Prints online vs In Real Life...

Michael Kenna as he was being interviewed in 2012.

I have just returned home from visiting an exhibition by English Landscape photographer Michael Kenna's of his "France" series.

He's a man with some very strong views as the 2012 interview in his Procameraman (a Japanese publication) interview reveals. Click this: procameraman to read the interview and you'll see what I mean. Now Kenna was (is) a real dyed in the wool film photographer and he uses 35mm, and medium format cameras along with Tri-X 400 film and this shows in the work. You can see the grain structure that many photographers like from Tri-X as well as the transitions through the very definite number of tones it delivers. 

So what were the key messages that I took away from the exhibition?

I honestly don't care what people say or think, especially those who insist when they talk to me that cell phones and mobile is the way ahead. They are fashion victims. Looking at his 8x8" prints (all his work is that size now), dry mounted and properly displayed in a gallery setting, the amount of information contained in those pieces of paper is immense. There is far more detail, levels of gradation, deeper blacks, and whiter whites than I have seen in any online images. The real prints contain a presence that commands one's attention that the web page images do not. They are as tack sharp as one would expect from a 120 film negative, where the camera is on a tripod, and the print is produced by a master printer (he attended the London college of Printing for 3 years). They frankly are just about the very best you could expect to see.

Then I look at them on a phone.

I have a phone that displays images a 6" image at 1920 x 1080 pixels with a claimed density of 367ppi (its a Nokia 1520 which is as big and has at least as high a display quality as the very best mobile device out there), and frankly on that phone the image displayed is terrible. By the time I enlarge it to be able to see that lovely grain structure, the subject is degenerating into a blur and the grain is beginning to get blotchy. This is the case even for the images viewed on his own web site that I can get up to about 8" on the screen; by that stage they are getting noticeably soft.

So what's the take away from this short rant?

Don't judge an image, especially a larger one on a mobile device. 

Its as simple as that.

A print and in particular a "real" analog one is going to be much better when you view it "face to face" by leaps and bounds than anything on a phone.