In Part 1 of this series I set out the arguments to printing more of my work and although it’s arguably taken far too long to get to this point, it’s still felt like a natural journey. When I first started out in photography, I actually printed more than I do now. I think there was definitely a naivety on my part back then, I perhaps didn’t care what others thought about my photography, I blindly and plainly didn’t see what I regard today as obvious flaws in my earlier work but I certainly didn’t have the attention to detail or the benchmark I set for myself now.
In that interim period where I more or less stopped printing anything (it’s been years, and ironically despite the fact I’ve always had access to a good quality printer) I believed that my work was either not good enough to print or that no one else would really like it, but above all it had nowhere to go but my limited wall space at home. It’s only in the last year where I think my margins of technical and artistic improvement have slowed to a point where I’ve finally become the landscape photographer I wanted to be and because of that I’ve gained some confidence that print must be the final story.
A plethora of magazine articles, lately including a couple of covers, an amount of peripheral competition success and some surprisingly frank discussions I’ve had with people in the creative industry have not only removed some of the doubt I had about what I was producing but encouraged me to start engaging with the ideas of exhibitions, creating portfolios and generally a printed archive of my work. But where to begin?
With each step in the creative process it always feels like there’s a small mountain to climb. When you start out in landscape photography (or indeed any type of photography) it’s initially all about getting to grips with the camera itself – what do you want to get from it, how do you get the best from it, what lenses do I need, what sort of tripod head do I want to work with, how do filters work, the list goes on and on. Eventually you relax into your kit or you become more demanding, composition becomes everything, training your eye, what works and what doesn’t, what do you leave in and out of the frame, what light do I want, what time of year will really work best with this scene. It’s enough to keep you awake at night. I could write paragraphs about this journey and printing is absolutely no different. Suffice to say I’m very much at ease with the whole end to end process, but it’s been exhausting to get here. And now I’m in new territory again – I’ve neither created a printed portfolio before or prepared for exhibition. Thankfully I’m only dealing with the former for now.
Those who follow me on Twitter will know some of the comical questions and ways I’ve described things I’m looking for lately because I literally didn’t have the right search terminology or vocabulary to find what I wanted. I’m not embarrassed – you either know or you don’t and I’m on a journey. Finally I got to what I wanted – a “screw post photography portfolio” (sounds simple enough doesn’t it!), now I needed to narrow my search to a supplier/partner…
My criteria was pretty strict and the benchmark was going to be high:
- I wanted a level of quality in the product that would reflect the craft, time and effort I put into my images
- I wanted a bespoke design that I would have some control over
- I wanted a durable product, something to last maybe 50 years or more
- Lastly, I wanted something visually stunning with a timeless quality and lasting appeal, a tactile experience, but nothing that would leave my photography in the shade – a tricky balance to strike maybe
Needless to say, meeting my list of demands meant that this wasn’t going to be cheap. But I didn’t want it to be cheap, I wanted a level of exclusivity, I didn’t want to walk into WH Smiths and see the product on the shelf there being bought by every undergraduate student for their art course. I don’t take short-cuts with my work and I wanted it to be displayed in the best possible way, so after a week of questions back and forth to various suppliers I narrowed my choice to Hartnack & Company.
What became clear very quickly was that this is a family business – it matters and it makes a difference when it comes to the level of service and attention you receive. I knew there would be no shortcomings here in who I was dealing with. The images of the products on their website were very compelling to my eye, I loved the idea that this was going to be a product that was hand made in Devon, akin to one or two of the photographs that would adorn the portfolio later. There were options for debossing and personalisation, lots of colour and style choices, endless materials and fabrics. I could effectively ask for almost anything. Perfect.
Jackie and Nick were both awesome. They guided me through the process, even made a couple of design suggestions – something I particularly appreciated. In the end, as you’ll see from the photographs below, I ended up with a beautiful A3 landscape orientation hidden four screw post portfolio, finished in a hard wearing soft-metallic Pewter Buckram Cloth, a contrasting Charcoal Buckram interior and matching slipcase. I went with a debossed printed cover on the front of the portfolio and a debossed Matt Silver foiled spine print down the side. On the slipcase, which I felt was essential to maintain the life of the portfolio, I went with an identical Pewter Buckram Cloth with Bishop Black Windsor Book Cloth (a softer finish and feel) on the interior. The slipcase was finished with a debossed personalised Matt Black foil print to stand out, and I requested finger notches cut into the case so that it could be easily accessed from my shelf. Good luck if you can follow all of that – there were a lot of design decisions to be made.
End to end, the process took a total of three weeks but after all, good things come to those who wait. This included the design planning phase while we agreed the final product, the creation of the debossing die (which you get sent at the end too by the way) and of course the hand made production of the portfolio itself. At the end, delivery was swift with a reliable next day courier so there was no painful ‘will it or won’t it’ arrival conundrum.
Once my order was in, Nick sent over a couple of PDF proofs to ensure I was happy with the font, size and placement on the portfolio. This is where his experience kicked in because although he accepted my initial design instructions, he made a specific suggestion on alignment and font size that was better than mine. He knew best – I couldn’t have asked for a better final product.
The final delivery came tightly and securely packaged. Like most things these days it didn’t look like it had received a rough ride from APC. The debossing die was thoughtfully stuck to the top of the package, it meant I didn’t just chuck it in the bin accidentally with the rest of the packaging and ensures that I can place another order at lower cost if I wish to use the same artwork again:
Finally to the good stuff. That tingle of anticipation was certainly enhanced by their bespoke protective wrapping paper and neat stickers. As you can see, it was all well protected in the box, no doubt of the intention to ensure it all gets to you in perfect condition:
The moment of truth, first the slipcase…
The start of something that looks like it will earn its place between Kenna and Strand on my bookshelves…
I’m not going to give away the cost of doing this here. Let me say though that it was substantially cheaper than another site I found but quite a lot more expensive (obviously) than buying an off-the-shelf product. I think it’s worth its money – I have something that met all of my criteria, looks beautiful, is a hand crafted product which suits the media it supports. A special product for photography that I want to stand out. My intention is not that this sits on a shelf gathering dust now either – it will be used to indicate what’s possible for an exhibition to my prospective audience but gives a level of guidance on my intention as an artist and the vision for my output.
Most of all though, this meets my criteria as the beginnings of a real print legacy, something for my children and grand children to cast there eye over in years to come maybe. I hope to pass on my father’s paintings as part of that legacy, some of the tangible evidence that drove me to eventually want to follow in some of those footsteps, something to remind the future generation that art is in our blood and being creative is important – a JPEG is never going to deliver that.
In the final part of this series, I’ll go into image selection, my thoughts on the flow of prints, and the various mounting scenarios…