Part two of this series on fine art photographers focuses on photojournalist Jim Richardson. Read more about Richardson in the February 2011 issue of Digital Output.
“I’ve been digital for about eight years now,” estimates Richardson, and says his favorite camera is Nikon Corporation’s D3700, for its ergonomic design and high ISO performance.
He and his wife Kathy consider Small World: A Gallery of Arts and Ideas located on historic Main Street in Lindsborg, KS their home base. Nearly half of the square footage is what Richardson refers to as production space, where he uses a stable of Epson technologies to print his work, and Kathy labors over the meticulous creation of handcrafted jewelry.
The Epson technologies of his choosing include an Epson Stylus Pro 9900—a 44-inch, ten-color pigmented ink system, an Epson Stylus Pro 4900, and the smaller format Epson Stylus Pro 3880.
Richardson isn’t easily dazzled by all the new options in inks and substrates. He prefers to spend the time finding what works best, and sticks with it. “I haven’t used anything but Epson inks for more than a decade,” he confides. As for papers, he is most enamored with Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper and Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper.
“I believe in the aesthetic principle that you have to let the process get out of the way—particularly in documentary photography. You want people to see what was happening in front of the lens, not have their attention drawn to how the image was printed, or what it was printed on. If they’re aware of those details, you’ve done something wrong,” Richardson suggests.
He shares the use of the printers with friend and studio photographer Jim Turner, who owns a gallery right next door.
“We are connected on a network, so Turner is also able to use the printers. And he owns mounting equipment for doing large prints that we adhere to Gatorboard. He also does all our framing. Between the two of us, we’re able to print and mount nearly anything up to approximately 40x60 inches,” explains Richardson.
In addition to photographic-quality output, Richardson credits developers of digital inkjet equipment with enabling photographers like himself to reproduce their work in a truly on demand fashion, and to increase the value of their prints by ensuring long, rich lives.
Richardson prints images to cards, which are sold in the gallery. “We have probably 400 images we’ve printed, about three at a time, sell them, then print more,” he explains. Recognizing the advantage of not investing a lot of money in cards that never sell, Richardson admits that out of the 400 images they normally print, only 50 to 75 of them have never sold.
The difference between selling large format commercial graphics and fine art/photographic reproductions is all about the intention. A print buyer may want extremely high-quality graphics for a sign or banner or point of sale display, but there is never the expectation that it will have to last a lifetime or more. To the buyer of a limited edition photographic reprint, that’s precisely the expectation.
“It’s tough to charge real prices for print when you know it’s going to deteriorate,” he acknowledges. “We have prints that we put in the front window, in direct sunshine, and six months or a year later, they haven’t faded. It’s very important when you’re selling art that you can tell a buyer or collector, ‘this is going to last 100 years.’
“Digital printing is liberating. It really is,” marvels Richardson. “It gives photographers another way to put their images to work. It’s all about getting those pictures out of filing cabinets, or off of the hard drive, and giving them life.”
View images of Richardson’s work in the February issue of Digital Output.
Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Philanthropic Photographs.