Before I start in talking about subtle, often modest scale Japanese photography and the legacy of photographic prints as intimate, introspective, and highly crafted objects, I think I need to point out that there are of course infinite ways to use print technology to produce timeless, penetrating, poetic, and even monumental statements. This is a pluralistic and global world we’re apart of, with many avenues available for communicating and showing work and that is increasing, not decreasing. I see totally opposite approaches to using photography existing at the same time, at the same place, and I can appreciate all of it as valid, interesting, significant, and in a way inevitable. I try to appreciate work on its own terms if I can.
In 2002, Epson introduced their first improvement to black & white printing when they added a light black ink in the then new Epson 2200 desktop printer. It would take Epson nearly five more years before they would deliver two shades of light black ink in the R2400 desktop printer. Epson considered the Ultrachrome K3 inkset to represent “a turning point in the history of inkjet printing.” With three unique levels of black, Epson claimed that the new Ultrachrome K3 color inkset “dramatically improves both color and black & white prints.”
The two light shades of black did dramatically improve Epson Ultrachrome K3 prints, but only in comparison to earlier Epson Ultrachrome prints. Over the same time span and even several years earlier, specialized black & white inksets flourished. Piezography® transformed from a quad-black (four shades black) inkset in 2000 to a septone (seven shades of black) inkset in 2005.
Note: This post is adapted from a paper by the same title originally published in The International Journal of the Book, vol.7, no. 1
Regardless of education or career path the question of how to find an audience eventually becomes a singular concern for many photographers. For those entering the commercial world this is a marketing issue: how to locate clients willing to pay for services rendered. The traditional solution for fine art photographers is exhibition and publication, where cost and access are predictable barriers.
Only a few years back, most companies stopped making film scanners. The game was up; scanning equipment no longer pulled a profit. The future was in digital capture and the world marched on without looking back. It left educational institutions in a pickle. They were already reeling from high silver costs and a change in photo curriculum. Suddenly companies stopped updating software for Intel chips and repair service on older scanners dropped like a stone. It put pressure on the education world to go all digital and those ripples were felt everywhere. For us high-end scanning labs that were outside of the educational “prosumer” world, we fared ok although young clients were coming to us with 8 megapixel files instead of 40 megapixel (equivalent) 6×7 film. We already went through this in the early 2000s when companies stopped making drum scanners. Over the years, most of us learned enough about our various drum scanning machines to fix the beasts ourselves. Third party service vendors, mostly past employees of the very corporations that build the crazy things in the first place, took care of the rest. But recently the support has slipped and it gets harder every month to maintain high-end equipment. Today, prosumer scanners are taking the same track but at a more accelerated pace; everyone feels the heat including professional photographers who prefer 35mm film.
There is a great deal of confusion among photographers and artists, and those who sell and collect art, over exactly what the term “archival” means. Labeling a photographic print archival implies that it has met or exceeded a standard.
What is the standard? Is there one standard for all photographic images: color, black/white, inkjet, and alternative process? Is there a different standard for other, non-photographic prints?