Here is a video of me printing “Choking”
After long anticipation, I have finally received my Conrad E-18 etching press. The press is used but look like new. I bought it directly from Conrad Press and it’s an amazing piece of machinery. It is 18 inches wide by 48 inches long with two 4 inch solid steel rollers. The press is smooth and rolls like butter and is easy to adjust with the micro gauges.
Here is another video of “Twilight” from “The Iron Triangle” series. For a long time I have been trying to print this image with smooth skies but have not been able to do this until now using Direct to Plate printing that I learned from Silvi Glattauer. I have been using Jet plates instead of Toyobo KM73 plates due to issues with mottling. I contacted Toyobo but they were unable to provide an answer.
I am keeping a running list of problems I have run into and will keep updating as I find more problems so I have a place to reference when I need to.
If the image is too grainy, increase the pressure
If the image is too blotchy, the paper has been soaked too long. You can see spots where the paper composition has changed.
The paper sticks to the plate, the paper is too wet. Calendar it to reduce excess moisture.
The paper sticks to the edges only, the plate is too clean, don’t use rubbing alcohol.
The image is grainy and lacking tonal range, the paper is too dry.
If your positive seems too thin or not the right color, make sure you print through Adobe Print Utility or Print Tool to make sure you are not adding a profile.
If you get splotchiness in the midtones (the dreaded midtone measles) Dry the positive with a hair dryer for two minutes.
Using a squeegee or roller – if you have marks on the plate that run in one direction, you are pressing too hard .
I originally went to school for art and have a degree in Illustration. In the last year of school, I realized that photography was really what I loved to do. I learned in the darkroom with large format film, but with the advent of digital photography, I was missing the handmade touch I was used to with the darkroom and with painting. The smell of oil paint and turpentine, the feel of real paper, the magic of seeing an image appear magically in front of you. To get back to that feeling, I have been learning many different alternative photographic processes over six years to find the process that gave me that hands on approach to printing that also matched my vision. I have done Platinum/Palladium, Color Gum Bichromate, Carbon Transfer and most recently Photopolymer Gravure. Most people are familiar with Platinum prints and maybe even Carbon, but even photographers who practice many of these processes have not heard of photogravure.
So, what is Photogravure?
Photogravure is one of the oldest photographic printing processes and is one of what is called the big three, Platinum, Carbon and Photogravure. These three processes are considered the most stable and most archival processes available. The way a photogravure is made is by taking a positive image and contact printing it onto a piece of carbon tissue, usually red ochre in color, that has been sensitized with a dichromate. The carbon tissue is then mated to a piece of copper and etched in an acid bath. The resulting piece of copper is then inked like a traditional etched plate (think Rembrandt or Goya) and then run through an etching press on to a piece of paper. This process is long, expensive, chemically hazardous and very difficult. There are still a few artists around who still do traditional photogravure onto copper plate, but with the banning of the use of dichromates in Europe and other countries, who knows how long artist will be able to continue this way.
Here are some famous photographers who practiced Photogravure:
Now that I have explained Photogravure, what is Photopolymer Gravure? For a while now, artist who produce etchings have been looking for a less toxic way of making plates that don’t required acids or dichromates. Some of these are thin polymer films that can be put onto plastic or different types of metals. There are also readymade plates coated with polymer films. Toyobo KM73 plates and the Jet LSL-73-SP are two of the most popular ones for photogravure. The main advantage to the photopolymer process is that you only need room temperature water to process them instead of Ferric Chloride. This doesn’t mean they are entirely non-toxic, but with a pair of latex gloves you can mitigate any toxicity from them. These plates are then inked and run through an etching press the same way as traditional copperplate photogravures are. The results have even better tonality than traditional Photogravure. I spent a year trying to learn myself and decided that I needed help so I took a workshop with Mark Nelson, the creator of Precision Digital Negatives. It was truly helpful in learning all the small things that make a big difference. To not obsess to much about charts and learn by making real images.
I have been working on “The Iron Triangle” Series for around 5 years now and was looking for a process that matched the spirit of the place I was photographing. I tried platinum and carbon, but in the end, after making my first photopolymer gravure, I knew this was the right process. The grit of the images finally matched the depth of the ink on paper. The range of tones and the way it renders textural details was breath taking. Don’t get me wrong, I love Platinum, but that process seems better for trees in fog type landscapes or images with subtle tonal gradations. Carbon is also wonderful, but in the end Photogravure really shines for me. The ability to use different inks like mixing paint and any type or color paper is liberating and gives me back the creative control I was missing with other processes.
I am currently working on a portfolio of “The Iron Triangle” printed completely as Photogravures. That’s 60 images overall and I have been waking up every day at 4am to create them. Once they are done I will be creating more images for sale from my travels through Spain and Italy so be on the lookout for those soon.
Here are a few images that I have printed and photographed so far:
Recently I have had a few people ask me for photos of the inside of my Nuarc. Mine is a little different in that I have removed the vacuum button and placed it else where so that I can use it with other light sources. Here are the photos for others who may have bought a used one or might need to see where things are connected.
Where the power cord attaches
Right side back panel
The whole back panel with the light integrator in the center
One of the first people I photographed in Willets Point was Ali. Ali is from Afghanistan and came here after his brother Frank moved to the United States where they started the New Mustang Auto Parts store in Willets Point 15 years ago.Read More
I have spent a over a year learning carbon printing without one good print that I would be willing to hang. I have spent a considerable amount of money learning this process. The same goes for Platinum/Palladium printing. I have stacks of paper and material that will never see the light of day.Read More
This is the first post in a series where I explain the backstory of the photos from The Iron Triangle.Read More
A short post about Photopolymer printing and some instructions on how to do it.Read More
I have written before about this paper and I love it. Here is a great video on a great way to coat the paper from Masayuki Nishimaru: