This summer, in the heat of the Pokémon Go craze, I found my attention drawn away by another popular app called Prisma. Like Instagram before it, this little utility churned out square pictures that were filtered in particular styles — though Prisma’s novelty was to use a style transfer method that made my photos look reminiscent of famous artworks and styles. It was and remains fun to play around with, and is regularly updated with new styles. But the one thing I hadn’t thought about while tinkering with my Prisma filters and sliders was actually printing out the product.
Printing Prisma photos on canvas is now a service that the zany printers at CanvasPop have decided to offer. Their whole business revolves around getting people’s images down onto canvas, and since Prisma fancies itself an app for creating artwork on your phone, the combination of the two can be said to be logical. Or it would be if Prisma offered more than its meager 1080 x 1080 resolution, designed to be shared across mobile devices and on the web.
Still, I had a beloved (Prisma-processed) photo of a snail from my home in Bulgaria, and I was curious to see what it’d look like as a physical object and I gave this idea a try. As it turned out, the low resolution isn’t much of a hurdle to producing lovely canvas prints. You have to go a bit heavy on the abstraction in Prisma in order to achieve a look that communicates intentional pixelation / blockiness, and I think my image strikes that balance nicely. CanvasPop says it also optimizes and enhances each image it receives to make it look its best, and since the company already offers Facebook and Instagram prints, I expect it’s well accustomed to working with less than ideal subjects.
The quality of the final print is great, the canvas is nice and thick, and the whole thing is put together by hand and signed by its maker. I’m split between finding that cutesy and endearing. In any case, the point isn’t the company but the object, which as my colleague Thomas Ricker just wrote today, is an underrated part of what makes our memories resonate over the years.
Pricing from CanvasPop isn’t exactly cheap, with my 12-inch-by-12-inch snail print costing $35 and the dearest 24-inch-by-72-inch prints hitting $419 when ordered with an added frame. Then again, if you’re ever going to give something like this a shot, now’s the week to do it as the company has a 50 percent Black Friday discount going on.