Size Matters

An aspect of digital photography that I quite dislike is everything is the same size; and now with Instagram, everything is becoming the same square aspect-ratio.

How boring and monotonous, every photo being the same size and aspect-ratio. What a loss, the ability to express any additional meaning by the print size.

If you go to a museum and see Richard Avedon‘s life size prints from the American West the impact is far greater than seeing the same images on a mobile device. Life size, you see all the detail and can relate to the subject differently. On mobile, scroll, scroll, scroll.

Obviously, the solution of only going to museums to see artwork is not really practical; but it is worth recognizing using only digital screens does miss out. The photo book offers some solace.

I have a large collection of photo books, one thing I dislike about photo books is trying to display them on a shelf, they are a mess. All these oddly shaped books and sizes, nothing stacks or fits together.

Ah ha! The artists create their books with different sizes to convey different meanings. I had this one book on skyscrapers, the book was very tall and narrow, probably a 1:6 aspect ratio, what a clever way to show off skyscrapers best!

Bigger isn’t always better. You can convey feeling and emotion by small prints. One of my favorite photos is this small 2.5″ by 3.5″ print of El Capitain. I bought it from some bin with random photos for 50 cents each.

Here I can hold in my hand the majestic rock monolith from Yosemite. It makes it more of a precious place that needs protecting; in contrast to a large majestic print of the same place by Ansel Adams that conveys awe and wonder.

After 9/11 I started a series I called Small World. My idea for the series was to print out these huge buildings as small prints you could hold in your hand showing how delicate and fragile they are.

I started in the darkroom, and still 20 years later haven’t gotten to scanning and digitally printing out the project properly. I tried to create that feeling digitally, you can view Small World online but it still misses the size and fragility aspect I was looking for.

I offer no real solution, just something to consider when consuming and producing media. Especially during this quarantine, the consumption of so much comes from the same digital screens, it’s a blessing that the access exists, however we lose some impact in the process.