Over four years, Magnum photographer Mark Power and poet Daniel Cockrill have travelled thoughout England, compiling pictures and words about their shared experiences and impressions. In June, they will bring that body of work to the public in an innovative exhibition at London’s Atlas Gallery entitled Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment. In this series of posts, Mark provides a behind-the-scenes look at the many details and collaborations involved in putting together an exhibition that will make the most of the gallery space and the newest ideas and technology for presenting art.
Rather than Abu Dhabi, where I was when I wrote my first blog entry, this time I find myself in Krakow, Poland, on a family holiday (we have an apartment here) and to finalise the exhibition I'm having here in May (see my website for details).
I've been working on a project, The Sound of Two Songs, a sort of 'survey' of contemporary Poland with (I hope) a poetic bent, since September 2004. Finally, after five years, the completed work is about to be shown, and published. It's a big moment for me.
So while that's been going on I've also been pushing ahead with the English work, Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment. For a while I'd been struggling to make new paper profiles on my Z3200 printer. My computer was unable to see the 'paper list' - but then I got some telephone help from Barcelona (HP's HQ) and finally we pinned the problem down to a button that should have been checked, but wasn't, hidden deep in the 'connectivity' menu of the printer. So I've been trying out three different Innova papers, and getting pretty good results from all of them, while at the same time preparing the files for the final prints.
Dan, my poet accomplice, and I have also been making strides in the presentation of the work in an interesting way. This has meant teaming up with other people to help us, people with skills we cannot replicate ourselves. The first is Dom, a wonderful graphic designer (based in Bristol) who designed Dan's first book of poetry.
Some time ago we gave Dom a number of picture/poem combinations, with a 'brief' to bring them together in any way he chooses. Now and again we get emails from Dom, containing his latest designs. Each one is completely different, each inventive, stylish and charming in their own right. So good are they in fact that we want to use several of them as images in their own right, for Dom has cleverly made Dan's poems into 'pictures' of text.
The next step is to liase with HP - as Dom has agreed to do - to make (probably) transfers which we can put straight onto the wall, or the floor, or wherever we decide to place them in the gallery.
Also there, (at Atlas Gallery, Dorset Street, London W1) we want to put one of Dan's poems (Dan, Dom, HP, HQ... yes I know it's complicated, but try and keep up...) directly onto a huge wall. That particular piece, It is Written is the only one which was inspired by my pictures - all the rest were made 'on location' as Dan and I travelled together around the country. Dom has now designed the typography for this wall piece, as a kind of street atlas, the lines of the poem acting as roads, cul-de-sacs, alleyways, main streets. It's a beautiful piece of work, quite unlike what we were expecting. That, in essence, is the best part of Dom's involvement: we've come to expect the unexpected.
In fact, there are now so many designs, each one different, that we want to make a short-run book in time for the show in June, which we'll print on the Indigo Press. This will be a mix of Dom's designs, some 'straight' poems, and some 'straight' pictures, often used across a double page. The shape of the book is dictated by the shape of the 5x4 negative, so the pictures can be used full-bleed.
Another contributor to the show will be Jim Wilson, a multi-media artist/craftsman. One of our ideas for a piece in the show is a framed poem, but with two hidden frames behind, each of which slides out, independently, to create - when both are extended - a triptych of one poem and two photographs. A second idea is a hinged frame, this time with a picture on the front, and a poem and picture inside. We've been trying to find someone to make these for us, someone with some creative flair, and then we found Jim.... The current idea is to make the 'hidden frame' piece in rusty metal, and the hinged one in concrete. In both cases Dan's poem will be etched, or sandblasted, directly into the metal, or the concrete, not unlike another piece (which we've already made) of a framed photograph, printed on gloss paper, the poem etched into the glass which sits above the picture, casting a shadow of the text onto the print.
A bonus to this design however, which we weren't expecting, was a second reflection from the back of the etched glass deep into the gloss print... actually it appears to be behind the print, a strange optical illusion.
We all have a series of prints we would like to archive and preserve for the future. But chances are, we’re probably not taking the time to archive these prints in the best possible way. So when I recently found myself working side by side with an expert in murseum collections, I couldn’t resist asking him more about the how the “pros” archive their best prints.
Let me back up a bit. Earlier this year, I started volunteering my time once a week to work at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, San Diego. I am part of a collections recoding process in which we photograph individual prints from the museum's permanent collection. Our mission is to digitally catalog the entire collection for organization purposes.
So, as I was working with the Director of Exhibitions and Design and Fine Art Photographer Scott Davis, I asked him about some of the products and practices professional photographer and semi-pros could use to archive their own "permanent collections”.
Archival Storage Box. One of the first items he recommended is an archival storage container for matted prints. Davis likes Solander boxes. The Solander box was invented by Daniel Solander, an assistant librarian at the British Museum sometime between 1763-1782 Solander boxes are easy to store and they will protect your prints from dust and the elements.
The Opus Company in Canada is known for its museum quality products and caries Solander Boxes in many sizes. You can also get Solander boxes from Light Impressions. Their Solander box is made with low-resin Basswood, lined with white acid-free coated paper over .098 thick binder board, and covered with strong durable pebble-grained black cloth. The box is a perfect long term storage container for your prints, whether they are matted or not.
Museum-Quality Mat Boards. Next, you should have a museum-quality board for each print. Your show have a board for the back and a board to mat and frame each image. Of all the museum boards on the market, Davis recommends Alpharag® Artcare™, a museum quality board suitable for displaying and archiving the finest prints. This brand of board passes the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity and is used by museums all over the world. If Artcare is beyond your budget, you can go with less expensive alternatives from Light Impressions.
You will also need non-acidic linen tape to adhere the boards together and help make photo corners. Linen Tape from Light Impressions is suitable.
Interleaving Tissues. Finally, you need to place an interleaving tissue between the print and the mat. The interleaving tissue should be unbuffered and non-acidic. This type of tissue can also be purchased from Light Impressions.
A Numbering System. It’s a good idea to set up some sort of numbering system to catalog your prints. The system should be something simple, such as the number of the storage box, the year the photo was taken or acquired, and a three-digit number to denote a subject, followed by a three digit number to denote the number of prints in the series. You will end up with something like A1.2010.214.001.
This number and a digital image could be used in Adobe Lightroom, Filemaker Pro, or Excel to build a database of your collection. A printout of the spreadsheet for that box should accompany each box and a copy should be put in a collections binder to reference what is in your collection.
Proper Storage. Finally there is storage to consider. All of your numbered Solander boxes should be kept on shelving in a room in which there are minimal fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Once again, specialized storage solutions are available at Light Impressions.
Why Does It Matter? Keep in mind that your fine prints are a collection of your best photographs in material form. If you happened to lose the digital file or the negative, these prints would be all that you have. Also people love to see prints large and small and if your work is to be in a gallery then you will need to be organized.
The value in proper print archiving is when the time comes to access your work you will have the confidence to know that your prints are in fine shape and color and quality have not degraded over time.
At the PMA 2010 Show in Anaheim this week, the DIMA Innovative Digital Product Award was presented to HP ARTtrust for a joint development between HP and Prooftag that helps photographers and artists maintain the authenticity of their work.
What makes the ARTtrust system so innovative is the ARTtrust Bubble Tag™, in which a random set of air bubbles is encapsulated in a translucent polymer film. There is no technical way to reproduce each Bubble Tag’s tridimensional code, and the tag cannot be removed without altering the visual appearance of the film layer. When an art print is produced for sale, the photographer or artist applies a silver Bubble Tag to the back of the print, a gold Bubble Tag to the customer’s certificate of authenticity, and a blue Bubble Tag to their own copy of the certification document. The photographer or artist then registers the tag number on the print to his or her personal space on ARTtrust Online.
Sellers or buyers who want to verify the authenticity of a particular print can visit ARTtrust Online and input the print’s Bubble Tag number. The online records then show an image of the print, an enlarged view of the print’s unique Bubble Tag configuration, and information about the artist, printing method, and type of materials used.
In my opinion, the importance of ARTtrust will be most immediately apparent to every photographer and artist who has witnessed some of the obstacles digital prints have overcome over the past 15 years to gain acceptance among buyers of investment-worthy art. Now that some photographers have sold pigment prints for as much as $30,000 apiece, ARTtrust is a logical next step in assuring collectors that the print they are buying is authentic.
The Lessons of History: Shortly after I started reporting on digital printing in 1994, I interviewed several pioneering printmakers including Jon Cone and Graham Nash. At the time, they were exploring how the $126,000 printer that Iris Graphics designed for prepress proofing could be used to generate art prints, output scanned photos, or provide a less chemically toxic printmaking alternative to screen printing limited editions (serigraphy).
While the Iris 3047 was the first printer that could output images onto large sheets of art papers, the dye inks formulated for proofing weren’t nearly stable enough for long-term display. Prints displayed behind glass would start to fade in less than 5 years. After Henry Wilhelm started providing image-permanence test data to members of the now defunct International Association of Fine Art Digital Printmakers, he launched a free-access website (www.wilhelm-research.com) for the purpose of publishing updated print-permanence information. At the same time, he began encouraging printer manufacturers to develop pigment inks that would make inkjet-printed photographic and art prints more stable.
Photographer Douglas Kirkland, who has photographed dozens of the most glamorous stars in Hollywood, was one of the artists and photographers who recognized the creative potential of inkjet printers right from the start. When I spoke with Douglas at the PMA Show, he told me that “If Henry Wilhelm hadn’t started his organization, it would have had to be invented. His work has been that critical.”
Kirkland didn’t feel comfortable enough to use inkjet printers for the prints he sold to collectors until about five years ago, when HP and other printer manufacturers started using pigment inks and displaying print-permanence ratings from Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR). He is particularly impressed that many combinations of HP Vivera pigment inks and fine art media have WIR Print Permanence Ratings of more than 250 years.
Now, Kirkland and his assistants Miranda Bracket and Jeremy Oversier routinely make prints on the HP Designjet Z series printer they have in the studio. Kirkland, who has extensive darkroom experience with both black-and-white and color prints, considers in-studio digital printing a photographer’s dream come true: “We make a print, we check it, and often go back to the computer. It’s interactive, exhilarating and creative. What we once did in the darkroom, we can now do infinitely better and more efficiently.”
Nevertheless, Kirkland has also recognized that the same software and printing technologies that has given him the ultimate creative control over the final look of his prints can also be used against him. Digital printing processes have become so refined that perfect copies of a print can be made without his knowledge.
“This risk isn’t exclusive to pigment prints,” notes Philippe Serenon, co-founder of the new ARTtrust subsidiary of Prooftag. “Many high-value products all over the world are counterfeited and sold to unsuspecting buyers.” In fact, the ARTtrust technology has been adapted from Prooftag technology that has been used for years to help producers of high-value wines, watches, documents and art objects protect their products from counterfeiting.
Kirkland believes that over the next 10 years ARTtrust will prove to be just as valuable to sellers and buyers of pigment prints as Henry Wilhelm’s print-permanence testing has been to creating the technology used to create the pigment prints.
“Professional collectors must be able to verify that the photograph or work of art they are buying is genuine,” says Kirkland, “And we have to protect what we create. When art buyers see the Bubble Tag on the back of the print, they will know that the print is not a knock-off done in some back room.”
And because not all digital works are created equal, buyers can use ARTtrust Online to find out what print process and materials were used for each registered print. With ARTtrust, if the print was produced on an HP Designjet Z series printer with Vivera inks and media tested by Wilhelm, the art buyer will be able to see the Wilhelm Print Permanence Rating for that print.
“It takes just a few minutes to enter your data on the computer,” says Kirkland. “But any photographer who places a high value on their work will want that value to be realized.”
Before meeting with editors at a reception at the PMA Show, Douglas Kirkland attached a Bubble Tag™ to one of his legendary prints of Marilyn Monroe. He then applied a second tag to the certificate of authenticity that will accompany the print. He keeps the third copy of Bubble Tag with his own files for the print. (Photo: Katherine Wetzel)
At PMA, I also talked to Henry Wilhelm, who is an enthusiastic proponent of the ARTtrust system. As an expert in the long-term preservation of photo and film archives, he likes the fact that ARTtrust doesn’t require any special equipment to visually read the code. This means that the Bubble Tags will still be readable years after a photographer has stored prints that he or she wants to preserve as part of their legacy as an artist.
Harald Johnson is another digital-printing historian who understands the significance of ARTtrust. While I wrote magazine articles about digital printing from 1994 to 2008, Harald founded the digital-fine arts forum in Yahoo!, wrote the groundbreaking book series Mastering Digital Printing, and established an online resource site for digital printmakers, artists, and photographers (www.dpandi.com). In recent years, he has been working with Magnum photographers and HP Experts & Mentors all over the world. He understands just how eager these accomplished professionals are for a system that will help them preserve the value of their image archives.
In the HP booth at PMA 2010, Johnson wasn’t surprised by how many printmakers, artists, photographers, and journalists expressed interest in learning more about ARTtrust Online. “I could see it in their eyes,” said Johnson. “As soon as they saw the whole solution in front of them, there was an ‘aha’ moment. They got it and they wanted it.”
Photographer David Saffir, also on the HP Experts & Mentors team, posted a report about ARTtrust on his own blog. He also attended PMA and had an opportunity to speak with press, artists, photographers, printmakers, curators, and others. "They were drawn to ARTtrust as a tool that empowers artists and those who work with them. They see itt is a management and tracking solution that is accurate, easy to use, and effective in preventing fraud and unauthorized use."
For more information about how inkjet printing and print permanence testing evolved, download Henry Wilhelm’s paper entitled, A 15-Year History of Digital Printing Technology and Print Permanence in the Evolution of Digital Fine Art Photography—from 1991 to 2006.
In the HP booth at the PMA Show, Harald Johnson (left) poses with the team from Douglas Kirkland Photography (left to right): Francoise Kirkland, Douglas Kirkland, Miranda Brackett, and Jeremy Oversier. (Photo by David Saffir)
By Eileen Fritsch
When I first started editing The Big Picture magazine in the mid-1990s, the possibilities for digital printing were just beginning to be explored. Our articles helped show business owners and creative professionals the many different ways wide-format digital printing technology could be used in outdoor advertising, retail signage, interior décor, prepress proofing, photography, and fine art reproduction. It was fun to see the wildly creative things that ad agencies, graphic designers, artists, and photographers wanted to do with the new printing technology, print media, and software being developed by the innovative engineers and scientists working in the R&D labs. The technology developers were driven by the requests of the creative professionals, and the creative professionals were in turn empowered by the technology developers.
That process of technology exploration and mutual inspiration is still going on.
In HP's booth at the Print 09 show in Chicago, the three talented artists of the Digital Atelier are showcasing new possibilities for creating and presenting art. At the show, Dorothy Krause, Bonnie Lhotka, and Karin Schminke are introducing a Collector’s Boxed Set. The boxed set accommodates a piece of original art by each artist plus a 74-page book 11 x 14 in. hardcover coffee table book. The three prints and book all fit neatly into an archival, black, anodized aluminum box, with a title engraved to the match the foil-stamped fabric hardcover of the book. Both the book and the original art were produced as a signed and numbered limited edition of 100.
After the selected images were proofed on the HP Designjet Z3200, the book was produced on the HP Indigo 5500 press, using three different types of paper (one for the text and images; one for endpapers; and one for overlays). Acme Bookbinding bound the printed text and Universal Laser Systems laser-engraved the box made by Pina Zangaro.
Dorothy Krause used the HP Scitex FB6100 UV flatbed to print her edition of Beachflowers (right) on .024 mil aluminum. She selected this technology because she could use the Scitex opque white ink under selected areas while allowing other areas to benefit from the natural reflectivity of the metal. She says, "The ability to print on uncoated metals with white ink expands the visual vocabulary available to the artist in ways not possible with traditional inkjet."
Bonny Lhotka used the HP Designjet Z3200 to print a phantogram entitled Water (left) on HP Matte Litho-Realistic Paper. Using a HDR (high-dynamic range) image, the phantogram is a pair of flat images distorted to mimic the perspective of a three-dimensional object in which the illusion of depth and perspective is visible when viewed with (red-cyan) 3D glasses.
Karin Schminke’s piece, Margaret’s Meadow, (right) combines a base print made on the HP Designjet Z3200 with an overlay of intricately cut black paper created on Universal Laser System’s Professional PLS4.60 laser. Schminke notes that "The drama of the black laser-cut edge pairs beautifully with the strong color achieved on the HP Matte Litho-realistic paper, creating a very expressive print."
To protect each print in the collector’s boxed set, a portfolio wrap was printed on the HP Indigo WS6000 Digital Press and includes a Certificate of Authenticity for each print.
To read more details about all of the equipment and materials used in the project by downloading this PDF. Or you visit the website of The Digital Atelier and download a copy of the 13 x 19 in. broadside that folds to a 6.5 x 6.33 in. book.
When I first saw the Collector’s Box Set, it occurred to me that this type of presentation could be used by many creative professionals. For example, wedding, portrait or architectural photographers could adopt this new way of collecting, presenting, and selling their best work.
Last year, I interviewed an architectural photographer who was making portfolio boxes of prints on fine-art paper for an architect of high-end home. The architect knew that a portfolio of the photographer’s prints would make an ideal housewarming gift to his own clients. The photo prints focus on some of the most exquisite architectural details of the client’s new home and serve as a great conversation piece when the new homeowners entertain guests.
So, it was a win/win situation all around. The professional photographer found a new format for selling his work. The new homeowners treasured the gift of the photo prints. And the architect couldn’t ask for any better publicity for his firm than having his clients enthusiastically show off the prints to their friends. Just think how this presentation could have been even further enhanced by including a custom photo book showing all of the phases of the home’s design and construction.
When you think about it, the role of an artist is to challenge us to look at things in whole new ways. What the artists of the Digital Atelier teach is that digital printing offers endless possibilities for creativity. While digital printing has made traditional methods of fine-art reproduction, photo printing, signmaking, and book publishing more efficient, it has also opened up many opportunities to do things that were totally impractical before.
I first learned about The Digital Atelier in 1997, when I sent a reporter to cover a two-week digital-printmaking demonstration project they were leading at the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. When my reporter returned, she told me about how inspiring Dot Krause, Bonny Lhotka, and Karin Schminke had been—especially when some skeptical reporters from other magazines harshly questioned the legitimacy of using digital technologies to create and print art.
We’ve come such a long way since then, as evidenced by the widespread acceptance of inkjet-printing in reproducing fine art and printing fine-art photographs. Yet there is still plenty of room for exploration and discovery of new opportunities.
If you can’t meet the Digital Atelier artists at Print 09, check out their websites or their book The Digital Art Studio. The book explains specific techniques for combining inkjet printing with traditional art materials.
Plus, Dorothy Krause has published a new book entitled Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists’ Books. In this book, she shows how digital-printing can be integrated with traditional painting, drawing, and printmaking media and different bookbinding techniques.
At The Future of Imaging Conference in November, Bonny Lhotka will discuss “Dimensionality in Imaging” and present a selection of 3-D images at The Alvarado Gallery at the Monterey Conference Center. The 3D effects and illusion of motion in her photo prints are created through lenticular imaging, a process in which a rigid plastic sheet with parallel rows of optical lenses is laminated to the surface of a print that has been created with interlacing software. The interlacing software slices up multiple images or image layers and positions the image slices for correct alignment and magnification through the lenses. Lenticular imaging has been used in retail and point-of-purchase advertising since the late 1990s, but Lhotka has been commissioned to produce artistic 3D photo prints for office buildings, a spa, and a hospital. Now that Adobe® Photoshop® CS4 Extended includes 3D-imaging capabilities, she believes more photographers and artists will begin exploring lenticular imaging.
Over the years, I’ve seen many good things happen to imaging businesses that are open to new ideas for using digital printing. It’s encouraging to see that many artists and photographers are following the lead of the artists of The Digital Atelier and opening their work up to new possibilities as well.
I have collected a few tips and tricks for landscape photography. I use them myself, and they do help increase my chances of going home with some good-looking, tack-sharp images.
1. Choose your spot and time of day with care. In many cases, you may have the right spot, but the wrong time of day, or even the wrong season. Think about how the image will look in different light, and consider making another visit. Some photographers will re-visit a site several times until they find the perfect conditions for shooting.
2. Bring a sturdy tripod with a good quality tripod head. I'll take steady and heavy, over light and wobbly any day. The best reason to buy carbon fiber gear is vibration dampening and steadiness, not weight. (Once the tripod head is mounted, the thing gets a bit heavy regardless.) If cost is an issue, try buying used equipment.
3. Scout the area a bit to find the best place to set up the tripod. Before you mount your camera on the tripod, walk around with the camera alone. It is a lot easier to plan the shot without dragging the tripod around! Look through the viewfinder, perhaps find a higher spot, or get lower to the ground. Change the angle a bit. Move in closer, or farther away.
Be sure to check your foreground and background for beer cans and other debris. It’s also important to make sure the tripod is set up on a firm surface. Sites on a bridge or close to a roadway will often vibrate with wind or traffic. These vibrations will affect image quality. Once you think you have the perfect spot, then set up the tripod and mount the camera
4. Do not leave you leave your tripod/camera unattended. I've had passersby, dogs, and wind try to knock the whole thing over. (Who needs that kind of stress?
5. Use a prime lens rather than a zoom. Prime lenses are generally sharper than zooms. Also, you can get some killer landscape shots with a medium telephoto such as a 200mm. This lets you isolate elements in a scene.
6. Shoot in Aperture priority. This means that you pick the aperture, and the camera picks the shutter speed. In 35mm, the sweet spot for most lenses is two stops above max aperture. Additionally, most 35mm lenses suffer a falloff in image quality when aperture values beyond f/11 - f/16 are used.
7. If you are shooting in low light, try using the "mirror up" feature on the camera. At slower shutter speeds, the mirror movement in a DSLR will shake the camera and blur your image. Use a remote shutter release. In other words, if you can, keep your hands off the camera and keep it steady during the shot!
8. Use the lowest ISO setting that is native to the camera sensor. Some cameras, such as the Nikon D3, have a native ISO setting of 200 - and also provide for even lower ISO settings, such as 100. However, at 100 ISO on the D3 you may see a small decrease in contrast, and perhaps color saturation. Stick with native ISO if you can.
9. Always use a lens shade, and protect the lens from unwanted light. Bouncing light can degrade contrast and color. This includes light bouncing off the inside of the lens shade. If you look over the top of the camera, and you have to squint, or you see light bouncing off the inside of the shade, protect the lens. Use a piece of cardboard, a hat, a newspaper, whatever comes to hand - just make a shadow over the end of the lens - and make sure your newfound accessory doesn’t appear in the frame!
10. Focus at the hyperfocal point, and then, if necessary, reframe the shot and make the image. If "hyperfocal" makes no sense to you, a similar option is to focus about 1/3 into the scene, between the camera and the farthest point of interest. At f/8 or f/11, you'll find that the image is reasonably sharp.
11. Stick with the camera manufacturer’s lenses. Generally, I get best results with the camera manufacturer's lenses. If you want to buy off-brand, rent one first and try it out. (Now that I think of it, this isn’t a bad idea for other types of photography gear.)
12. Even with digital photography, bracket your images. Go at least one stop up, and one down. You'll be glad you did.
13. Use the histogram to judge exposure, not the LCD. If you get the urge to use the LCD and skip the histogram, lie down till the urge passes. Then, once you get the histogram (the mountain) in the middle, bracket anyway.
Making good images can be hard. But taking the time to optimize image quality in the camera makes it much more likely that you'll be pleased with the finished product. Get it right in the camera, and when you get home you’ll be able to make a great, sellable print!