Chris Pennings of ‘JCP Studio’

Words and photography: Cory White

For many artists, especially photographers, the final act of taking our process to print and concluding what we have spent time conceptualising, procrastinating over, and pouring love into can sometimes be a lethargic step. The irony being, that laying ink on paper should be the most rewarding part of what we do. It can also close a door that in turn allows the beginnings of a new project. In an almost therapeutic way the relationship between the printer and the photographer remains one of the most critical.

Chris Pennings appears a slightly fastidious man. Well groomed, all that jazz. I guess first impressions count in his business. Chris is a digital printer and director of JCP studios. He makes digital files, the currency of contemporary photography, real and tactile. It’s quite a lovely process really.

It’s also very reassuring if your printer is a talented photographer. If you trawl Chris’ blog you can sight some of his own personal work. Graphic and well executed with a personal understanding of how color affects composition. He most likely knows more than I do about photography and he is well connected to some of the Australia’s premier artists. It seems he’s a bit of a go to guy for those serious about quality printing. I may not be a big name artist but I am looking forward to watching Chris prepare a show for me very soon. In the meantime I will endeavour to dress as well as he does.

Explain what you do in one sentence: I help people print pictures.

Most useful piece of equipment in your studio? No one piece in particular holds precedence over any other really. Printers are obviously important but so are the mouse and the bookshelf.

Summer or winter? Autumn

The morning brew of choice? Coffee

Has the quality of digital print surpassed the old ways of analogue printing? That’s like comparing apples and oranges. I think that, whilst the former is obviously the evolution of the later, both processes also coexist independently of each other. People were concerned about the death of painting after the initial invention of photography. There are elements involved in both forms of printing that retain their own inherent qualities and to say that one has surpassed the other is very difficult.

Most liveable city in the world? I’d have to go with the majority and say Melbourne for me, though I do have a particular soft spot Bangkok and Istanbul.

Papers aren’t papers. What makes an exceptional stock? Again that’s difficult, weight, texture feel, nerdy things like dmax and no optical brighteners. Often different works suit different papers too.

How important is the final act of printing to most artists? It can often be something that is overlooked until the actual time for it arises, we spend a lot of time these days looking at images on screens of various shapes and sizes, so that can actually mislead people in terms of what to expect with a print. Part of the process involves attempting to resolve those differences.

What’s the best way to spend a long weekend? I can’t remember the last long weekend I wasn’t actually working. I try to save them up and get away for longer breaks if I can. Otherwise drinking wine and cooking of friends and family would have to rate highly.

People argue that ‘print is dead’. What do you believe? There will always be a market for things that people can be passionate about. Mp3s haven’t killed vinyl, digital hasn’t killed off film, and Kindles won’t kill books. Things evolve and change but they also stay the same.

Log cabin or beach hut? Can I have both?

Your worst vice? Everything enjoyed in moderation

Living or dead, who is your favourite photographer? I don’t know that I can attribute that title to a single individual. Todd Hido, Philip – Lorca diCorcia, Stephen Shore, Ed Ruscha, Trent Parke and Ryan McGinley are names that spring to mind.

Is the art of digital printing more or less complex than traditional colour chemical printing? Computers can be a real pain in the ass, but again two very different processes.

Can you judge a man by his shoes? Indeed

What is the most recent job you have worked on that really inspired you? I wouldn’t single out any one specific project; being afforded the opportunity to work with so many different people is great. There are elements of all jobs that I would take inspiration from.

Have you ever rejected a client? Never.

Has anyone ever told you that photography wasn’t art? If they did I’d find it difficult to take them seriously.

Best and worst habit? Being a control freak and being in denial of being a control freak.

Name 3 publications every photographer should read. Blogs like American Suburb X are great. Sontag On Photography is a pretty good reference point. Then I’d probably suggest something a little less serious to lighten things up. There is nothing worse than people who take themselves too seriously.

Most frequently asked question in your studio? How big can I print this?

Most lust-worthy camera you’d like to own? A great image is a great image, no matter what it’s taken with. Having said that an alpa body with a Phase One IQ180 digital back (would settle for a P65+) and a Rodenstock 90 mm f/5.6 lens would be fun to have a play with. Skies the limit really.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given over the years? Be sure to make time for yourself.

Do you have a signature dish? I quite enjoy the entire process involved with cooking, it really is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things I can think of doing. There is no one thing jumps out specifically but I do think I make a pretty mean Spag Bol.

Do artists ever rely on oversized prints to make average art more impressive? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that artists rely on it, though I do feel that sometimes it is not something that is wholly considered upon initial conception. There are quite a few things to consider when contemplating scale. Things always look smaller in a gallery. Staring at screens for too long doesn’t help either.

And finally; Stones or Beatles? Beatles.

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