The benefits of printing your work by Maarten Rots by Maarten Rots

 
 

 

(Words and photos unless otherwise stated is by Maarten Rots Maarten is an artist working with photography based out of Amsterdam. In his photographs you can see a sense of abstraction and surrealism found in everyday situations, captured by the camera. He loves printed photography and one of the ways he shares his work is through his self-published quarterly photography magazine March & Rock. Maarten will also give away a copy of of March & Rock. See the end of the article for details)

Digital photography is definitely one of the most important developments in photography of the last decades. One of its few downsides though is the fact that your work often remains virtual, it lives on electricity powered devices only. I have made it a habit to regularly print my photographs and have benefitted from it in several ways. Next to having a hardcopy backup it can be of great help to your process, becoming more aware of your own choices and interests, but also gives you new ways of sharing and presenting your work.

 

Perceive your photography differently

Diane Arbus said it like this: “I like to put things up around my bed all the time, pictures of mine that I like and other things and I change it every month or so. There’s some funny subliminal thing that happens. It isn’t just looking at it. It’s looking at it when you’re not looking at it. It really begins to act on you in a funny way”

 
 

Diane Arbus in front of her collage wall. Photo by Saul Leiter

How often do you find yourself going back to a photograph that you found in someone’s online portfolio or social media feed? Not so much right? Even your own work probably doesn’t get the amount of time it deserves.

Having a printed photo hanging or laying around in your house makes you bump into it, on different moments and when you are in different moods which changes the way you experience the image. Over time its meaning will change and you can better judge the quality of the image. An image you initially loved may become less interesting while a photograph you may not have been too enthusiastic about at first can grow on you.

Also, it may lead you to work on photos with a similar quality, subconsciously start to work on a stronger body of work, leading to develop your own unique style, making it your second nature.

Speak to a different audience

It can be very comforting to receive a bunch of likes and generic ‘great shot’, ‘lovely image’ ‘wow!’ comments on a recently posted image. But does it really help your photography, do you become better at what you do? It may improve your confidence in your work which is a good thing, but only rarely do I come across insightful, constructive comments that can actually help you develop as a photographer.

Instead of preaching to the choir – 80% of your followers follow you because they already like what you do – start a conversation with the people around you in your everyday life, people that have no opinion about your work yet because they don’t know about it.

 

Hang a print of your work in your house or your workspace and you’re bound to have an actual conversation about the picture. Your audience may be less informed about photography, but I believe that’s an advantage: they will approach your photo with a different view. Don’t be surprised if someone perceives your work different than you intended it; listen well and take it very seriously, it can be a real eye-opener.

Get better at editing and sequencing

Joel Meyerowitz once explained in a documentary how he keeps small prints of his photos on him at all times and every time he has a few spare minutes he takes them out and starts to play around with them. Is he still attracted to each image and how do they influence each other when they are seen in a certain order?

The way Meyerowitz goes about his editing and sequencing has many advantages and I suggest you try it as well. Every two months or so use Lightroom’s ‘contact sheet’ print option to make small prints of all of your flagged photos of that period. Cut them up so you have small 4×6 prints.

Spread them on the floor and make little groups, regroup them, add notes, take away some and add others. Try to find connections between the images. Further into the process you may have some groups of photos that get a new meaning together. Some photos would have never ended up next to each other if it wasn’t for having them as a print. It’s great to see magic happen when a bunch of photos somehow get stronger together and tell a story better than when you see just the single images.

 

The wall of my workspace during Siting: Qlick Editions

Don’t be afraid to use a pen and make notes on your prints, treat them as tests, as sketches. Being able to write and draw on your photos is a big advantage and can clarify your editing when you come across these notes at a later point.

When I’m sequencing for myself-published magazine March & Rock, printed images are the way to go, it’s a perfect way to quickly see how one image affects another.

A spread from the latest edition of March & Rock

See your photo in its actual size

Nowadays all cameras have such great sensors that unless you have an enormous screen, viewing and editing your photo means you never see the whole photo in its actual size – only zoomed in portions at a time. Go crazy and print your monthly favourite on a nice 20×30 inch or larger sheet. I promise you that the impact experiencing your work that large will surprise you.

 

At the opening night of the exhibition of Siting: Qlick Editions. Photo by Jeku Arce

Also, after a year you have 12 beautiful prints and you can see how you have become better at what you do by comparing the earlier and the later prints.

Think beyond paper
When you print your work you may automatically think of printing on paper and putting the print in a frame. While there’s nothing wrong with that it can be interesting to think about choosing a different material to print your photograph on. There are so many different ways to print your work and each material adds something to the final outcome. This has never been cheaper and it’s extremely easy to simply upload a photo and select a material. It can be very interesting to print on fabric, glass, transparencies or mounted on aluminium.

Play with the sizes of the prints as well, some photos work really well when printed large while other stay more intimate and personal when they are printed in a smaller size.

A printed photograph is a great gift

People just love receiving presents, especially when there’s something personal to it. A nice print of your favourite photograph can really make someone’s day.

Eric sometimes gives away prints of his photos at the end of a workshop and it’s really nice to see how delighted people react to that. The act of giving it away adds an extra layer to the photograph, the object is now connected to a positive experience, a cherished memory and is a reason to tell a story.

 

As a small promotional, I am giving away a copy of my self-published magazine March & Rock. Sign up for my newsletter to take part!

Follow Maarten on Instagram: @maartenrots

Creative Constraints are Freedom: Abstract Street Photography by Maarten Rots by Maarten Rots

Restricting to open up. How less can be more when going out to shoot.

I am strongly convinced that creating restrictions leads to more freedom and development when it comes to creativity. This may sound very counterintuitive but I have experiences to back up my claims. I just finished an intense week of photographing which led to an exhibition opening last night. It was a great experience and I would like to share some of the things I came across and learned during this week.

I think we all know how it sometimes can be hard to go out and shoot. We’re all very good at coming up with excuses and it can be tough to break the cycle of non-activity. Next to that it may sometimes feel like we’ve gotten used to a certain way of working which slows down our development so much that it feels like we got stuck and keep coming home with different but the same photographs time after time.

Work within a frame

What I like to do to work around this is to set up some rules and make agreements that involve others to push myself a step further. This past week I did exactly that, really enjoyed it and think this can be of help to others as well.

My project

I came up with the plan to shoot within a 1000 meter radius only, then pick one photograph each day to be printed and finish up the project by showing the outcome in an exhibition. I pitched the plan – Siting: Qlick Editions – to the nice people of photo gallery Qlick Editions in Amsterdam who were very enthusiastic about the idea and we set a date for the project to happen. As the moment to start came closer I made sure I had nothing else going on during this week and dropped all of my other routines so I could fully focus on this one-week project.

Each day of the past week I walked through the area, accompanied by my camera, for about 8 to 9 hours and would come back into the space to make my selection. Not always an easy task, but very rewarding as the photo would be printed and delivered to the gallery the next day. As you may know from your own experience it can be very tough to choose that one photo on the day you took it. That’s why I worked together with Eric: every day I would send him my final selection of around 8 images and he would get back to me with constructive criticism; very helpful in order to get to the pick of the day.

I also devoted a blog to this project on my website so anyone interested could be really involved in the process. I attempted to keep it as open as I could by sharing a lot of the images that did not make the cut, to give some insight into my way of working. Also I used geotagged images to place on a google map to make it possible to see where each image was taken.

I developed this project with the intention to explore different areas in different cities all over Europe and hopefully on other continents as well.

My experiences

Restriction leads to digging deeper into the possibilities that are at hand which may lead to some exciting new discoveries. I truly believe you can find beauty and interesting subject matter anywhere as long as you force yourself to look for it. By limiting the area to work in I did just that and it really gave me a clearer idea of what I’m looking for when I go out searching for interesting photographs. I had to look harder, but also learned to faster recognise the situations that trigger my attention. I had to pull myself through moments when I felt nothing was good enough and exterminate the fear of ending up with a shit picture getting printed. I had to go on when the weather was not as I prefer it when I go take pictures and learned to shoot when it’s a rainy day. I narrowed my scope but didn’t become closed minded, this project actually opened my view and made me see (and capture) things I wouldn’t have seen a month ago.

Make decisions

Dealing with the time constraint is a challenge but it keeps you from procrastinating to make decisions that have to be made regardless. Most of the time it really doesn’t help to postpone a decision. Do it now and you are relieved of one more thing that’s in the back of your head messing with your focus and concentration.

Develop your own project

I don’t think the boundaries I set myself are necessarily the right ones for you. Restriction can come in many forms and it’s only a matter of applying one or more simple rules to your workflow. For example shoot only between 6 and 7 am, use only one camera and one lens (less really is more and healthy for your back and wallet as well), shoot only in portrait orientation, shoot only one photograph of each scene (edit before shooting) etcetera.

Also think about restricting yourself in the process that follows a shoot: choose the one best image within an hour after coming home, don’t crop any of your images, make a print of your favourite image once a week and hang it someplace where others can see it (or give it away, people love getting a printed image). Involving others is a very good way to keep things going and stay sharp anyway!

Change it up

I believe setting up rules is a very effective way to boost your creative qualities, but it only works when you change it up. Don’t stick with the same rules and restrictions forever, in the end the most important things is to enjoy it and shed a new light on your photography.

Conclusion

By restricting you have less to worry about and more energy to focus on what you really want and love to do: make better pictures. It makes you look for other ways to achieve the result you have in mind. It also forces you to get better at working with the smaller amount of tools and possibilities you have left. You will learn to exploit what you have at hand and become better at what you do.

Go for it, I’m sure you will get something out of it!

About Maarten

Maarten Rots is an artist working with photography based out of Amsterdam. In his photographs you can see a sense of abstraction and surrealism found in everyday situations, captured by the camera. He loves printed photography and one of the ways he shares his work is through his self-published quarterly photography magazine March & Rock.

The exhibition with the results of his one-week project Siting: Qlick Editions will still be on show during the coming week atQlick Editions in Amsterdam.

Follow Maarten on Instagram: @maartenrots