Brooks Jensen Arts

Exhibition Suites — Three-Print Sets

Photography for exhibition has traditionally centered around a single, stand-alone "greatest hits" image. This has always seemed uncomfortably restrictive — at least from a creative point of view. Instead, with Exhibition Suites I've created sets of three related images that allow me to explore a theme, place, or vision in greater depth. I'm known primarily as a "small print" photographer, especially with folios and chapbooks. With this series, I'm exploring larger images destined for the wall — hence, exhibition-sized images! Each Suite consists of one larger main image plus two supporting compositions.



The Exhibition Suite sets are signed and numbered in an open edition. All prints in a set are numbered the same. Here is a look at the provenance information printed in the lower left corner of each sheet. These are printed using pigment-on-paper, exactly like my other artwork, using Epson (currently, Epson 4880) printers. Exhibition Suites are printed on Moab Entrada Bright 300gms/m2 archival matte surface paper or on Harman by Hahnemuhle Glossy Baryta 320gms/m2 archival glossy surface paper.

Exhibition Suite prints are shipped in an archival crystal clear sleeve with archival backing board, packaged flat for shipping in appropriate shipping cartons, ready for matting and/or framing. I stopped matting my work in 2004 when I realized that professional framers are as dedicated to their craft as I am to photography. Please consult your local professional framer for matting and framing if you don't mat and frame yourself.

From time to time, I will add or retire images from this special collection. If you'd like to know when changes are made, sign up for email announcement at the LensWork site here.

Click on the image for a larger version. Black and white Suites follow the color Suites.


Elk River Exhibition Suite

Time beside a flowing creek is one of my favorite remedies. I was photographing this main image (center) when I happened to look down to my left. The large pool flowing below me some 10 feet was a dancing swirl of fall leaves. The water was incredibly clear and actually inviting — if it hadn't been so cold! The floating leaves and bubbles appear to dance in a night sky with dark green nebula in their background. This is precisely why I love spending time creekside where one's imagination can embrace the moment and wander far away from the ordinary cares of the day.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Japanese Maple Leaves Exibition Suite

The town of Hiraizumi in Japan is affectionately known as "the Kyoto of the north." An ancient feudal center, it still has more than a touch of the past — including the wonderful temple of Chuson-ji. I had an unbelievable day there in November of 2009 that resulted in the two photographs on the right.

The image on the left is from Entuin Temple in the coastal town of Matsushima. Basho wrote a famous haiku that goes something like this, "Matsushima, Matsuhima, ahhhh, Matsushima!" I wholeheartedly agree.

Larger view of this suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper unmatted prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Hawaiian Canopy Exhibition Suite

The Hawaiian sun can be a bit, well, intense. Walking into Lava Tree State Park just outside Hilo, I suddenly found myself inside a protective canopy with these giant trees and their massive outstretched arms — or so it felt. The subtle, thin layer of clouds masked the normally deep blue of the Hawaiian sky. It was so peaceful and calm.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Hilo Palms Exhibition Suite

The day was almost done. Tired, sore, hungry and heading for dinner, we drove over a nondescript bridge on our way back to Hilo. Off to the right was a canyon filled with palms. We stopped and just stared at the overwhelming display of fronds and a countless number of details, curves, star-bursts of bright green, and deeper green in the shadow — like a massive jazz composition with a thousand players all in concert.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Noble Fir Exhibition Suite

Nature tends not to be too regular. Chaos is its chief biological design strategy. But, on rare occasion, the repeating patterns in nature can take our breath away. This is a large canyon wall of Noble Fir in a creek canyon near Mount St. Helens. The forest was flattened during the massive 1980 volcanic eruption. In this canyon, the Noble Firs (human-planted as part of the recovery plan) are growing without the typical competition from other species, creating a wall of staccato new growth points at the tips of every branch.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Red Rock Exhibition Suite

"Earth" is such an emotionally packed term for our little planet. In truth, to call it "dirt" is perhaps a better description because that's all it really is. But what magnificent dirt! I'm sure there is some reason why these rocks are red in the deserts of Utah and some science-educated person could probably explain something about the mineral content that explains the red. I'm only a photographer, and to me it is simply lovely — especially as a backdrop for a desert bush or scrappy tree.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Snow Trees Exhibition Suite

There is an old maxim in photography circles that "Bad weather makes for great photography." True, and this was was no exception. Snow is a rare weather event here in Anacortes, Washington, but on this day it came down soft and heavy. It was a joy just to stand in the park, surrounded by trees whose every branch became a resting place for the large snowflakes.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Surf at Big Sur Exhibition Suite

Our lives are hectic and filled with responsibilities and multitudinous goings-on. Then we have a break and, if we are lucky, can head to the shore to watch the waves and daydream. Every time I am so lucky to be able to do so, I think about those waves. They crash about the rocks and shoreline every moment of every day. When I am working, they crash on the rocks. When I am sleeping, they crash on the rocks. When I am gone, they will crash on the rocks as they have always done. It is a great gift to remember how small we are and how precious the moments of our lives are in the cosmic scale of things.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Shipbuilding Exhibition Suite

For ten years after we moved our offices to Anacortes, Washington, we lived and worked across the street from the Dakota Creek Shipyard. They build ships — big ships! For years, I'd been so involved in my Made of Steel project that I was resistant to the call of the shipyard. For a while. But eventually the lure of the metal was too strong.

This has turned into my largest project to date, consisting of almost 10,000 photographs to date! This Suite is the first of this project to make its way into print.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper unmatted prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Desert Cumulus Exhibition Suite

Every fall, the skies of Utah's desert country come alive with massive cumulus storm clouds that tower above the landscape. It is a show in massive scale in the most subtle and clean pure whites. For anyone who loves nature in its grand benevolence, these thunderheads are both majestic and a little frightening.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Ponderosa Wildfire Exhibition Suite

There is a long tradition in black-and-white photography with many photographers point their cameras as the charred trunks of trees. Perhaps it is the sheen of the black-on-black patterns that is so irresistible. For me, it is always the sadness I see — or project — in the scars. The traces of sap always reminds me of tears. The cycle of the forest continues, I know, but the moment can still be melancholy.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)


Storm Light Exhibition Suite

I could spend hours watching the procession of clouds at the Oregon coast. Far, far out to sea, a break allows a patch of sun to illuminate a circle of waves. With amazing quickness, that shiny patch approaches the shore. For a few brief moments, it may even engulf me in its warmth. Then another, far off on the horizon, runs toward shore. Over and over again until the rains come. The Oregon coast is medicine.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Winter Trees Exhibition Suite

The leaves receive all the attention — especially from the color photographers who delight in the vibrant dance every fall. But for me, it's the structure that reveals the character and even the personality of the tree. Leaves may wave with their showy descent, but it is the branch that reaches for the heights.

This suite also illustrates my long-time love of the Japanese aesthetic — a sort of minimalism in design that is so celebrated in all the Japanese arts.

If there is anything to be learned by sheer numbers of images I have of this subject, winter trees with their skeletal branches may be my favorite photographic subject of all.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Three Snags (With Three Birds) Exhibition Suite

Just a dead tree. Just a leafless branch. Just a snag above the landscape. Yes, but how many creatures call these skeletons home? How many insects, frogs, birds, and whatnot find these gesturing figures the comfort they need to survive? To me, they are like frozen lightning bolts rooted to the landscape, reaching for the sky.

Larger view of this Exhibition Suite

This Suite consists of 3 pigment-on-paper prints. The large one is on 17x22" paper with an image that is approximately 13.5x18". The two smaller prints are on 13x17" paper with images that are approximately 10x14".

Regular price is $165
for the Suite of three prints.
(plus shipping and handling)

Purchase online


Artist's Statement About the Suites and the Prints

Adapted from the Editor's Comments in LensWork #114

I’m the small print guy — always have been, and that’s not going to change. All of my work for 40 years has been prints 8x10” or smaller, most it in sets of prints — like folios. There are three tangible, visible, practical reasons why I have resisted large prints — technical fidelity, the problem of art versus decor, and the “greatest hits” mentality with its limits of expression denied the single, stand-alone image. Let me address these one at a time.

Technical fidelity

The inescapable reality is that larger prints suffer image degradation. I’ve simply not been willing to compromise image quality in the pursuit of more square inches. I prefer images that simulate vision — high acuity, grainless tones, and the absence of obvious photographic artifacts.

Decor

From an aesthetic point of view, I’ve resisted larger prints because their fate is so often linked to serving as mere decor. I guess I’ve never been quite comfortable with the idea that the fruits of my artistic struggles and labor would be selected (or rejected) by a consumer because it blends (or fails to) with the fabric in the couch.

Limits of the single image

And finally, from an expressive point of view, wall art has always penned me into a corner where the “greatest hit” rules supreme. Artistically, I simply resented the idea that one single, isolated image can even approach the totality of what I would hope to express any project.

To illustrate that last point, consider the iconic Clearing Winter Storm by Ansel Adams. This certainly qualifies as a “greatest hits” image. But what is its central idea? Is it simply Yosemite Valley? But, it cannot make a very complete statement about the Valley when it only includes one view, in one season. Is it about storms and weather? If so, it’s incredibly limited in all the potential weather it fails to represent. Is it about the pristine environment, Adams’ emotional state at the moment of exposure, the importance of preserving wilderness, water as a resource, the value of national parks, or something about forestry, geology, a magic moment captured on film, or even gelatin silver photography itself? It may be a bit of all of those, but as a representative of any one of these complex ideas, as a solitary image it fails to explore any of them in depth. Indeed, Adams’ body of work — his lifetime of output in Yosemite Valley, his numerous books, and his writing all do a better job of completing any of these expressions than the single image Clearing Winter Storm could ever hope to do.

Changing the rules

Speaking about my hesitation to produce larger prints, a friend said, “If you don’t like greatest hits or the idea that your photographs will be decor, simply change the rules! Find a way to do something with larger prints that maintains your artistic integrity.” Good advice, but what would that be? I started brainstorming.

For some time now, I’ve been playing with ideas on just how I could embrace the idea of larger prints without sacrificing all the elements I value in my work. I love this kind of creative challenge. With this in mind, I’ve been involved in an extended “thought experiment” that has led me to three surprising and productive trains of thought.

Image quality

First, I’ve spent considerable time this last year experimenting with larger sized prints. Without burdening this article with all the technical details, let me simply jump to the conclusion by saying that with my current digital cameras, superb lenses, and careful processing, I’ve demonstrated to myself that I can make technically stunningly 13x18” prints that are far better than anything I was ever able to do with medium format film, my primary capture medium for 30 years. The 13x18” images I’m able to produce now are better — i.e., sharper, with better tonal gradation, revealing more detail, and virtually grainless — compared to the 6x9” or 8x10” prints I used to make in my wet darkroom. To my amazement, the first of my reasons to hesitate about larger prints has been eliminated — at least up to 13x18” prints.

The “sweet” size for any given print

Okay I can, but should I? Said more succinctly, can I produce something in larger prints that expresses my artistic intent — and in a way that cannot be accomplished in small-print media?

It’s often been posited that any given image has a “sweet” size. Make it larger (or make it smaller) and something is lost. That may be true for some images, but not every image is subject to this restriction. I’ve been experimenting with many of my favorite images and found that some are simply no better when enlarged. Others, however, change and even improve dramatically as the scale increases. In other words, for some of my images I’ve discovered that there is an aesthetic reason to pursue larger prints. I’m sure this is no surprise to all of you who’ve made larger prints with regularity, but for me this was a mini-breakthrough.

Beauty and the beholder

The remaining issue for me has been the stickiest one of all — the “greatest hit” paradigm. With time, I have become more and more convinced in the veracity of the age-old wisdom that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve discovered I simply cannot predict — with any sense of accuracy whatsoever — which of my images the public will prefer. In fact, I’ve concluded that this is so because the very concept of “the public” is flawed. The public doesn’t exist, but individuals do — and individuals have preferences that vary in unpredictable and surprising ways.

I’ve always been uncomfortable in the winner-take-all approach of art-making that insists people must view and accept only the work that I think rises to the singular point of excellence. By editing my work so tightly, I invariably frustrate both my viewers and my work — if you’ll allow me a moment of anthropomorphizing. One of the great lessons I’ve learned from both folios and chapbooks is that every viewer will have their own favorite. My role as an artist is to give them choices rather than to proscribe their viewing experience with a heavy-handed, dictatorial, single-answer option.

Enter “Exhibition Suites”

So how can I marry these ideas to larger prints destined for the wall? Well, where is it written that photographs must be produced and sold as individual images? Why not a suite of three images? True, portfolios of work have been around forever, although they are typically burdened with the cost and the fuss of production in bevel-cut mats and clamshell boxes. What if we just eliminated all that fluff? For years now, I’ve offered unmatted prints (albeit small ones) with the assumption that people can and will make their own aesthetic decisions about framing and presentation based on their needs, in their homes, and their collections. It’s worked with smaller prints, so why not simply follow suit and do the same with larger prints?

Speaking of matting and framing, I stopped cutting my own mat boards almost 20 years ago. I realized that matting and framing is a talent all its own — requiring more sophisticated tools and time than I was willing to invest, and rob from my creative process! For years I’ve observed talented framers discard photographers’ simplistic mats and replace them with more sophisticated alternatives. Besides, cutting mats is expensive and a pain. I’m perfectly happy leaving that to professionals whose skill and training produce better results.
So, this extended thought experiment has led me to a new idea I’m calling an “Exhibition Suite” — a set of three individual prints, larger than my previous work, unified aesthetically by a theme or idea, a larger, main image printed on 17x22” paper, and two supporting compositions printed in 13x17" paper. Each print includes provenance information and open edition numbering. Unlike folios, I sign each print. This idea promises to allow me to think and create in small groups of larger images rather than in a single, all-or-nothing, hit or miss paradigm that is inevitable with the “greatest hit” in the bevel-cut mat and presented as a stand-alone image.