We’ve Just Been Schooled.

The Printed Picture
Museum of Modern Art – October 17, 2008–June 1, 2009

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Taking you from the very beginnings of the printed image, not necessarily photographs, you are presented with images and their magnified details to truly see what makes up that printed page. Whether it’s 0’s and 1’s, or squares, or a dot screen used to translate a photograph to paper media.

You know, it’s not just as simple as “is a Silver Halide Print better or worse than an inkjet print ?” Far from easy to answer, the history of printing is presented in a most palatable, yet scholarly exhibit we have ever experienced.
It’s thick and rich, and the 90 minutes we spent there only touched on the main points. Hope we have time to return while in NYC or a return trip.

One of the more stunning examples is a photograph by Nicholas Nixon of his wife and 3 sisters, whom he’s photographed for the past 30 years.
In one grouping, you see the original image, contact printed from the 8×10 negative onto silver halide paper. Then an enlargement for the same neg, finishing of the comparison with an inkjet print from the scanned neg.

You’ll see a difference, but the exhibit never judges. The validity of all of the images throughout remains intact.

Although when they show a page from Robert Frank’s “The Americans” in it’s original roto printing from the late 50’s, next to the same image from a subsequent reprint in the 60’s, the mass print technology for book images was sorely lacking at that time, and the subtleties of the image are blocked up and lost in the the heavy handed inking. Rest assured the new printing of that book by Steidl has restored the nuances.

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Luckily, there is a companion book, The Printed Picture. And this one, brings you all of the information from the exhibit, with incredibly excellent print quality on the images. With the written descriptions, explanations, and history, you should pick up this book, so you can understand the legacy of what we deal with everyday in the comfort of your home.

Produced as almost a tribute to the late John Szarkowski, former director of the MOMA photography dept., you should see it in person if you can. But this book just found a place on our bookshelf. It’s going on the holiday list, for sure.

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