Takeaways from the 25th Annual Phillips’ Mill Photographic Exhibition

Yes another Bucks County show to talk about … but for a good reason. At least I think so. Awhile back I wrote an entry here entitled Does Size Matter? In it I stated that very large prints seem to be trendy now and that almost every time I see them in exhibits I am overwhelmed by their size and underwhelmed by their content. Often what are displayed are large images of boring subject matter.

I went on to mention two shows I had seen — Edward Weston at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Paul Strand at the Michener Art Museum. None of the Weston prints were larger than 8×10 because he only contact printed his large format negatives. With Strand, most were no larger than 8×10, with many being much smaller. I felt these prints forced you to stop, get close and look at them. Finally I said that I think a small print really has to stand on its content, but just as importantly it draws in the viewer and compels him or her to really concentrate and think about what is going on in the image.

Well guess what, I haven’t changed my mind about size. If anything I feel more strongly about it! So what does this have to do with the prestigious Phillips Mill show I saw on Saturday? A lot! The vast majority of 124 photographs selected were at least 11X14 and many were much larger. Most were technically perfect but not emotionally barren. And of course the winners and others selected for special note were very large … at least 16×20 and 20×24 to my eyes.

It just doesn’t do it for me. So I will continue to make my prints no larger than 8×10 because I really do think that a small print has to stand on its content.

So I hope you will consider moderation when printing your images. If you do, I am sure you will only print those that truly have something to say, rather than those you think might get attention.

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