Newsprint as a medium of photographic publication.
For most people, the media (newspaper/magazines, advertising, television and the internet) are where most people view professional photography, either in a passive or an active way. The numbers of people seeing images in a gallery and/or a photo book are dramatically less. Photography as a medium has adapted with the times. With so many images out there photographers have had to keep finding new ways to spread the word of their work. This blog is an example of this.
The image is meant to be seen and shared there are only a few exceptions when an image may be so personally intermit that this sharing is restricted to a small group. Photographers want the largest number of people to see their work and for their work to be part of the history of photography. When a group of us were planning an exhibition and looking for a space to hold it, one idea was to use parked cars on the street at night. The plan would be to put the prints like flyers under the wiper blades. This viral approach means that people would get to see our work that wouldn’t necessarily have before.
In the nearly two hundred years of the photographic world only 200 photographers are the key figures of the medium. Why wouldn’t someone want to make their mark and become another corner stone?
Recently photographers have started to experiment with news print as a medium for publishing and showcasing their images. Alex Soth in 2008 created “The last days of W” which marked the final weeks of George W bush’s presidency.
“The project was about the end of an era, and what better way to mark such a moment than with a medium that is itself reaching the end of an era……………This is one of my favourite aspects of the project. In 40 years from now, I want to pull out an old yellow copy and show it to my grandchildren and say, ‘I published this at the end of George Bush’s presidency’.”
Jason Larkin used newsprint for his project “Cairo Divided”, which captures a city in change. Jason chose the medium for its “unfinished feel” making it perfect for his project. Though using the news print medium frustrated Larkin, trying to find a way to put a three year project into six pages.
“It’s a reality of that marketplace,” he admits, “but I was very interested in expanding the project in terms of the number of pages, and also the size of these pages. I wanted to be able to print these landscapes big. When you open up a Berliner newspaper or even a tabloid-sized newspaper, you realise there’s quite a lot of space there.”
Rob Hornstra a Dutch photographer has used newsprint for two projects “The Sochi Project” and “On the other side of the mountains”. For the first project he used newsprint because of its low cost. For “On the Other Side of the Mountains” which is about a small village close to Sochi, near where the 2014 winter Olympics will be held. The village is still partially without gas and power. Hornstra didn’t want it to be a photo book because;
“It was a very small story, so it just didn’t feel right to print it in a photo book…….We wanted to be able to distribute this newspapers in different places across Europe and for different purposes……So the designer and I made the decision to create a sort of multifunctional newspaper.”
I remember in the year 2000 when the newspapers were printing special copies of their 1st of January Publications to mark the turn of the millennium. It was also the same with the Queen’s Golden/Diamond Jubilee and even the last publication of News of the World before it was shut down. The idea of keeping a newspaper is not new but I believe not as popular as before.
When my graduating class and I put on our final exhibition, our funds were low as most of us had spent nearly all our money making our final projects. We decided to publish our catalogue as a newspaper. Firstly we decided to this because of money but also we wanted it to be a memento for us and the people who came. With age I can see the benefit of having the ageing paper bringing back memories and reminiscing about the time we spent together.
When working with news print, it really needs the benefit of a designer to help you. No matter how good the images are if the layout is not good people may not even notice how good the images are.
Newsprint medium is also cheap in the long run, though first production cost may not be with the trial and error of the printers to get the images right the way you want them. Once the final run has been made then your cost per paper goes down.
Newsprint can be easier to distribute to the people. When travelling to work there is always the guy with the copy of the METRO being handed out to cars and trams. Of course you can charge for the newspaper but why would you. People may spend the money but to spread the word and get it out there it is more beneficial to just give it away. For someone starting out and/or low on funds it can be hard to hear, but the moment photography is about the money you have lost the Focus of the Image.
A huge benefit of newsprint is that it is light weight foldable all that a Book is not. I recently had to post a few books from my parents’ house in England to my home in Poland. The weight of six books came to nearly six and a half kilos (one book was two kilos); if these books had been newsprint they would have been a fraction of the weight. Also with newsprint the passive viewing can become more active, it becomes easier to read and look at and more mobile.
Is the newsprint medium appropriate for all images and work? Maybe not, I know a few couples who maybe would like their wedding pictures put in an album like this as a retro piece but the majority would probably still like to have a print book. As a catalogue for an exhibition or a body of work it can be beneficial in cost to use. The aesthetics of the medium may also work in your favour for a project instead of a print book. In the end you need to balance your work with the way you want the image to be seen and read.
The newsprint medium has a place and I like the idea I just need to find a way to incorporate into one of my works.
All quotes from the British Journal of Photography