Re: The value of the handmade

From: [email protected]
Date: 03/15/05-01:13:08 PM Z
Message-id: <>

Dick said:
>The one argument I hear referring to a digitally printed imageis "It took
>me hours and hours to make that print" Some how this is an attempt to
>relate the work to a hand made image.

Which part of the get-the-image-onto-paper process took hours and hours?
If they are describing decisions they made in Photoshop, then I
personally feel that time is just as worthy as the time a classic printer
might spend exploring different interpretations under an enlarger or UV
lightsource as they play with contrast, diffusion, flashing,
burning/dodging, toning, etc. John Sexton once said it was not uncommon
for him to spend 40 hours on a new negative until he had resolved the
first fine print. On the other hand, if the "hours and hours to make the
print" is owing to a poorly calibrated monitor or lousy printer profile,
that's another story and certainly has nothing to do with skill or
artistic exploration.

Did these digital printers tell you "my hours and hours of work make my
prints relate to a handmade image" or is this your interpretation? It's
hardly a "digital" phenomenon for someone to correlate effort with value.
A few years ago a student of Jack Spencer (the terrific southern
photographer) brought work to me for a critique. She showed me a finished
silver print that had lots of problems. She then showed me the mask
(emulating the methods that Jack uses so expertly in his own silver
printing) that she used to make the print. "I spent 20 hours on this
mask" she proudly exclaimed. Since she was already making handmade prints
(silver gelatin) it was hardly "an attempt to relate the work to a
handmade image." Rather, she was suggesting, since she'd spent so much
time and effort on the image, that somehow this made it "better" than if
she'd been able to make it quickly. Of course, it didn't. A bad print is
a bad print no matter how long it takes.

> I find the distortions of gelatin silver that carries
>through to the printing process to be natural looking whereas I think
>younger folks adapt more readily to the more linear images one can pull of
>an inkjet printer. To me there is a sense of sterility to the "perfect"
>inkjet image.

Couldn't agree with you more about the silver print. More silver gelatin
prints take my breath away than prints from any other process. As for
sterility, I know what you mean. It's much like the static
I'll-put-my-camera-here-because-nothing-will-move look that infects so
much large format photography. "I lugged this big camera up the mountain
for hours and hours so it must be a great photograph." You know what I

>I am also appalled at the historic ignorance of folks who keep insisting on
>calling inkjet prints carbon prints or pigment prints. Not to name names,
>but I have corrected a number of photographers on this issue but they
>continue the practice. There was even a set of cartridges being sold as
>"platinum black" and Patrick Alt informed me that a gallery in Elay was
>selling the prints as platinum prints. Seems the guy had even put brush
>marks on them with Photoshop.

When I was struggling over what to call my
non-handmade-inkjet-printer-produced prints, a gallery owner I respect
had sound advice. I'd already explained my reluctance to call them
"giclee" because that term is just a smidge too fancy and besides, it's
already being over-used to describe everything involving ink on paper.
She said DO NOT call them "inkjet prints" because this sounds too much
like you went down to Office Max, grabbed a $49 printer and started
cranking out prints. I adopted her "Pigmented Ink Print" terminology
because it's accurate, non-pejoritive and has a nice ring to it without
getting flowery.

I don't have a problem with an ink manufaturer's calling a product
"platinum black" any more than with Grumbacker's calling a color "Ivory
Black." It's a decriptive device and nothing more. On the other hand, if
someone sells prints from those inks and has the gall to call them
"platinum prints," they should have sensitive body parts squeezed firmly
in a bench vise.

For what it's worth.

Received on Tue Mar 15 13:13:31 2005

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