Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The death of the photographic print?

There is an interesting article recently posted by Bernard Languillier on Luminous Landscape, suggesting that in 10 years time it may be common to buy fine art photographs on electronic display screens rather than as prints.

I can see the logic of his thinking. As screen technology continues to improve and drop in price, will there not come a time in the not too distant future when we will prefer to hang photos electronically on our walls, rather than in a traditional framed print?

Already high end LCD monitors have wider colour gamut and higher dMax than paper, and arguably are superior in displaying images. Over time these will only become cheaper and of even higher quality. Their cost as part of purchasing a fine art ‘print’ will not be much different from getting a custom print frame made today.

Bernard goes on to ask how will fine art images be sold, delivered and installed on the screens, and how will copy protection be managed.

But for me one of the more interesting questions is for me is how consumers will perceive the value of art delivered in this way. We have already seen the price of stock and assignment imagery fall as digital photography has made production and distribution of photography cheaper and more accessible. And younger people, who will be the fine art buyers of tomorrow, have very relaxed views about copyright and intellectual property – with piracy of music and software seen as normal.

There will always be room for fine art photographers using traditional techniques. Many already emphasise the “craft” aspect of their photography and believe the method by which they produce their art (often involving large format film and hours in the darkroom) contribute to its value. And certain groups of consumers will continue to value that too. But for the rest of us there might be some interesting times ahead.