View Full Version : Intaglio / Photogravure

Ed K.
27-May-2006, 20:19
Has anyone here tried printing their work using Photogravure on copper plates, or even etched mezzotint / stochastic screens on aluminium plates?

I'm getting quite tempted to give it a whirl for the hand-crafted and long-lasting aspects. I have some images that would probably look good in ink on 300lb paper, embossed into the sheet. I plan to use an etching/intaglio press to do the prints, and for the screened plates, I want to use some drum scanned originals to make plates digitally. True, this would not be exactly traditional photography ( except for "real" photogravure ), however the originals will be 8x10 film. Sorry that I couldn't pick a more suitable category for this question. I found a great plate maker and film output shop right in my neighborhood.

Any thoughts? Resources to know about?

Oren Grad
27-May-2006, 20:57
I looked into it semi-seriously maybe four or five years ago - bought a couple of books which I studied carefully, and scoured the web for whatever I could find. I concluded that it would be an exceedingly demanding and time-intensive craft with a steep learning curve, and decided I'd gain greater satisfaction by spending my available time and energy making more new negatives and producing more silver prints.

But I, too, would be interested in hearing from anyone who's actually done it. Off the top of my head, the only person I've met that I recall as having messed with gravure is Phil Davis, but then he seems to have tried his hand at pretty much every photographic printing medium in existence, with beautiful results in each one.

Ed K.
27-May-2006, 21:07
Oren, thanks for the comment. To add just a bit, while traditional photogravure is very complicated, with polymer plates ( solar plates ) sounding easier, at least the screened plates and output are surprisingly reasonable in very large sizes - that's part of what excites me here. I also did find a printer who would "pull" a few prints and use thier fine expertise to ink them so that one could get a feel for what might be possible - all for less per print than a very large commercially printed Giclee print, and decent quality up to about 10-20 impressions under very heavy pressure.

Okay - now back to hear from those who've done it!

Jack Reisland
28-May-2006, 00:02
I have been doing copper plate photogravure for a few years now. I should say, I have been attempting photogravure for a few years now, with very mixed results. I suspect that it would be very difficult to learn traditional photogravure working by yourself, I am working in a studio setting, with several other printers. It is, as you have heard, a fairly complicated proceedure, with lots of variables that can mess up, so it often feels like some sort of alchemy. Some days it works smoothly, and some days you are just left scratching your head trying to figure out what went wrong. I am finally getting good results using digital positives, and a trditional dust mezzotint. If you are interested in photogravure, I would recommend that you take a workshop to get a feel for it. There are a few individuals offering them, I have had positive personal experiences with Lothar Osterburg's workshops. Have a look around on the internet.

Jack R.

Leonard Metcalf
28-May-2006, 02:10
Found a good book on Photogravure from Focal Press only just recently, though I didn't have the cash to purchase it at the time. I can find out more if your interested. It was a rather comprehensive technical manual, with the usual manual type photographs. I was also taught to be a printmaker, lithography and etching and have secret desires to learn photogravure. I plan to start with Solar Plates. There are two Australian books on using them. Again I will have to look them up if you are interested.

Randy H
28-May-2006, 08:24
Odd that this is a recent topic. I just purchased an old photogravure exposure camera, and have been cruising the 'net looking for info on process. I currently shoot 8x10 and find the 'gravure process more than passing interest. Have not really found much "yet", but will have to attempt the process. The old alternative processes are fascinating. While a workshop sounds good, here in Oklahoma, there just ain't none no-wheres near. Finding other LF shooters is non-existent. Anyone with any info... I will follow this, but if anyone would, send some info to email.

Brian Ellis
28-May-2006, 11:01
The Anderson Ranch workshops (forget the exact name) used to offer a one or two week photogravure course, maybe they still do, you could check their web site. While attending another workshop there I saw some images the photogravure students made and they were pretty amazing considering the short duration of the workshop. The Graphic Arts Studio that's loosely connected with the University of South Florida in Tampa also used to offer a photogravure workshop, IIRC it lasted a long time, a month or more, and was very expensive.

Oren Grad
28-May-2006, 11:07
FWIW, the books that I read were:

Photogravure: A Process Handbook
Gary P. Kolb
Southern Illinois Univ. Pr., 1986

Polymer Photogravure: A New Method for Photographers and Graphic Artists
Taneli Eskola and Kari Holopainen
University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH, 1996

Yes, the latter is in English, and is still available new from Photo-Eye, though it's quite pricey now ($70).

28-May-2006, 11:49
A cheaper alternative for this book is found here:
Under 30 euro!

tim atherton
28-May-2006, 12:43
I was leafing through some gorgeous Blossfeldt photogravures the other day - quite lovely

Jack Reisland
28-May-2006, 16:58
A good book to consider is "Copper Plate Photogravure" by Morrish. It is a contemporary book, not aimed toward production printing, as all the earlier books are. It has plently of color photos, and clear instructions. It is also the only book on the Photogravure process currently in print.

Jack R.

Paul Metcalf
28-May-2006, 18:31
Well I hate it when this happens and I can't remember the details. Anyway, I saw an exhibit this last February in Banff at the Whyte Museum on some current Photogravure work. Can't remember the names, and a quick search of the website didn't turn up anything. But you might call them ((403) 762-2291) and maybe they can refer you to the artists. Some really neat work of old industrial equipment.

Ed K.
28-May-2006, 20:19
Thanks to all so far for contributions. I just ordered the suggested Morrish book as well as a solar plate book ( Printmaking in the Sun ) from Dan Weldon. Solarplate material is available in sizes up to 16x20; perhaps it will be promising to consider as a starting point.

Additional suggestions still sought and welcome, including where I might find someone willing to pull a couple of test plates for me in Southern California. I'll post here if I find out about additional workshops or resources too.

Has anyone here actually tried to make their images using Solarplate intaglio? ( I'm more interested in intaglio than relief ).

clay harmon
28-May-2006, 20:36
copied this from my post on APUG:

An FYI for those interested in traditional (i.e. not polymer) dust grain copper plate photogravure. Jon Goodman, widely considered to be a master of this process, will be offering a rare one week workshop in this classical printmaking technique sometime late this summer.

Jon has over thirty years experience in this process, and if you have ever seen an Aperture or 21st Journal of Contemporary Photography gravure, he most likely did it.

His website is www.jgoodgravure.com

There are only a few slots available in this class, because he wants to limit the number of participants to four or five.

Kirk Gittings
28-May-2006, 21:02
"A good book to consider is "Copper Plate Photogravure" by Morrish"

Dave Morrish was a classmate of mine in graduate school. He started doing photo gravure after graduate school. He does know what he is doing.

Ed K.
30-May-2006, 19:51
Thanks again to everyone - all good stuff. I contacted the Los Angeles Printmaking Society Alliance, which is an exclusive fine art / printmaker's guild. They quickly put me in touch with a master printer who can get me going on this - Josaphinepress.com. John Greco sounds great to work with. I'm going to drop by there this week. So, between books and some expert guidance, it will be interesting to see if anything good takes root. I'll let you know how it goes. Also, Jon Goodman was kind enough to reply. He mentioned that he hopes to fill the remaining slot or two in his workshop with those who have some experience with the process so that all can get to work faster.

Jack Reisland
30-May-2006, 23:50
From what I can tell from the Josephinepress.com web site, they do photopolymer printing, not traditional copper plate photogravure. If this is so, it may be a good place to start, but there is a significant difference in the end results between traditional photogravure and photopolymer. See if you can find examples of both, and see what you like.

Jack R.

Emmanuel BIGLER
31-May-2006, 01:48
I have seen the work by Jon Goodman at the Musée Jenish in Vevey, Switzerland, where they have a superb collection of photogravure prints (in French we call the process : Héliogravure, by reference to the early works by Nicéphore Niépce)

The Atelier de Saint Prex near Vevey is one of the prominent places where the difficult art of photogravure is maintained at the highest level.

Another "atelier" is located in France, named Heliog

In 2003 there was an exhibition "Graver la Lumière" (litteraly : engraving with light) at the Jenish Museum in Vevey, a book has been published (in French) I have bought it whan I visited the museum.


Needless to say that top-class photogravure prints are something you cannot forget.
For those who can read French I had reported my enthusiasm here after my visit to the Vevey Jenish museum :

I know a few amateurs in France who print by photogravure including Claude Plessier (Draguigan, near the French Riviera) who organizes some informal workshops.

Photogravure / Héliogravure will be discussed in one of the sessions of the next French Large Format Conference held next October 13-14-15, 2006 at Fontfroide Abbey near Narbonne (France, close to Spain, on the Mediterranean coast).

I think there will be a program of the conference in English, for the moment this is the program in French.

Ed K.
2-Jun-2006, 22:09

I met with John at Josephine Press. He's got an MFA in Photography, plus he teaches a lot. A very talented person indeed. The place is definitely suited to the more fine art and print maker type situation than the usual photographer, and there is indeed a huge difference between traditional photogravure and other processes. Still, it is a great resource, and I'm going to try some things that are a bit off the beaten track with Josephine. He mentioned a workshop in San Francisco that does photogravure, however he also mentioned that even when attending a workshop, often, one finds that putting together a way to do it "back home" can be daunting. While John does seem to be very busy, I think he could have something to offer for printmakers.

Ah, what fun it would be to visit Europe and see or do some fine arts. I doubt that the dollar will get strong enough for me to afford that anytime soon...

Meanwhile, back to reading, and also back to prepping some output for a few fun plates....

3-Jun-2008, 03:10
i have been researching on the original heliogravure process since 1992. It took me quite a lomg time to collect enough information just to get the essential materials. At this time there was pigmentpaper from Hanfstengel, München still availlable. In the beginning I did not accomplish anything. A few years later while I was running a course about collotype I met the masterprinter of Jim Dine who made all of his heliogravures. He showed me the correct transfer of the pigmentpaper .From this point I was able to manage the basics,finally making some presentable gravures.But it was still a long way to demystifying the process and I am still working on it.

Recently I got the books of Morrish & Macullam of wich I think its really the best on this topic availlable now.Another brand new book is " Photogravure" by Jan Petterssson. He discusses mainly the process of making coulor photogravures.
Meanwhile I started also the carbo/cabro process( according to the book of Luis Nadeau) using a homemade pigmentpaper.

any information and exchanging knowhow is very much appreciated.


Emmanuel BIGLER
3-Jun-2008, 07:10
This might be of little help to our readers in Northern America, but I have seen some work done by photogravure both by a professional lab in Switzerland and by a passionate amateur in France (a retired teacher).
The Swiss lab is named Atelier de Saint Prex in Switzerland close to Lausanne, this workshop dedicates fine craftsmanship to the preservation of photogravure at ist higher level.
Some photographis work printed by Atelier de Saint Prex include A. Stieglitz, E. Steichen, P. Strand, E. Evans, E. Smith and B. Abbott and J. Goodman.

Another lab in France which offers photogravure service is Heliog, Fanny Boucher
http://www.heliog.com/ (web pages are bi-lingual in French and English)
So this form of printing photography is alive and well but extremely costly in terms of crafstmens' working hours.
Other info about photogravure, (In French, the technique is named : Héliogravure au grain, so there might be some confusion and various techniques) by jean-Daniel Lemoine

I know personally a passionate amateur Claude Plessier who masters photogravure. he organizes workshops in his home in Provence.

3-Jun-2008, 09:48
I am starting in this and recommend the workshops by Lothar Osterburg (http://home.earthlink.net/~lotharosterburg/)in the US (Brooklyn)

4-Jun-2008, 05:07
I am happy to see that there are some other workers in Europe. Thanks a lot for the links. I know personally some collegues in Germany but they are not really helpfull.
The last years I have been running workshops at the university for applied art in Berlin. There were some old film materials from GDR times with just the right amount of fogging suitable for making gravure work.

I would also organize a workshop in my studio if I could find some " students" willing to stay for a while, lets say 2 weeks minimum.
Last week I was at a meeting of fine art printers ( digital stuff) where I met the cousin of Osterburg, strange coincidence! If I was in the States I would not hesitate to join one of his workshops.