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Photographic Media and Photo Art Reproduction – A Guide to Terminology

The range of photographic media for photo-art reproduction has grown apace in recent years. For serious and occasional collectors alike, it pays to understand the differences in methodology, and the potential effect of acquisition prices and the investment value for the years ahead. Here are some key terms and the processes which apply to them

C-Type Prints

Darkroom/wet prints made from color negatives or transparencies. Before digital technology, these were the prints we all received from the pharmacies from our holiday films. They were also produced in larger sizes for exhibitions. C-type prints are now archival and are still preferred by some photographers and collectors to digital art prints.

Fine-art digital prints, aka Giclee, Iris or Art inkjet prints

The most common way of producing collectible prints in the digital age, is by scanning the original negative, or balancing a digital file from a digital camera, and out-putting the image, usually retouched, on various media types using archival inks. The advantage is that very fine quality coated papers can be used to make delicate, beautiful prints. Rockarchive’s Edition 100 is made in this way in various sizes without any loss of quality.

Lamda or Lightjet

This mode of printing contains elements of both traditional darkroom printing and digital technology. The original negative is scanned, or a digital image adjusted, and the resulting image is outputted onto photographic paper by means of laser light. The prints have the same archival value as traditional photographic RC prints or C-type prints on plastic based papers, with the advantage to some collectors of being called ‘photographic prints’.

Lenticular

Lenticular printing is a multi-step process consisting of creating an image from at least two existing images, and combining it with a special lens. This process can be used to create various frames of animation (for a motion effect), or simply to show a set of alternate images which may appear to transform into each other.

The combined lenticular print will show two or more different images simply by changing the angle from which the print is viewed.

Other Print types

There are an array of differing print methods now available using both traditional and contemporary techniques.

Silk screen

A screen is made of a piece of porous, finely woven fabric (originally silk, but typically made of polyester since the 1940s) stretched over a frame of aluminum or wood. Areas of the screen are blocked off with a non-permeable material to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed; that is, the open spaces are where the ink will appear.

The screen is placed atop a substrate such as papyrus or fabric. Ink is placed on top of the screen, and a fill bar (also known as a flood bar) is used to fill the mesh openings with ink. The operator begins with the fill bar at the rear of the screen and behind a reservoir of ink. The operator lifts the screen to prevent contact with the substrate and then using a slight amount of downward force pulls the fill bar to the front of the screen. This effectively fills the mesh openings with ink and moves the ink reservoir to the front of the screen. The operator then uses a squeegee (rubber blade) to move the mesh down to the substrate and pushes the squeegee to the rear of the screen. The ink that is in the mesh opening is transferred by capillary action to the substrate in a controlled and prescribed amount, i.e. the wet ink deposit is equal to the thickness of the stencil. As the squeegee moves toward the rear of the screen the tension of the mesh pulls the mesh up away from the substrate leaving the ink upon the substrate surface.

Silver Gelatin fiber prints

Prints made from an original black & white negative in the darkroom using chemicals and fiber papers are known as silver gelatin fiber prints. These are the most valuable to collectors, particularly as this now historic method of print making, combined with the fragility of old negatives, mean the prints will be rare. One of the characteristics to these prints is that they do not always dry completely flat and may look a little “wavy” when framed due to the process in which they are made. They are also particularly sensitive to dampness in the air and need to be treated with extra care.

Silver Gelatin RC prints

A silver gelatin RC print refers to an image made on resin-coated paper. These prints are also made from negatives in the darkroom using chemicals, but on plastic-based papers which are easier than fiber papers to work with. They also have the added benefit of drying flat. However, RC prints can be less ‘rich’ in terms of tone and texture than traditional fiber prints.

Your New Retirement Lifestyle – Using the Tools of Technology (Part 2)

In my last article I began a discussion of how the tools of technology can make life more accommodating. At the same time, you can readily continue to learn and grow. Here are some additional suggestions:

CONTINUE THE LEARNING PROCESS
Since it is well known that we are living longer, healthier lives, why not make the most of our time. That is, we have the time to reinvent and rediscover our passions. We can readily afford to experiment with new things. Hence, in that sense, the learning process never ceases.

These days, you do not have to leave the comfort of your home or office to take courses. This is where technology, and in particular the Internet, serves us well. A plethora of course offerings is available for enrichment purposes or for matriculation. Let’s examine some of the options.

Distance Education – The easiest way to understand distance education is to think of it as simply a learning situation in which the teacher and learner are separated. The technologies used in distance education are most often one of the following:

• Print – books, study guides, and other materials
• Audio – radio, telephone, cassette/cd, audio conference
• Video – TV medium, video conference, recorded video

The most common types of distance education courses include:

• Correspondence conducted through the regular mail
• Internet conducted
• Telecourse/Broadcast where content is delivered via radio or television
• CD-ROM where the student interacts with computer content
• Pocket PC/Mobile Learning where content is offered through a mobile device

A great place to explore distance learning opportunities is at Yahoo Distance Learning Directory (dir.yahoo.com/Education/Distance_Learning). Here, you’ll find links to Adult Education (ranked according to popularity), college and university offerings, general online courses, television courses, and more.

Peterson’s has an easy to use search mechanism that allows the user to enter the intended course of study, intended degree level (if any), and any on-campus requirements. You can also search by college if you have a particular institution in mind.

The University of Phoenix Online (online.uofphx.info) is one of the largest online higher education programs in the country. The areas of matriculation include associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. You simply fill out a questionnaire on the site, and then get directed to available programs to fit your needs.

Online Museums and Virtual Tours – Many museums offer an interesting online presence through their respective links. Ultimately, you can pull together a vast array of exhibits and collections including classic art and architecture.

A great site to visit is The Museum of Online Museums. Here you’ll find many links to brick-and-mortar museums. Most of these sites will present multiple exhibits from their collections. There really is something for everybody at this site including the Smithsonian Art Museum, a link of Russian museums, art treasures from Kyoto, the Van Gogh Gallery, even a skateboard museum.

VLMP (Virtual Library Museum Pages) is a worldwide directory of online museums that are organized by country.

Museums of the World, boasts a staggering variety of educational links accompanied by a large amount of interactive virtual exhibits with links to dozens of museum shops. Most of their links are topically arranged.

HOBBIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
Mp3 Players – If you are a music buff, times have really changed. From the early days of listening to records, to the supposed advanced technology of eight track tapes it’s so easy to now listen to any song at anytime with an MP3 player and a computer.

Satellite Radio – Satellite radio offers you an enormous array of music and entertainment channels with clear reception. This is of particular interest if you travel and desire consistent reception. The kind of satellite radio you get depends on your intended use.

Music Software – GarageBand is a specific software application that allows users to create a piece of music. At this point in time, it is for Mac computers. It is intended to help amateurs easily produce music. The application comes with about one thousand pre-recorded sampled and sequenced loops and fifty synthesized instruments which can be played using a MIDI keyboard connected to a computer or an on-screen virtual keyboard. Using a microphone, you can also record an instrument or a voice-over to the loops.

Podcasts – A podcast is a digital media file, or a series of files, that is distributed over the Internet for playback on portable media players (such as an iPod) and personal computers. Files can be audio or video. Listeners can subscribe to this feed by submitting a feed address (like the iTunes store). In this way, when new “episodes” become available in the podcast they can be automatically downloaded to that user’s computer. The content is not real-time so users can check out the material at their leisure.

Digital Scrapbooks – Digital scrapbooking utilizes computers, software, and digital photos to create beautiful scrapbook pages. Basically, you store your photographs in albums or individually on your computer hard drive. Depending on how fussy you are about details, you would use any of the more popular software packages to edit your photos.

Hobby Websites – There are a variety of websites that cater to your interests. If you are interested in hobbies that have to do with space and associated technology, then you should certainly visit the Hobbyspace site. The discussions here include satellite building, rocketry, modeling, astronomy and much more. There are also links to space art and music. A major goal of this site is to reach the general public who are interested in space but do not actively pursue that interest. Studium is a cyber magazine website that provides the general hobbyist with information relative to varied fields of collecting and study. So, for example, you’ll find articles on collecting miniatures, counterfeit coins, and movies.

The Effect of Digitisation on the Methods and Practice of Photographers

Digitisation has had a massive impact on the field of photography, our perception of the media and the nature of practice within the field. Artists like Andreas Gursky have embraced digital manipulation to create iconic work, however is this at the cost of a belief in the “truth” of photography? Digitalisation has made the work of a photographer easier and cheaper, and could be seen to have made photography available to everyone. However it has raised new issues and problems as new technology is bound to do.

Andreas Gursky is one of the most successful photographers of our time. A German photographer renowned for his enormous colour photographs of landscapes and architecture he is the author of the most expensive photograph in history, “99 CENT”, which sold for 3.3 million dollars at auction.

Gursky studied in Düsseldorf under the influence of Bernd and Hilla Becher, becoming well versed in traditional photographic technique and the documentary tradition. However in the mid nineties, with the advent of digital image processing, Gursky was to abandon many of the rules of documentary photography and embrace new technologies to add a new and unique dimension to his work.

Though Gursky has never fully abandoned traditional methods in favour of digital photography he has been combining digital design with traditional photography for the past 15 years. Digital processing allows photographers such as Gursky far more control in post-production, not only in terms of controlling colour and exposure but allowing individual elements of the image to be removed, re-arranged, or bought together to create a new composition. This technology gives Gursky the power to “design” his images, creating powerful fictions combining his personal vision with reality.

“He re-formats an ordinary photograph to form a giant geometrical composition”. [Syring M.L. (1998) Where is “Untitled”]

Gursky’s work favours pattern, symmetry and impact and in works like “RHINE II” he has used digital technologies to doctor his images to maximise these qualities. In “RHINE II” elements of the image have been removed and rearranged to create an impossible and contemporary view.

“In order to stress the idea of nature, sparse and minimalist, having being straightened out by human hand, Gursky elides the factory in the background.” [Syring M.L. (1998) Where is “Untitled”]

Digitally constructing his images allows Gursky to create the new spatial contexts, viewpoints, and geometric constructions that give his work so much impact and make it unique. He can alter the proportions of buildings, extend landscapes into sweeping panoramas and fuse elements into a more concentrated design. His works are “fictions based on facts. Representation and idea are united” [Weski T. (2007)]. Although his work appears ordered it often confuses, the digitally constructed viewpoints no longer follow optical rules and can seem strange and powerful.

It is debatable whether Gursky’s photographic montages have any place in the documentary tradition. The manipulated images cannot be said to constitute an unadulterated image of reality, “the decisive photographic moment loses its validity and can only exist as a construction” [Weski T. (2007)]. This lack of validity, or belief in the “truth”, of photographs is one of the major impacts of digitalisation on the field.

In the early days of photography photographs were considered the ultimate, objective method of capturing reality, devoid of the inaccuracies and subjectivity of the work of artists. Photographs were considered to be indisputable, a record of fact, accepted as legal evidence. Since the image was created by light passing through the lens and reacting with the silver halide particles on the film it was considered to simply create an objective image of the subject in front of the lens. However as technology gave increasing artistic control to the photographer the “truth” of photographic images began to come under scrutiny. By control of the framing, viewpoint, composition and often subject the photograph became the product of the photographer’s perception; subjective rather than objective. The image captured could not be considered to convey an objective “truth” of a situation or place since the moment captured is so brief and often contrived. The photographer can also create a fiction through the direction of the subject, where he/she has full control to manipulate the shot. Although the camera captures an accurate representation of the scene in front of the lens the image cannot be considered to show any greater “truth”, ideas/ events may be suggested but the only accuracy is that which is actually shown. “Every photograph is accurate, none of them is the truth.” [Richard Avedon].

In the midst of this discussion over the role or indeed importance of a photographic “truth”, the introduction of digital imaging was a critical turning point. With images editable on the computer at pixel level it is now possible for professionals like Gursky, amateurs, and the mass media, to easily manipulate images indiscernibly so that the image is no longer even an accurate representation of what was in front of the lens.

Programmes such as Photoshop also allow easy digital manipulation not only of colour, contrast and levels but also of the entire image. Commercially this is prominent in the mass media images of the beauty industry, where images of models and celebrities can be altered to look more perfect through air brushing, reshaping and even changing characteristics such as eye colour.

Modern cameras themselves even perform editing and manipulation of colour and contrast within the camera, without the direction of the photographer, so that the photographers level of control over the image is reduced and alterations to the “truthful” image can occur even without our realisation.

This loss of belief in the “truth” of photographic images has obviously had a massive impact on the way in which we view the media, and its application. Duane Michals suggests in his image “THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS MY PROOF” that we have a very special relationship with photography for this reason; we consider them proof. We hoard and keep photographs because we see them as a form of memory, but one that is untainted, a proof of “the way things were”. With the loss of belief in the power of photographs as “truth” or “proof” will we begin to lose the magic of this relationship with the photographic image?

Digital technologies have also has an effect on the way photographers are able to market and display their work. For artists like Gursky the digital environment provides a much easier platform in which to display and sell his work. The advent of email and the web also makes communicating with galleries and buyers easier and faster and allows samples of work to be sent digitally across the world, much easier than visiting potential exhibitors/ buyers in person.
For less established photographers the Internet provides an easy way to reach large numbers of people and possible clients through portfolio websites, more cheaply than the traditional method of producing a book of photographs. The web 2.0 environment also encourages an interaction; so that artists can share opinions and critique each other’s work. Digitisation has also created a market for photographers to create images for digital stock image sites, used by magazines and many other media companies.

However this digital environment may have turned the life of a photographer into a rather lonelier one. The use of email and the web means that most transactions and discussion occur online rather than face-to-face. The idea of visiting clients or galleries with a portfolio in hand is becoming outdated. Also digitalisation has meant that rather than spending time in communal darkrooms with other artists a lot of photographers spend a lot of time in front of their computers alone. Does this loss of direct contact with other creative artists impact on the work being produced? Certainly there is a degree of loss of creative communication and feedback, which may result in potential ideas/ collaborations never coming to pass.

Digitalisation has also enabled a mass production of images that was not possible before. The digital image can be printed by a variety of means both relatively cheaply and on a large scale, and this mass production has an impact on the value of photographic prints. Whereas with painting there has always been a very clear line between an “original” artwork and a “print”, photography has never has an “original” in this sense, numerous prints can be made from the same negative, and thousands from a digital file, and this makes it more difficult to place a value on the print. Photographers traditionally, and now in the digital age, have to get around this problem by producing a limited number of prints. Gursky’s solution is to work with limited edition iconic single photographs.

It is perhaps this understanding of the power of a single image that has made Gursky such a success. He does not work with series as many photographers do but instead relies upon the power of “the icon” or individual image. This has made his work extremely saleable since “limited availability justifies exorbitant prices” [Boris von Brauchitsch (2009)] and individual images, rather than series, lend themselves to the market’s preference for “one-of-a-kind” works.
“He has relied upon the fact that it is not films or photo series that affix themselves the collective consciousness, but single images. Perhaps he also noticed that all great artists sustain their positions in art history with fewer than five works.” [Boris von Brauchitsch (2009)].

Digital technology has been an important aspect in enabling Gursky to create images, like “MADONNA 1”, which have the visual impact to stand alone in this way.

The image “MADONNA 1” is one of the best examples of Gursky’s use of digital techniques. In this image of the singer’s concert, multiple images from the over the course of the evening are fused into a single image. This allows Gursky to capture in a single image what traditional photographers would produce in the form of a sequence.

Digitalisation has also had a massive impact on the field of photography in respect to image authorship and copy write. In the days of negatives and silver prints these issues were relatively simple, the photographer retained his negatives and the right to print images from those negatives and could sell the prints as he/she wished. With the introduction of digital images, and later the Internet, these issues become a lot more complicated. Images are not produced from a negative they are recorded as an electronic code, which can be stored and perfectly copied. With a lot of artists choosing to upload their images onto the Net and into image banks it has become increasingly more difficult to ascertain the true ownership of an image. Anyone wishing to access these images could view them on screen, print, download, even edit them. In the case of the latter the issue of authorship becomes even more complex. Although copy write currently retains the ownership of each image by its creator there are changes occurring with the introduction of the “creative commons license”. This allows artists, wishing to share their work with others on the Internet, to be more specific with the rights to their images, allowing them to be used freely by others or with conditions imposed upon the use. Both amateur and professional photographers now have a lot more copy write issues to consider than they did before digitisation.

Digitalisation has without a doubt made photography more widely accessible and the production of images more profuse. The majority of people in this country now own a digital camera of some kind, either in the form of a DSLR, a compact digital camera, or a digital camera within their phone. Digitisation means that it now costs nothing to take a photograph, there is no film cost and images can be stored or deleted with no cost at all. Compact and phone cameras have also been designed to be as easy to use as possible so that the user need do no more than press the button and the camera itself will make the decisions about exposure, ISO, focus, and will even make alterations to the colour and contrast.

Interestingly this idea is based on the same principle as Kodak’s “You press the button, we do the rest” principle, which was conceived long before the invention of digital. Kodak encouraged users to use a ready loaded roll of film and then mail it back to Kodak to be developed and printed, so that the user need do nothing more than “press the button”. The idea of that campaign was to make photography more widely accessible to people without the time or inclination to understand the full photographic process. Digitisation and modern camera manufacture has built on this idea, allowing users to easily produce high quality images without the cost or effort of understanding traditional photographic skills such as exposure control or printing. Post production software also means that a lot of key decisions and alterations can be made to the image after the image is taken. “The picture taking becomes a smaller proportion of the process.” [Oliver A. (2008)]

With storage capacity and image quality constantly improving and becoming cheaper photography is now quicker, cheaper and easier than it has ever been, allowing everybody to become a photographer. Professional photographers with a full photographic education such as Gursky may find themselves in a field where it is creativity rather than this formal education that is what matters. This can be seen to be a positive for the field of photography, bringing in new talent that might otherwise never have had the opportunity to explore the medium. However there is also a concern that this is breeding a generation of photography that is reliant on the technology, rather than a full understanding of photographic skills and principles.

“Though digital cameras and post production software cannot yet make aesthetic decisions, they do effectively- and ‘by default’- make key technical decisions about lighting, which can deliver perfectly acceptable images. Yet for many photographers who believe light to be the element that evokes emotion – a core part of ones image-making vocabulary rather than a constraint enforced by the technology- this can be a problem.” [Oliver A. (2008)]
The sheer volume of images being created must be far greater than at any previous point in history, all adding to a mass consciousness of imagery. As a culture we are now overwhelmed with images; from the media, the Internet, magazines etc. and it is debatable whether this mass of imagery is adding to our consciousness of the world or taking away from it. Do these images inform us and deepen our understanding, or are we becoming desensitised? Certainly an image of war/ famine/ suffering in a magazine or newspaper is considered less shocking than it might have been in the past, perhaps we have become so used to such images they no longer shock us in the way that perhaps they should?

Overall digitalisation can be seen to have had a profound impact on the work of artists like Gursky, and on the field of photography in general. Gursky has embraced digital techniques in postproduction to create completely fictional compositions, which would not have been possible using traditional photographic techniques. This has made his work unique, iconic and above all saleable. The digital environment has also provided a new platform on which to market his work and communicate with galleries and buyers around the world. However this use of manipulation could be seen to have resulted in the loss of trust in the photographic image and the documentary tradition. In a wider context digitalisation has made photography more accessible to everyone allowing new creatives into the industry and making photography cheaper and easier for everyone. Digitalisation has raised new issues, such as copy write, as well as solving old ones. However for good or for bad photography is now more profuse in our culture than it has ever been.

Bibliography

Coleman A.D. (1998) The Digital Evolution, Arizona: Nazraeli Press

Weski T. (2007) The Privileged View, Andreas Gursky. IN: Weski T. et al (ed). Andreas Gursky,
Cologne: Snoek.

Syring M.L. (1998) Where is “Untitled”. IN Syring M.L. (ed). Andreas Gursky, Verona: EBS, 5-7.

Oliver A. (2008) It’s About Time. Eye Magazine, Vol. 70, 73.

Boris von Brauchitsch (2009). The Gursky Phenomenon. European Photography, Vol. 84, 3-9