The ultimate goal

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Stephen Batey, Aug 29, 2016.

  1. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    Photography started from a desire to fix the image from a lens (or even a pinhole) for posterity. Various methods were tried over the years, leading to a number of different means of achieving this end, and with varying success. Always, the aim was to achieve permanence. The great problem with the majority of ther methods was that they ultimately depending on the stability of various chemicals, or the ability to prevent a chemical reaction taking place with the image-forming substance. Carbon prints were highly regarded for permanence because they used carbon which is pretty well inert to make the image. It wasn't a simple process, and other simpler ones succeded it. And, yes, people do still make carbon prints, but it's not as far as I know mainstream.

    Platinum and palladium printing gives a different print to silver; Frederick Evans (of Sea of Steps fame) used this method of printing, and was said to have given up photography when the First World War caused the supply of materials for the process to dry up. The longer tonal range of these processes is often cited; it goes hand in hand with a "softer" print, in terms of contrast.

    Silver gelatine gives another look to prints. But how many people decry Pt/Pd because Ag is better, or vice versa? They are generally accepted as equally valid, although they look different.

    Now the contentious part. Suppose inkjet printing had been invented in 1880. Photographs made with pigments, possibly even carbon as the pigment. More permanent than anything else so far. Would research have continued given that in the early years it was directed to permanence, and carbon was seen as the unattainable answer to the problem?

    To those who say that an inkjet print doesn't look like a conventional one - what sort of "conventional" one doesn't it look like? A silver gelatine print? A platinum print? A cyanotype? And if being different (even granting that the appearance is different) to a silver gelatine print makes it inferior, where does this leave all the host of alternative processes which also look different?

    Does it matter how a print was produced? Aren't the important things how it looks and how well it will last? OK, galleries can push up prices by advertising silver gelatine, but does this really affect the print in the hand? A "conventional" print can lay claim to being a one off, incapable of being exactly reproduced (question: how well did Ansel Adams do at making exactly identical prints for his portfolio volumes?) but this comes down to an assumption that the same digital file will be printed each time. Why shouldn't the artist create each print as a one-off with different edits, unless he thinks that he has achieved exactly what he envisaged with the version just printed? In which case, either he stops at an edition of 1, or makes inferior (by definition) additional prints.

    Discuss.
     
  2. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    I don't think it matter how the print was made, what substrate was used, however I do think the quality of the print has some importance. As for longevity, unless a gallery is archiving it, then i am not sure we need to be that concerned.
     
  3. Isabel

    Isabel Active Member

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    I also don't care how the print was made, the only things that counts for me is does it look the way I imagined it and if I could do all of those printing styles from carbon to silver gelatine (my dream :)) then I would and always pick the one that I think works best with my vision for that specific photograph.
    It is the same with the analog versus digital discussion - why do I have to decide...and in this case I don't but use both ;-)
     
  4. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    Personally, I don't care how a print was made as long as the photographer's vision, story, or whatever is clear. I have personally made some rather nice B&W inkjet prints (IMHO, of course) and many silver gelatin or pt/pd prints in the traditional darkroom. That said, though, I will say that I...personally...have never seen nor made myself a B&W inkjet print that looks as if light is emanating from the paper. I have, however, seen and made myself B&W silver prints with that quality.

    If printing B&W inkjet and you want ultimate longevity, print on a cotton rag substrate with no OBA using Jon Cone's carbon inks. You probably couldn't do much better than that.
     
  5. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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    I can see the skill in a top quality Darkroom print and appreciate the skill of the computer edit.


    More importantly computer and inkjet technology has played a big part in the increase and interest in the analogue process and in many respects helped in keeping film alive, why, well not everybody has the room for a darkroom especially big enough for a Large format enlarger, not everybody for differing reasons wants to work in a wet environment, we now have a choice and I would not be taking on this forum, posting images, made from film capture if it we're not for the pioneers of computer wizardry, it has opened a whole new world to thousands of people that love film capture and negative process and is not reliant upon the darkroom to achieve the end goal.


    I embrace the tech side and after 40 years in the wet environment I would not want to go back, so long live the Darkroom print and the same for the Inkjet, let them work together and if keeps the interest in film alive and kicking that's a good enough reason for me.
     
  6. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    Is that only with silver prints, and not with Pt/Pd? If so, is this simply an area where there is a difference between Ag and inkjet/Pt/Pd etc.? The different methods produce different looking prints, so if only silver can give this effect, is there not a case for dumping Pt/Pd prints as not fit for purpose, assuming that this is a desireable quality in all prints? Otherwise, we come back to "different methods, subtle differences in print".

    And what about the other question in my opening thread? Given that the 19th century experimenters would have loved to be able to produce pigment prints, if inkjet had been invented would anyone have bothered with silver and the difficulties of permanence?
     
  7. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    @Stephen - I do believe that the characteristic to which I was speaking about may be directly related to silver printing only. But, that's not to say, and I didn't mean any disrespect to any other process, that one is better than the other. It simply happens to be a look I strive for in my silver printing; it's not easy to achieve and requires quite a bit of experimentation with different papers, paper developer, and toners. And, I'm not totally convinced that subject tonality itself doesn't play a part. I print B&W silver and pt/pd prints in my darkroom and produce B&W and color inkjets on the desktop. I would never campaign for "dumping" anything! It's all good. :)

    @Martin - as usual, beautifully said. However, after 40 years I still enjoy the quiet contemplation and solitude that comes with working in the wet darkroom. There is something about the process that I still enjoy. I know...it's a sickness! :) That said, though, I've got all the tech toys, too, and also enjoy producing inkjet prints. As a matter of fact, if I want to produce any print larger than 8x10 contact prints from my 8x10 negs, I have to scan and print on my Epson 3880. For fact, I have 4 framed inkjet prints hanging on the wall right behind me as I type this that simply couldn't have been made (by me, anyway) without the technology available on the desktop.
     
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  8. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    True, you didn't - and I apologise if my post came across as implying that you did (and, yes, I did use the "D" word myself :D).

    I have seen several/many times people state that inkjet prints are inferior to silver ones (OK, the phrase is usually "darkroom" or "conventional" but "silver" is what is meant. What I was trying to ascertain was whether the differences (granting that they exist) were any different to the differences between conventional processes. For anyone who regards a selenium toned silver print from Ansel Adams as the gold standard, I can well imaging that a genuine gold standard print (chrysotype) would be a shock (and inferior) as would platinum, palladium or iron (cyanotype) prints. As to where carbon prints would sit with carbon pigment prints (inkjet) is anyone's guess - unless one of you actually knows! I last knowingly saw a carbon print 50 years ago, so my memory is none too good on the finer points to put it mildly :)
     

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