Recently the Autotype gravure tissue that was popular with printers using the copperplate method was discontinued – this is a company that’s been in business since the 1800s. So now we have a situation, according to Dick Sullivan at Bostick and Sullivan, where the 500 ateliers around the world who are making gravures, and who rely on this tissue, have to immediately find a replacement.
Dick has been making tissue for the carbon transfer process mechanically for the past few years and naturally he would be the guy these printers would turn to in a situation like this. And they have. So now Dick’s under a lot of pressure to formulate and manufacture a gravure tissue quickly. Very quickly. Many of these ateliers are professional, commercial businesses and rely on a high quality product like this for their survival.
Now, I’m sure that Dick will come up with a replacement product and we hope that until he does, there will be as few casualties from all this as possible. And, of course, polymer plates will one day go the same way as the Autochrome tissue, perhaps sooner than we’d like and they certainly won’t be around for over 100 years like Autochrome. But here’s a situation where isn’t it advantageous to be ahead of the game and be using new technology, instead of being the purist, the traditionalist, relying on products that have essentially been around in the same guise for over a hundred years? I’m certainly not implying that there’s no place for those who wish to strictly follow traditional working methods – I used to be one of those people and you have to admire their dedication – but as a commercial printer in the 1980s I learnt to never entirely rely on one or two particular products because they can, and will, disappear just as quickly as they arrive. This normally occurs after you’re one third of the way through printing an exhibition for a client who just loves the new paper…
But in the last decade I’ve come to love the freedom that new technologies have empowered me with, especially when adapting and merging these technologies. I’m determined not to be in the same situation Frederick Evans found himself in when he gave up photography because the platinum paper he loved so much became unavailable.
Over at the Minneapolis Photo Center on August 18th – next Tuesday – I’ll be speaking about my photography and the various alternative processes I work with. Beth spoke there at the beginning of August and set the bar pretty high, I thought, so I’ll have my work cut out. And although it won’t be a technical talk and full of numbers, I’ll be covering the reasons why I think combining analogue techniques with today’s digital technology can be liberating for photographers.
So here’s another of those “I can’t believe it’s been this long since I last posted” posts. The reality is that I was slightly taken in by the siren that is Facebook and this weblog became even more neglected than usual.
Facebook is great for keeping in touch with certain people, in my case some of those back in the UK, but it’s not enough to keep me happy. I don’t really care if anyone reads this weblog or not, the fact is that I enjoy writing it – when I get the time. I like that I can write posts bit by bit, save them as drafts and publish when ready. So I’m going to try and write and post regularly – or at the very least more often than I have recently.
So, what’s been happening? This summer I’ve been trying to get more of my work finished and printed, with emphasis on the word printed. I still have a lot of images that have got to the edited stage and then just accumulate in a virtual shoebox under the bed. Garry Winogrand reportedly died with over 2000 rolls of film still unprocessed and although I’m not that prolific, I still don’t want anything similar to that as my epitaph. “He died with over 2000 platinum internegatives unprinted…”
Having said all that, we went to the Badlands and the Black Hills at the end of June and although I’ve processed all the film and made scans, I still have a lot of editing to do.
I had a photogravure accepted in the Washington Printmakers GalleryNational Small Works exhibition that opened recently. I submitted several pieces and (a little disappointingly) they chose one that had been shown before, Bird’s Nest. It would have been nice if another image had been chosen of course, but I’m really extremely happy because 192 artists entered 740 prints and the juror Jane Haslem eventually chose just 42.
On August the 18th I’m talking at the Minnesota Photo Center as part of the Tuesday Artists’ Talk series, following on from Beth who was just there. I’ll be talking about my photography and how I ended up working with the processes I use and perhaps talking a little about polymer photogravure as well. It won’t be at all technical but will cover how and why combining digital technology with the historical processes from the 1800s, as I am, can be so liberating for photographers today. There are also about 15 prints of ours up on the 3rd floor of the Minneapolis Photo Center – 4, I think, of Beth’s and 11 of mine.
Speaking of photogravure, I’m also writing an article for Ag on the process that will be published in the autumn. Photogravure, or more specifically polymer photogravure, is a process that I’ve been working with for ten years now and absolutely adore, but it was never this easy. When I started I knew of no photographers/printers that I could call or email and ask for help with any one of the myriad of problems I encountered. And at that time I was still using film, an enlarger and chemicals to make the film positives. Nowadays with digital it’s all a lot simpler but over the years I’ve formulated a workflow that is very consistent for my work. And the non-toxic aspect makes it very suitable for the classroom environment.