Photo: Mitch Epstein
It's uplifting to hear how many current, name photographers are into promoting work in book format- some even stating that it's their preferred medium of presentation. And yet, when you see their work at a gallery, it's presented in prints so large, they can barely fit a dozen prints in the entire gallery- if that. I have nothing against wall sized prints per se, one of the most incredible photographs (and photographic experiences) I've ever witnessed was a wall sized photo of Mitch Epstein's from American Power.
But it's a bit disappointing to go see a show of work you really like, only to be greeted with a handful of mural sized prints that devour gallery wall space and can be observed from across the room- buy the book if you want a clue as to how the work functions as a theme, an essay, a body of work.
After seeing that super nova of a Mich Epstein print at SFMOMA, I then had the dubious distinction of seeing the Henry Wessel exhibit in the very next room. How would B&W prints no larger than 16X20 compete against such grandiose magnificence? Very well.
One had to walk up to his impeccably printed photographs and make a conscious, deliberate effort to... look at and study them, only then did their details start to reveal their secrets, only then do you start to appreciate what a truly intimate and personal revelation the whole experience can be... Like looking at individual photographs in a book- only with really, really good reproductions.
Photo: Henry Wessel