Appropriate size is important.
A number of years ago I saw an retrospective exhibition of an Australian street photographers images. The photographs were printed too large and became soft and distracting. He didn't sell one photograph from the exhibition. Some time later I saw the book made from the exhibition and although the images were smaller and offset printed they had much more impact.
I had seen Man Ray's images in books many times and I like his work. When they had an exhibition of his work at the Art Gallery of NSW I was disappointed. The prints were 5x4" contact prints presented in archival lighting. It was tiring to look at. The same could be said of the Paul Strand photogravures at the MCA recently. I definitelyhttp://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&...ely&spell=1
prefer the larger reproduction of both these photographers images in books that you can view in decent lighting.
I think that much of the popularity of Ansel Adam's work is that he did enlarge his work appropriately so that you could see the detail in his prints. I saw a selection of prints at Byron Mapp gallery (now closed) of prints made by Ansel's assistant. They were contact prints and although the prints were of high quality, they lacked the impact of an enlarged print. If I remember correctly in the next room was a collection of Peter Dombrovskis's 5x4" photographs printed approximately 36x29". They blew the Ansel Adams prints away. This time the enlarged prints from these two photographers are so much better than book reproductions.
As you can see I'm not a fan of contact prints and contact prints seen under archival lighting are the biggest disappointment. A good black and white print is one that is enlarged appropriately to show the detail that is the slide/neg/capture…