T4 : Thoughts about scale and some doubts

With the increasing realisation that the A5 prints that have been subjected to the diesel will not be the final product of the exploratory project, questions need to be asked about where I see the project ending up. The obvious answer would be in the book form I had always intended, and yes it does remain something I want to look into when I have the final images at a point of finalisation again (those they have been resubjected to the the diesel). Another option would be in reprints; photographic prints made of the dieseled originals at a point in time chosen for the perceived aesthetic interest of the mottled effect.

I will leave the idea of the book for the moment, well for a week until those last prints have hopefully developed in terms of the pattern. Photographic prints are going through something of a reinvention, or maybe they have been through it already. Historically, many photographic prints tended towards the smaller end of the spectrum. Not a hard and fast rule, Oscar Rejlander's The Two Ways of Life from 1857 was some 76cm in length, but that was very much the exception rather than the tule. Now, if you have the money, much bigger things are possible. It's really not uncommon to see enormous prints, thinking back to the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition at the Tate Modern, there were some really large prints - Jane and Louise Wilson's photographs of the Normandy fortifications were some 180cm square. Looking elsewhere, Thomas Struth's Shibuya Crossing measures 184x241cm and Andreas Gursky's 99 Cent II Diptychon 207x307cm (albeit in two parts). Size no longer appears to be (realistically) limited.

So, where does this leave my gasoline stations? I won't be going seriously large, I don't feel that the subject matter suits this anyway. I guess I have three sizes in mind. Firstly, it's the A5 of the original, there's a degree of appropriateness in this. But what of A4 or A3? or even the "logical" sizes of 10x8 or 20x16? Of the enlargements, the A3 size was the one that immediately appealed in theory, but in practice, I'm not so sure. I've printed one of the images (Texaco, Vega) onto the sort of paper I felt might be suitable at the three sizes.


Texaco_Vega
Texaco, Vega, Texas (January 2013)


The image is a difficult one to view as the building is disappearing, but then this is one reason I chose this image for the trial. The first thing I "feel" when looking at the images is that I'd maybe like them lighter. It would make them harder to view, but this would be nearer to the experience I get when looking at them backlit. They would feel more ephemeral, but then I think I need to acknowledge and accept the fact that they won't be viewed backlit and so will have a very different viewing experience; paper isn't naturally luminous! The second thing that I notice is that the larger print feels "looser", like its losing some more of the cohesion that keeps it on the page. It's true that the image is naturally incoherent, the detail is "washed out", it's low contrast and there's the overriding mottling to camouflage the building into the background. It's not working for me, but conceptually I can see why you might want to go this way. The A4-ish is better, but then I do like the fact that you have to get in closer to the A5 version. It feels more intimate, and that's something I've thought for a long time about smaller images.

That said, I'm beginning to doubt if this all works at all. I know what the image is, what it's about. I know the context in which I made it, why it looks the way it does and its relationship to some other work that I have to accept that the viewer may be unaware of, or not fully aware of. Will a series of 26 of such images (ok, 25, + 1 that is "normal") hold the attention of the viewer, regardless of what size they are printed? Will they invest in the images? Am I expecting too much of the viewer? Do I have the right to make those expectations? I really am doubting that. The obscurity of the image, the strained relationship with an original and the fact that some of these places have no obvious relationship, even if the details were there to be seen... Is it all fluff about an aesthetic that I can work around, but obfuscates too much? Hmmm....

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