Photographic Art & Dependence On Physical Media
Thoughts on planning
R.I.P Slickrock Silver, a unique paper I extensively tested a couple of years ago. When I discovered that Moab recently discontinued production it certainly provoked a sense of loss. The material was clearly not a general-purpose medium.
When I saw what that paper could do and how it represented highlight and shadow it sparked my imagination and inspired visions of projects I’d eventually pursue. Then COVID happened. I produced none of those projects. Now it’s too late. What if I was in the middle of one? What if I had done all the work and was halfway through making all the prints? I could compromise or find another alternative such as producing the prints on raw metal. The time, cost, and effort would increase by an order of magnitude. Worse, my vision of the project would be completely compromised.
I’ve been here before a dozen times. One of the more poignant memories was the passing of Kodak Ektalure (a unique black and white paper for those of a younger generation). I didn’t blame Kodak and I’m certainly not angry with Moab. I salute both for offering bold and unique materials that were clearly specialty products.
There is a lesson to be learned here, or in my case relearned. A very real risk exists for those making photographic art on physical materials. The supply of any given product can easily disappear. It’s not the end of the world. We move on. That’s not so easy if you're way down the road on a project that depends heavily on a unique material like Slickrock Silver or 8x10 Polaroid film.
Sure, there are projects that could be printed on a dozen similar papers. A project that was inspired by a unique medium could be reinterpreted on a different medium but would be significantly different. In my case all of those “yet to be started” projects targeted at Slickrock Silver may never get started. Maybe I will with a different paper but I am far less motivated.
Specialty mediums are not the norm, hence the word “specialty”. Even if you’re using something as ubiquitous as a Baryta semi-gloss paper you may want to heed some advice; make sure you have enough material to finish any project started.