Interview With Bespoke Printer Matsudaira-san of Aflo Atelier

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a bespoke (made to order) photo printer, Matsudaira-san of Aflo Atelier. It’s rather short as he was preparing prints for exhibitions and he kindly took the time to answer some questions.

One of the interesting changes home electronics and digital media brings to photography is that  photographers can do so much more for themselves than ever before. The way we enjoy an image has changed quite a bit. For many images, it’s unlikely that we will make a print. It will live a digital life and sometimes achieve immortality by becoming an internet meme. Other images will get a quick print at a photo store or a print machine or our home printer.

It may have never been easier to control so much of the process but it’s easy to forget that printing is as much as an art as taking the photo. There are many great photographers who made their own prints, and many great photographers who work with printers. There is also some debate about whether getting someone to print your photo means you give up control of your image. This brings up interesting questions about where the “art” of photography begins and ends and what creating an image really means.

This is an excerpt from the interview:

 How would you describe the role of a printer?

A printer’s job is to understand what the photographer wants to convey in their image. It’s my job to provide techniques and tools to help them do that.

What advice do you have for photographers when working with printers?

It isn’t so important to know Photoshop but you have to know about your work. If the theme or idea of your photo is clear to you than it is easier to have a detailed discussion about your work.

Here is a link to the whole interview:

 A list (mostly in Japanese but worth clicking through) of of exhibitions that Matsudaira-san has printed is at the bottom of this web page:

The interview is part of a social media push for a group photography exhibition I am in this week from Thursday, April 11 until Saturday, April 13. You can read more about the exhibition at its Tumblr site

I love printing my own stuff whether it is digital or in the darkroom. Still, if I were to sell someone a digital print, I would want to go through a professional printer like Matsudaira-san so that I could guarantee my buyer the best quality and best archival level that I could obtain. I agree that working with a printer effectively is a kind of collaboration but I disagree that it means you give up control of the image. That’s like saying you can only create “art” by working in a vacuum. To me, it means you wouldn’t even be able to ask for an opinion to consider. If in the end, all final decisions are yours, so is the image.

I would love to hear what others think about the need to control every aspect of the creation of your image.


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