Richard Benson

Printing and Photography, Photography and Printing

Photography and printing are odd trades, since each has traditionally been divided into two discrete parts. For photography, those parts are the taking of the picture with a camera, and then printing that picture on a piece of paper. For printing, the two parts are transferring the content to be printed onto a new physical substrate, such as a printing plate, and then carrying out the transfer into ink on paper. In my long working life, the first part of photography—wielding the camera in the illuminated world—has been a magical act that I have never tampered with technically. Whether using an 8x10 view camera or a modern digital reflex camera, I have photographed in conventional ways while trying to understand the vastly complex conversion of the visual world into the fictional fact of a photograph. I strive to make my pictures look like that world out there which seems so much smarter and more surprising than anything I think up, while at the same time I remain committed to the idea that they are simply pictures and not the worId from which they derive.

I have left that first part of photography unaltered in a technical sense, practicing it in the same way as my peers, but the second part—the making of the print–has been a fantasy world I dove into during the 1960s and never quite managed to leave. Printing and photography became all mixed up together for my head and my hands, and more than forty years of work have been devoted to redefining the second half of photography as an expression of the two parts of printing: How to transfer that record of the world into a new mechanical form and then how to use that form to control ink laid onto paper. It has been long, complex, and a great deal of fun…

The photographs shown here are published in ARCHAEOLOGY and the shape of time.

North South East West, a book of Richard's recent color work, published by MoMA in October 2011, is available here.

Richard Benson is a Rhode Island based photographer.
To view more of Richard Benson's work, please visit The Pace MacGill Gallery.


Paris Rooftops, 1980 

Mast from Shamrock V, Portsmouth, R.I. 1986 

Wrenches, Puerto Rico 1984 

Shaw Memorial, Boston 1972 

Shaw Memorial, Boston 1972 

Waldron Stone, Newport, R.I. 1976 

Caribe Playa Clouds, Puerto Rico 1986 

Derecktor Shipyard, Middletown, R.I. 1985:

Remains of the River Boat Sprague, Mississippi River 1987 

Mill Building, Mass. 1983 

Chateau Maintenon, France 1978  

Meriden, Conn. 1968 

Tilden Ave., Newport, R.I. 1989