Vintage Pixels?

I was having a conversation with photographer Scott Fortino the other night and we jokingly commented that if things don’t work out for us then at least we can spend our old age living off the vast archives of our (then) vintage prints. The thing is, will ‘vintage’ photography even exist in 10 years? With digital printing and even digital input who is to say that a print made in 2000 from a digital file will look any different than a print made in 2020?
As I mentioned before one of my formidable experiences was spending long days sifting through the vast archives of vintage early 20th century photography at the Howard Greenberg Gallery. Yes there was a mystique and even something special about knowing that the print had been touched by the photographer. I can’t help but wonder if that experience is gone?
Recently the Edwynn Houk Gallery had an exhibit of the vintage work of Stephen Shore. They were prints made by Stephen in the 1970’s (when he was not selling oodles of pictures) and were limited ot the darkroom process and the materials offered at the time. Most of his prints were smaller 16×20, and have now a patina that shows the limitations of the color paper materials at the time. While Shore was lecturing Chicago he spoke about this. He was dissatisfied that these prints were being shown and sold simply because he had recently been making new digital c-printsof the early work with better materials, quality (“I could finally take the blue out of shadows”) and a much larger size.
So will a inkjet Zoe Strauss, (shout out to ZS and her awesome UA grant!) made this year be any different than one printed in 5, 10, 20? The quality may indeed be better. Will any of the work done by contemporary photographers be considered vintage?


  1. Posted November 17, 2007 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Probably vintage will be defined by the content and less by the evaluation of the form.

  2. Posted November 17, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    My vintage prints were made when I was quarter of a century dumber than I am today. Adore the fact that people much smarter than I am are eager to fork over gobs more for those idiotic vintage garbage prints of mine, than the stupid prints I can generate with everything I have learned, since then.

  3. Posted November 17, 2007 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Technology, like life, is a continuum. I have no doubt that the colorful (brassy?), pristine (cold?), precise (brittle?) digital prints and files of today will give way and be seen fondly by the light of the new and improved versions of tomorrow. Just as your grandchildren will marvel at the rudimentary nature of your iPhone.

  4. Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t see it going away, after the prints will still have been touched by and in some cases printed by the artist, so they have that cache about them. Many film photogs these days don’t print there own work so will there work loose it vintage quality? I think part of what makes a vintage print is how it ages for all the talk about new printers making prints that will last 150+ years we really don’t know maybe they will fade or otherwise change in some sort of interesting way, much as color photos from the 70’s have. Also to piggy back on what mel said changes in style and tech may produce prints which look very different what we are seeing today, so brain you may yet be able to live off your vintage prints.

  5. Posted November 18, 2007 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Over time even the prints made in a darkroom by Ansel Adams changed. In my opinion the later prints were better than the original one made from the negative.

  6. Posted November 18, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    technology always imprints its time frame into a print. every type of color print looks like it came from the era it did. 70’s 80’s 90’s (20’s). there is very little likelyhood that this unstable photographic moment is going to stretch out into the future unchanged. we just have no idea what those changes will look like.

  7. Posted November 19, 2007 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I think there is reason to believe there is such a thing as vintage digital prints. We all store our information on cd’s and dvd’s, but…nobody knows in which condition the information will be in let’s say 30 years.

  8. Posted November 19, 2007 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I still wonder as digital makes printing more consistently accurate (what I print today can look the same as tom. or in 5 years), is that enough to discern a difference?

  9. Posted November 19, 2007 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Brian, although I think that it will be easier to make the print because you are not trying to follow a “recipe” of the first printing, there will still be differences. Inks will continue to change as will papers. And of course, the way we interpret an image today may not be the way we would intrepret it in 5 years.

  10. Posted November 19, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Hmmm… ‘the way we interpret an image today may not be the way we would intrepret it in 5 years’ seems like an altogether new topic and very interesting.
    As far as Vintage goes, I’m specifically curious about the printing process in general though and how contemporary photographic prints might be considered over time.

  11. Posted November 20, 2007 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    papers i think will stay the same, inks (printers) will only grow in numbers of(inks). smarter printers etc. will digital(the state we are in) be vintage. yes. the print itself should be evaluated based on the date it was printed, not really when it was taken. for example. go into you closest Urban Outfitters. The “paintings” you see aren’t vintage, but look like they are. go into a thrift store and locate a “vintage painting”. They could be the same image, but the difference is based on when they were made. Whoever made the ansel adams comment, about the later ones being better, better how? there is lots to be said about making something with your own hands and giving it to someone. i find that “better” than a digital print anyday. todays commercial society wants things to be polished and nice. it is like when your grandma says you look handsome. it may look good, but you feel better when you look fucked up. virtual reality is the future.

  12. Posted November 24, 2007 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I think another way to look at vintage in the digital age will be through the emerging cameras themselves. they are changing so quickly and sensors changing too, that vintage-philes can state, “wow, that print was made from an early digital Casio QV-10..”

  13. Posted November 25, 2007 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I sooo want a vintage Casio QV-10.

  14. Posted December 6, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    You could also reshoot all your old digital hits with film, see if you can recreate by hand what you didn’t touch.

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