Large Prints And Other Ephemera

So, I am helping a photographer friend with an installation of his prints. It's not a gallery, not a show, but a commercial installation in a high-end restaurant. Most of the installation is in close quarters and requires nothing but "normal" sized prints. The typical 16"x24" and 20"x30". Now to me these are BIG prints. In most circumstances I would not make something bigger than this as art just out of my own personal sense of taste and context.

You have probably figured this out by now but I am not a fan of images that scream at you and then pound you over the head, and then add insult to injury by not letting you run away because they are so looming and large you have to cross some international border before they disappear over the horizon. In other words - images that are big just to be big. For my aesthetic - giant billboard sized photographs have no place as art. They are what they are - advertisements, advertisements are supposed to beat you over the head and MAKE you look at them in whatever way possible.

That brings us to the very large dining room and a particular wall that is not really close to anything or anyone that he needs to fill. We tried a few 20"x30" prints. To tell you the truth, they were lost in a sea of dark umber paint. What now? Believe it or not it was my idea to go big - really really big. How does 5 FEET by 8 FEET sound? Personally I have no experience producing an art image this big. I do have some experience producing commercial images of this scale and I know what I don't like about them. I am going to try to keep the scale and avoid what I don't like. Part of what I don't like about oversized images is that in the commercial world all subtlety goes right out the window and it is more of an exercise in pure graphic art. Take a look at those larger than life fashion images in the store windows, the images of the coke can on the front of the machine, etc, etc.

Before investing in this epic print (extremely expensive depending on materials = checkout Duggal or Aluminarte), we decided to to a mockup using some generic HP photo paper that both of us have a dislike for and this seemed like a perfect way to get rid of it.

Here is Les assembling the mockup so that we can get a sense of scale in the actual location as well as assess the possibility that we can get the art to hold up at that size.

Here is a really crappy image in the darkness that shows you kind how big it will be.

Les and I decide that the giant print is a go. We are making some final decisions on the material, the presentation, and of course the actual image to be used as there are a few candidates. I have no doubt that this is doable from a really good 12 Megapixel image - by really good I mean perfect. There are a few aesthetic decisions that I am wrestling with, the biggest one is grain simulation as these are digital RAW files as source images.

Here is my rationale - I like grain, at least some of it. I hate digital noise. When you go this big on an image there are areas in the image that are totally smooth with no gradation and no detail to lock onto. That is just a fact when doing this kind of enlargement from an original that only has 12 million dots and started out as 24mmx36mm. I am scared that if I don't introduce simulated film grain that it will look a whole lot like the side of a coke machine. On the other hand I am equally scared that the vast public out there who's eyeballs have been conditioned to this no-detail no-gradation ultra smoooooooth digital assault will find any hint of "grain/noise" objectionable.

Any opinions out there?


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