # 30, this past winter, I came across an interesting
article by Geoffrey Batchen, under the title "Does Size Matter?"
making reference to the intimacy between the viewer and the size
of the photograph questioning through the size of the image presented
the photographic experience. The title of the article I perceived
as essentially being a teaser, however, it never got to humor me
through out the entire article. I wondered how can someone who I
assume receives email and is part of modern society, not have been
the recipient of at least two dozen penis enlargement offerings
claiming that "Size does Matter" and thus made the connection
between the title of that piece and the spam mail which has inundated
all mailboxes from Argentina to Zambia and all the countries in
between in the alphabet soup, by the billions, literally.
As I read the article in further detail, I soon discovered why the
author probably never made such a deliberate connection and the
title simply wasn’t even an intentional pun. It turns out
that in his rather well documented article the existence of the
Internet as a source for viewing photographs is totally ignored.
It would seem according to the examples presented by the author,
that the only public places one has the option to look at pictures
is in the context of either museums or gallery spaces.
Strangely enough, even one of the photographers Mr. Batchen makes
reference to, Seydou Keita from Mali, in relation to the various
sizes of how his images were exhibited in the recent past, is a
photographer we have featured in ZoneZero (here on the internet)
for the past six years, yet the author seems not to be cognizant
of this fact anymore than he is of the internet in general. I am
sure that if he had included the existence of the pictures on the
computer screen in his considerations of image size, his analysis
would have benefited greatly.
Geoffrey states, “Of course putting a big photograph on a
wall doesn’t in itself preclude the viewer from a potentially
intimate experience of it. But it doesn’t help either. Photography
places all its subjects firmly in the past [*]
and this temporal distancing is repeated by larger photographs in
spatial terms, literally pushing us back from the print as well
as from those subjects. But going miniature is not necessarily the
answer either, for intimacy is not quite the same as physical closeness
(you can have sex with someone and not be intimate with them). The
problem here is that intimacy remains a hard thing to define. You
know it when you feel it- that sense of personal, private involvement
with another person or thing, of a shared emotional investment in
that relationship - but it remains a nebulous, not-quite-describable
kind of experience often measured at the level of the body (in the
gut) rather than the intelligence."
If one considers that alone in ZoneZero we have over two million
page views being seen per month (mostly with one image per page
) the number of images that are being reviewed in this manner is
a high enough number that a serious writer simply can not ignore
such new viewing habits. So when the author of "Does Size Matter"
uses such a title without so much as a colluding wink one gains
the impression that he probably doesn't “get it“ when
it comes to experiences outside the realm of his spaces of reference.
The reasonable statement about intimacy mentioned above is most
certainly shared by an ever increasing number of people who are
populating the internet, otherwise the exponential growth we have
experienced would have never taken place.
the issue is the dissemination of images, no museum or gallery can
compete with what is available to be seen on the internet, not even
remotely. As such, the Internet is already the largest museum in
history. And according to my friend Chip Simone, the internet, is
probably the best thing that has happened to museums and galleries
since the di Medici family.
Interestingly enough when alluding to large scale prints, Batchen’s
only references are images presented in museum or gallery spaces,
such as those by Andreas Gursky, Richard Avedon, Thomas Ruff, Cindy
Sherman, yet somehow the large scale pictures delivered via Bill
Board advertisements ( Times Square or Sunset Strip, Picadilly Circus,
Ginza, for instance) or those that appear on the large screen of
Cinema Houses simply become ignored as does the world of the internet,
as if the influence of photographic culture coming from these corners
of the world did not play into the decision making process of the
size of the print.
Interestingly enough no mention is made in this article that the
size of the prints has increased because of a very simple fact:
Because today we can print larger with the same relative ease that
we used to print an 11 x 14 print. In the past I could not even
dream of printing to the sizes I can print today, my darkroom simply
did not have the size to accomplish such a task, neither the height
of the room for the enlarger, nor the size of the trays, for prints
that would go, for instance, to 44 inches wide. For most of my life
as a photographer, I never printed larger than 11x 14, because the
papers were all too expensive and we simply did not have the facilities
to make larger prints, like are so readily available today through
digital technology. By the way, the cause we are mostly doing color
today is essentially an extension of the same reasons. We were limited
in the past by the technical complications all of which have been
superseded in the digital age. With the ink jet printers available
today, you can accomplish what ever your imagination leads you to
do. There simply never was the possibility for me to do color with
the same relative ease of black and white, much as I tried.
What I find so amusing today is that collectors are all of a sudden
jumping on the bandwagon of buying up “vintage” silver
based prints, discovering all of a sudden that the prints we did
in the past which were always put down as not being an artistic
and unique product, were indeed what we had sustained all along.
Prints which could have been bought for a few hundred dollars are
today getting between ten and twenty thousand, because in fact there
were never printed more than just a few of them with all the scarcity
of materials and the limited time to print them. I had always maintained
we had a built constraint in our potential to produce large number
of prints but then the idea did not take hold.
In conclusion, I really don’t know if size matters, but I
do know that facts do, and I am constantly reminded how these are
being ignored very often either by those who write about photography
or those who collect images, and they do so to their own detriment.
I was writing these last sentences, my in box rang and I
received an email, with information that to some degree I had
been expecting for a long time, Kodak was announcing that they had
stopped selling traditional film based cameras, I suppose the impact
of such news will have serious repercussion all over the photographic
world as people will inevitably have to come to terms now with the
facts we have been discussing here in ZoneZero for years.
[ I would take exception to this affirmation that photography places
all its subjects firmly in the past. In the early part of the 20th
century, Albert Einstein saw through nature's Newtonian facade and
revealed that the passage of time depends on circumstance and environment.
He showed that the wristwatches worn by two individuals moving relative
to one another, or experiencing different gravitational fields,
tick off time at different rates. The passage of time, according
to Einstein, is in the eye of the beholder. I thus wonder the photograph
of which watch would be in the future relative to the other one?
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