8 1/2 by 11

Stand Up Tall (White Trees, Series 1, No. 8)

Stand Up Tall
(White Trees, Series 1, No. 8)

I’ve had a theory for awhile that 8 1/2 by 11 – that is, letter-sized – paper, is not a good format for printing photographs.  My thinking has been that letter-sized paper is so common in everyday communication and correspondence that it is just too “ordinary” for photographs.  Images printed on 8 1/2 by 11 already have one strike against them, because they’re dimensioned in the same way that, say, audit letters from the IRS are.

Over the last couple of years, though, as I’ve become more serious about photography, I’ve done a lot of printing on 8 1/2 by 11, principally in the form of making test prints to evaluate as I work on making an image.  I’ve really come to appreciate the virtues of this size.  You can pick up an 8 1/2 by 11, hold it in your hands and move it around.  The small size makes you approach the print more closely and really look into it to appreciate it.  And you don’t bump up against resolution limits and print quality issues in the same way that can cause problems when making larger prints.

As Christmas time approaches, it’s common for art galleries to have “small works” shows, presumably with the goal of making available smaller, less expensive artworks for gift-giving.  Maybe this is why the idea of small prints has been on my mind lately.  Or, it could be the half-a-dozen or so 8 1/2 by 11 test prints I have lying around on my kitchen table at any given time.  Regardless, I’m surprised at just how much this size has grown on me – I may have to take it more seriously as a display format in the future.

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