Monday, February 4, 2013


Conventional wisdom among Fine Art Photographers is that one should process ones negatives and prints to ensure that they last as long as possible. Matting and framing likewise. Please use only museum grade eternal mat board, light-proof glass so that the print will never be harmed by radiation, and a lead frame to keep the neutrinos at bay.

As I have commented before, in general you are simply not that good. Nobody cares enough. Your eternally preserved photography will, within a few decades of your death, wind up in the trash, discarded.

Let us suppose that you are that good. Let us suppose that your print which truly captures the essence of something or other does survive to be admired 200 years from now.

Our best available evidence suggests that, 200 years hence, your print will be admired for being 200 years old and not much else. It will be interesting not for the moment it froze in amber, but because it froze in amber a moment, a moment that is 200 years old. Nobody will much care about the content, or the artistry. They will be interested in the age of this relic, and what, if anything, can be gleaned about their ancestors from it. Old paintings, precisely because they do not freeze a moment, are interesting as art. They haven't got the inherently more interesting feature of captured reality that photographs enjoy, to overwhelm their artistry, their technique, and whatever other features of a painting are interesting.

After due consideration, I don't want my work revered for being old. I do want it loved for being good, but this appears to be an essentially ephemeral phenomenon with photographs. If you want reverence and respect for the artistic value of the work, you must (as far as we know) accept the ephemeral nature of that reverence and respect.

If you're ok with your work being respected merely for existing, then by all means process archivally and stick it in a steel box engraved Do Not Open Until February 2213. Assuming the box doesn't get lost and the world does not end, your freakish black and white two dimensional thingies will be much admired for their strange ancientness.

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