Yesterday's post may have been confusing for some; it's hard to know. Allow me to sum up what I was trying to say in a very simple way - it is that I believe that a Digital Image Art Object, regardless of what point it became digital, is of inherently less value than one which is made through the complete traditional chemical process. And.. the reason I believe this is that if the digital print has any digital copies viewable on the internet, there is nothing stopping somebody, who likes your picture, to make prints of it on their own home equipment. A traditional film print made in a darkroom, on the other hand, remains as a high value commodity regardless of how many people might make digital copies of it, simply because it exists in its original form as a darkroom print, and not a digital one.
So, is this all nothing but twaddle? Perhaps I really don't know what I'm talking about... and there is a rather important bit that I did not mention yesterday, so let me deal with that today. There is such a thing as "Digital Fine Art Printing". This is something any photographer can get into for around $500, unless larger than 13"X19" prints are required - then it gets a lot more expensive. Or, any digital file can be sent to numerous Fine Art Print Houses, who specialize in making Digital Art prints of any size. The process uses digital printers just like the one sitting on your desk at home, only many times bigger and more expensive, and these printers use a much more sophisticated ink-set, and are capable of printing on many types of fine-art paper of very large size, by professionals who know their craft.
So it could stand to reason that if a fine art photographer gets her best work printed in this fashion, and safe-guards ownership of the piece, the value is raised considerably, because the original cannot be duplicated in the same way as somebody downloading and printing her stuff on consumer grade equipment. I agree, this would help considerably, especially if the digital file showing the work on-line is of greatly reduced resolution, as is most often the case anyway, making it impossible to create a digital print any bigger than an 8X10. It's also possible that the artist may not show a complete catalogue of his / her work on-line, which would be a very smart move.
Yet, I am still waffling around on this. It still seems to me that the ultimate right choice for artistic black and white photography is to make a film print from a film negative, and I still believe this to be so because of preserving the value of the end product, fine art printing notwithstanding.
As for me, well, I've decided that making film prints in a darkroom is definitely not my cup of tea. Developing the roll of film into a negative is quite easy to do at home, but from what I read about the making of actual prints, I would find it very difficult to get set up for, and just not the kind of hobby I could roll up my sleeves for. This leaves me dependant on sending my traditional black and white film away for processing, which is OK for now. I do have another option - I could go with Ilford's XP-2 film, which is a black and white that is processed at your friendly One Hour C41 photo lab. I did try this once, and was actually quite pleased with the results (see photo above), although this is a rather bad compromise when compared to "real" B&W film, like Ilford FP4, according to some people.
Finally, I know I've got to stop obsessing over all this stuff, and just go out and take some pictures. The leaves are just starting to turn, and the best medium for shooting that is, quite simply, the digital camera! I'll have plenty of time to brood over black and white fine art film techniques once winter settles in.