Hogarth said it all. Wonderful!
Hogarth said it all. Wonderful!
I saw the show in question (I am a Minnesotan as is Blacklock), and was not knocked out -- but really, the print quality wasn't the issue. As others have noted, there is a lot of variety in print materials and style.
As to picking the wrong printer, he prints them himself. See his discussion of his technique in a recent issue of View Camera (Sept/Oct, perhaps?)
We've all been burned by archival promises for traditional color and new digital media. While the accelerated test results are useful, and give us hope, we simply don't know for sure how long these materials will last. But who is to say that coatings won't pop off silver prints prematurely? Or that the archival print you took pains to make twenty years ago really did get washed enough for the long haul? Or - worse than a faded print - the darkroom chemicals made YOU somewhat less "archival."
I'll risk carpal tunnel, thank you...
Let me share my recent experiences:
I have never spent any time in the darkroom, other than printing TEM negatives many years ago as a graduate student.
I shoot traditional b/w and color on 4x5 and 6x9 RF, scanned and printed inkjet. I will not go into color printing here.
For b/w, I must say I have seen many, many prints from others done on inkjet that were stunning. But, I have also seem many, many crappy inkjet b/w prints. Being a novice myself, I still show my work at the local camera club for competition. At a recent year-end competition, with local pros judging the prints, I had 4 inkjets in the b/w category. Others had many traditional b/w drakroom prints, many done "custom" by professional labs. They were very good. My 4 inkjets won 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place! When the judges realized they were inkjet, there was surprise all around. These judges do color inkjet, but have gone back to the darkroom for b/w because "inkjet just does not do it". Well, it is all in one's competence with the technology. After I helped two of them properly set up their digital systems/workflow, which includes proper choice of inks/paper, they have completely abandoned their need to go into the darkroom.
Another exprience: I got a gift of "botanical dances" by Huntinton Weatherhill (sp?) along with a very well made darkroom print of his. In comparing the depth and presence on paper, my inkjets certainly don't beat the darkroom print, but neither do they wither as if in presence of some greatness.
Well made inkjet has a different feel/look, but I like it. It is not like any other print medium really.
It's snowing like crazy here today. I'll take some of that Arizona sun if you have some extra lying around!
Very interesting debate or observations
I have had an interesting project come through my shop recently that may be of interest to this debate.
One of my competitors is doing piezography prints using the John Cone sets. A prospective client came into my shop and inquired whether I would be interested to do a test for him. I made a 12x18 silver print from negative supplied on agfa classic glossy.
When he saw the print, he told me he was going to give me a rather large show.
He had already printed 36 of these digitally and wanted me to reproduce 1 each of 100 negatives to silver prints onto 16x20 paper
When he came in he brought the already printed and paid for digital prints...... they looked lovely, I therefore was apprehensive as now I had commited to make them all over again, as well as 75 more.
I started with the first 36 that had been already printed, guess what !!! The silver prints totally blew away the inkjet prints!!!
To be fair, I print both digitally and traditionally , I am not sure whether the former printer is crap, they are very strong in the community here and I don"t want to bad mouth them.. But I have to say I was very suprised comparing prints made by two different shops using two different processes.
I think that to make critiques of processes you must actually do them side by side and judge for yourself which process matches your vision. I do prefer silver prints, but I am not adverse to seeing a good platinum , cyanotype or inkjet, if it is printed properly
I think I'm mostly wondering if there is any hope for improvement in the quality. I'd be more in favor if the blacks were actually black (or at least blacker than they are now). Maybe I am trying to force inkjet to be more like a silver print, but I don't think that asking for blacker blacks is going to make them look identical. I'll take that criticism under advisement, though.
Hogarth: I don't think I've made up my mind about it at all. If I had I wouldn't have bothered to post this question. I actually just got a little Epson R800 (and Eye-One Display2 calibrator) for Xmas and some of my impressions are based on prints I made with that (with default ultrachrome inks) as well as the Blacklock show. Admittedly, my experience is limited, but part of my question is whether other people feel the quality of inkjet is really ready for prime time (e.g. $1,000 a print).
I wonder, too, if pictures originally ‘visualized’ for traditional silver prints translate well to inkjet. I'd be interested in hearing comments from Kirk and those who have reprinted older pictures on inkjet and directly compared them to the original prints (if any were handy).
Maybe I'll post another question later today about what the current state of the art is in BW inkjet printing, as I'd be interested in hearing what's required to produce the best prints possible, even with my little R800.
IMO, it is not the ink jet print but the photographer who is at fault. The process influences the choices we make of things to photograph. Pt/pd has a very low Dmax compared to silver, the tonal relationships are very diferent, and as such I pick my subjects with the process in mind. In his book Arents says we dont need the deepest blacks, we need convincing blacks. I think this also applies to ink jet prints, whoever is doing an ink jet print needs to pay attention to the tonal relation ship .
For example in this print
You would think the shadows at the bottom are black, but they are not, they actually have detail and only have a RD of about 1.3.
IOW, an image that is good in silver does not necessarily will translate to a good image in ink jet, and trying to make them look the same is foolish. This is the problem I see with many people doing B&W ink jets. It seems they are used to printing in silver and when they change to ink jet they approach their subjects in the same manner.
I have seen gorgeous ink jet prints, but they were done by people who understood it is not the same media...and adjusted to it.
Go top the mall and look at any large branded retail "environment" - like Ambercrobie & Fitch - all inkjet. Perfect prints. (Bruce Weber)
If you can get inky blackness out of color images on inkjets (and many of us do) then you can do likewise on your little Epson printing B&W. FWIW, I don't care for the Piezography stuff I've seen either - but blame Jon Cone, not the entire form of media!
Dave - I'm with you. I wish I had some to send :-)
Just that dim January stuff we get here in New England.
But the nice thing is, this time of year, the shadows are long all day. It's always that golden hour.