Friday, 17 June 2022

Making a book of paramontage

On Wednesday I went three times to the stationery store for different reasons but it was sparked by a need to make a book of paramontage. Over the previous week or so I’d been going not to the print shop in Chippendale to get printouts but to Officeworks to make cheaper prints, and Officeworks’ machines favour standard sizes. Because I had made a lot of paramontages using the standard photo aspect ratio I was equipped with dozens of prints and then naturally I wanted to collect them together. I added some using my home printer because of the subject matter (these ones are made using images taken from porn sites) and by the end had about 60 prints that I put in plastic slips and inserted in a green folder I used to use for job applications.

Most of my job applications at the time were unsuccessful, I did hundreds of ‘em and in the end got a job at Sydney University where I learned technical writing and where I used my HTML skills. I’ve always worked at computers, it’s my natural environment, so it feels right to sit at my desk manipulating images – cropping, resizing, adjusting the tones and intensity of images in layers, pasting text over the top and moving it around in the frame – using software. My relationship with technology is fraught at best, and I somehow muddle through using an expert at times when the challenge is too big. Tim set up my office when I moved in and I also used him when my old PC died.

I sometimes look things up on the internet and sometimes I even trouble my brother Peter who sent me a photo of his pets the other day out of the blue. He must’ve been reading these blogposts and thought to himself, “I think I’ll tell Matthew about DropBox before he asks me how to transfer large files without using email.” In fact I’d not had a thought along those lines but you could see how it would be good to learn this type of technique. In fact I used to have a DropBox account but it fell into disuse and I needed to log in using Google when Peter sent the link. As it turned out I accessed my password and got the app set up on my phone without a horrendous amount of inconvenience but possibly only my brother could get me to take the trouble in this way.

The situation as it stands now is that I’ve almost run out of short, 6-line poems to use to match with photos. The collection ‘Before Dawn’ has morphed into a new project, and anyone can understand the sense of excitement that a new project induces in the subject. You feel proud and wary by turns, but my main concern now is making sure I don’t run out of money in the process of making prints for my book. 

I came across a slight impediment at Officeworks because some of the images won’t print on the kiosk machines the company makes available for customers to use on their shop floor. You add credit to a plastic card using EFTPOS and scan the card at a copier with a touch screen display, then print as many images as you need. The problem is that some images won’t open in these machines and I asked the staffer behind the counter about this peculiarity. I was told that with images with a large colour range that have had many layers the machines can fail to open the JPG, so I had to get slightly-more expensive manual prints done in some cases.

This is a minor issue. A bigger challenge is what to do with the need to experiment. On the same day I started making the book, with my mind all set on making A4 images, I had an idea to make much larger assemblages of photos and text. Then there’s the problem of what to do with my sonnets. There are still many things to think about and this keeps me guessing the direction this undertaking will turn, it’s impossible to predict from one day to the next with any accuracy. Right now it seems my ambition is getting away from me because I fear being comfortable apparently, just the idea of always being stuck with the A4 printout makes me shudder with revulsion and I have to imagine a world where I could be doing something as outrageous as A3 or even – heaven knows – A2 (!) or some intermediate size that obeys no convention. The problem with prints that are larger than A4 is that I worry about legibility. If I do big prints but the poem when it’s framed and hanging on the wall is impossible to read then what is the point? This is key and for the moment I have no answer to the question, I’ll just have to get one framed and hung up, one of the big ones, to see if it suits the real world rather than the ideal confines of my desktop PC.

Looking at a paramontage on the screen is not the same as seeing it on paper. This is an iron rule. The print shop uses JPGs not PNG files – this is another snippet of information that I’ve gleaned from my excursions on the 309 bus to town – because PNG files are designed for the online world, you use ‘em for graphical elements in websites. 

I’m getting more Pixel Perfect work done because they are the only place I know that can do the work in a way that suits my practice. A4 or A3 that’s the reality and that’s where things stand right now at a time when I’m contemplating going to an old prose document made some years back to mine it for text. Because I’ve almost run out of fresh 6-line ‘Before Dawn’ poems I should be readying things in MS-Word and not gallivanting about with GIMP (my free graphics package) but the lure of the paramontage is strong. The “force” is with me.


Basia Sokolowska said...

The force is definitely with you, no doubt about it. In good photo editing software as in Photoshop, there is an option of flattening the layers into one layer, after all the work is done, which makes the file much smaller and therefore more easilily printable. Check the software you are using for this option. If it has layers it should have flatten all layers option too.

Matthew da Silva said...

Yes, I export the file to a JPG which leaves the original editable forever, so I keep on-hand two different files. Appreciate yr comments it's good to get feedback. I need to slow down again I can't wait a day if I have an idea, it needs to get expression as soon as practicable ...