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Thread: Going Aluminum

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    Going Aluminum

    I visit this forum to keep up to date on what other medium format photographers are doing and in turn I want to share what I've been up to for the past several months... I've been printing photographs on aluminum (I call them Aluminums) in preparation for a solo exhibition that I have September through October. All of the artwork was originally photographed with my medium format Hasselbad gear. It has been quite a learning experience, starting with thinking it'd be easy and turning into something I didn't expect.



    A lot of people ask me about the process so I've written up a web page explaining it:

    Going Aluminum

    Please have a look if you have time and let me know what you think!

    Kind regards,
    Derek Jecxz
    www.jecxz.com
    www.facebook.com/derek.jecxz.photographer
    Likes 3 Member(s) liked this post

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    Senior Member kdphotography's Avatar
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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Great job, Derek! I enjoyed reading about your pains and determination in image making!

    ken

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    What about ink fading on the aluminium? What kind of life do these 'prints' have?
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Thank you Ken!

    Good question Ben, as I wrote, they are varnished, with a couple of coats, and the varnish has UV block. Far better than the average gallery wrap canvas sprayed with Premier Art Shield. They will have a good life. But excellent question, perhaps I should add that to my write up, thank you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    What about ink fading on the aluminium? What kind of life do these 'prints' have?
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Senior Member kdphotography's Avatar
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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Just as an aside, I wouldn't use Premier Art Shield for gallery canvas wraps---Premier Art Shield is really best on photographic prints, not canvas. HVLP sprayed finishes such as Breathing Color's Glamour II and Timeless, or other similar products will provide substantially better protection as well as improve the ability to stretch/protect the canvas during stretching.

    My guess is that the archivability of your aluminum prints (as most prints) will be more effected by environmental conditions than anything else. I'd enjoy seeing your final presentation of your aluminum prints!

    ken

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Quote Originally Posted by kdphotography View Post
    My guess is that the archivability of your aluminum prints (as most prints) will be more effected by environmental conditions than anything else. I'd enjoy seeing your final presentation of your aluminum prints!

    ken
    +1 (and thank you)

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Thanks for sharing Derek, can you give us an idea of the cost of each finished print (in addition to all your time spent :-).

    Cheers, -Peter

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Excellent write up, I really enjoyed reading it!

    I guess time is the issue and how you value it, I'm anti paying for anything I can do better myself, do you still feel that your time is better invested in the cleaning, prepping and printing of the aluminium over paying for frames and using the time on something more productive or creative? genuine question!

    Mat

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterL View Post
    Thanks for sharing Derek, can you give us an idea of the cost of each finished print (in addition to all your time spent :-).

    Cheers, -Peter
    Hi Peter,

    I haven't added everything up, my time is about 3 hours of vigorous cleaning, sanding and prep, then a couple of hours for varnish and trim.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Mat,

    You make an excellent point with your question and while I don't have exact numbers for you and Peter, there is a lot to say for creating the pieces with my own hands -- which I had not realized initially would give me such pride in the finished artwork (not that we are not proud with our printed photos). The price difference in the framing is the mat (I use 8-ply normally), backer board, and the glass/plexi. The costs for the aluminum print does not even come close to the difference. $50 for a floater frame beats $250 for a nicely framed print. I order my frames from an online company, because if I used the local framer in my town the same $250 frame is $350!

    I still do really like my paper prints framed with an 8-ply mat behind glass or Plexi, but the framing costs for large prints (~ 30x40 to 40x50) are killing me, as I said in the write up. It is nice when a gallery wants to give you a solo show until you realize the investment necessary for creating the artwork. I'm not doing this for vanity, I need to make money. Would I do this again for my next exhibition? I don't know yet. Hey, if none sell, I can make a Delorian with the aluminum!

    But seriously, I had to make a decision about spending money on matting and plexi or investing my time, unfortunately the current economy helped me choose the latter. You ask if I could have just spent the money and done something creative with the time, which I wondered all along, but ultimately I did something creative with my time, I learned how to make these Aluminums. But I did think this all along, you hit the nail on the head.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by mjr View Post
    Excellent write up, I really enjoyed reading it!

    I guess time is the issue and how you value it, I'm anti paying for anything I can do better myself, do you still feel that your time is better invested in the cleaning, prepping and printing of the aluminium over paying for frames and using the time on something more productive or creative? genuine question!

    Mat

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Derek

    Excellent answer! I feel I should explain my reasons for asking, I'm an engineer by trade and as a result I see beauty in the process far more than the end result, if that makes sense.

    I have lost thousands and thousands of pounds over the years because I am not a business man but find incredible pleasure in the process and the result having come from my own hands, I then tend to lose interest quickly and sell my artistic endeavours on at a loss!

    But we are different, I don't rely on photography for making a living and hence the question to someone who does. I'd always do it myself and hang the expense of time and effort. It was great to read about your process and reasonings and I love the end result, maybe we aren't so far apart after all! I shall definitely be looking at some aluminium sheet in the near future, I hope I'm as successful.

    Cheers

    Mat

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Mat,

    Your question was what was going through my mind for the past several months, and there is no need to explain yourself. I am at a point in my life where I need to be wise with my spending; that's what sparked it all. It turned into something very different, thank heavens, and I am hopeful my write up will help someone else develop their own technique or convince them to take a different path. I think we are very much alike. Be well.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by mjr View Post
    Hi Derek

    Excellent answer! I feel I should explain my reasons for asking, I'm an engineer by trade and as a result I see beauty in the process far more than the end result, if that makes sense.

    I have lost thousands and thousands of pounds over the years because I am not a business man but find incredible pleasure in the process and the result having come from my own hands, I then tend to lose interest quickly and sell my artistic endeavours on at a loss!

    But we are different, I don't rely on photography for making a living and hence the question to someone who does. I'd always do it myself and hang the expense of time and effort. It was great to read about your process and reasonings and I love the end result, maybe we aren't so far apart after all! I shall definitely be looking at some aluminium sheet in the near future, I hope I'm as successful.

    Cheers

    Mat

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Thanks for sharing the process. I have looked at the coated metals sheets from Booksmartstudio Products - Fine Art Paper, Canvas, Inkjet Supplies, Custom ICC Profiles, Fine Art Metals, Digital Portfolios - Booksmart Studio
    for a few years wondering what this would look like. Have you tried any of their products and if so how would you rate them?

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    I found this company early on however their max width is 20" (I mentioned this in my write up but not them by name) and their prices are a bit high, i.e. $785 for 5 sheets of 20x60, not including shipping. Here is a link to their store for satin silver:

    Booksmart Satin Silver, inkjet printable aluminum/metal

    I pay $25 for each 36x36 sheet of aluminum I use.

    The resolution from our medium format cameras allows for prints larger than 20" on one side. However, this might be an excellent vendor for photographers who want to create smaller prints.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by EH21 View Post
    Thanks for sharing the process. I have looked at the coated metals sheets from Booksmartstudio Products - Fine Art Paper, Canvas, Inkjet Supplies, Custom ICC Profiles, Fine Art Metals, Digital Portfolios - Booksmart Studio
    for a few years wondering what this would look like. Have you tried any of their products and if so how would you rate them?

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Derek,
    You may know this but Dan Berg, Bergs Canvas Gallery- Printmaking & Mounting Studio For Photographers is a great resource for printing on metal surfaces and similar stuff. Dan hangs out in the printing forum on Lula.

    Dave

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Dave,

    THANK YOU!!! Good post. However, no, never heard of him and I don't visit LuLa very often (GetDPI is my go to for MF!) but perhaps others can check him out. I will look too.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by dchew View Post
    Derek,
    You may know this but Dan Berg, Bergs Canvas Gallery- Printmaking & Mounting Studio For Photographers is a great resource for printing on metal surfaces and similar stuff. Dan hangs out in the printing forum on Lula.

    Dave

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    Senior Member kdphotography's Avatar
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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Derek,

    Imho, I know that cost is always a looming consideration in printmaking, but the real value I feel is not in comparing the initial cost outlay or investment, but the consideration that this is a piece of art that has a "piece of Derek" in it---and that's what gives it value to prospective buying clients. It's not something that is so easily duplicated with an online order to Bay Photo or other pro lab. From your decision to use a MFDB in the capture of the image, the care and selection of the media to print the image, to the final finished product--- now has a unique piece of the artist. And that's value.

    I really am not a fan of the generic mat/frame packages that seem to be the accepted norm for photographers displaying their works. Or photographers stuck using a single type of media for printing. I like to print on different fine art medias and try to put a bit more effort in the printing and presentation beyond the generic. It costs more but I think prospective clients appreciate the effort and value. Your approach/effort here is definitely unique and has value. I think part of the fun will be educating viewers about the process.

    Pictures! When you're done hanging and lighting---Pictures!!

    ken

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    5 hours per print! That's quite an investment.

    The cheapest way I have found to mount large prints for budget minded exhibitions, face mount on foam core with wood back frames. Mounted foam core, $8 a square foot and wood back frame, $25. These are are easily framed with 1/8" spacers (i.e. no mat) and plexi later if needed.

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    @Ken, I will send you some photos of the gallery once it's installed, if you're iever n Philadelphia (or NYC), let me know!

    @Alan, you're right, I could have glued the photos to foam core.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Derek, this is pretty cool, but you are aware that they sell adhesive coated aluminum and dibond sheets, right? Are you looking for the metallic look, or are you just looking for a rigid substrate to mount large photos to?

    You can buy large (very large...3m even) aluminum sheets that have an adhesive coating on them, designed to accept a paper print over the top. My clients do this all the time. There is also Di-Bond, which is an aluminum/plastic/aluminum sandwich. It is even cheaper and lighter, yet very rigid and archival. Even if you don't have an adhesive coated sheet, you can use a roller press and pressure sensitive adhesive to mount the print on aluminum, dibond, pvc, foam core and so on. This is extremely common in the signage industry, but increasingly popular in the art market as well. I just received a quote of about 65 dollars per image for 1mX1m prints on DiBond done by a very good mounting company (this is in a country that is MUCH more expensive than the US)...I imagine that if you were to look around, you could find someone to mount your prints for less time and money than you are currently spending. That said, your process does add value to your work, in that it is unique and done by you as the artist etc, but if you are just looking for a cheaper alternative to framing, there are other options!
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
    My lab is here: http://www.customphotolab.is and on facebook

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    P.S. Have a look at this...it is the general idea: JetMounter 44 - Mount An Image to a Substrate - YouTube
    You can do it with any sort of rigid substrate...aluminum, foam, pvc etc. You can also laminate it with a UV coating if you get the proper roll laminate. Alcan sells some suitable substrates...you can see them here: http://www.display.3acomposites.com/index.html?&L=1
    My photos are here: http://www.stuartrichardson.com and more recent work here: http://stuartrichardson.tumblr.com/ Please have a look at my book!
    My lab is here: http://www.customphotolab.is and on facebook

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Stuart,

    Thank you, good points! Yes, I found a vendor who supplies rolls of shiny aluminum with adhesive backing, up to 44" wide, but the shine was too much for my liking. Also, I am extremely particular and meticulous in my printing (as I am when making my photographs) and jobbing out the printing was not an option for me.

    I think people should look to your suggestions too, especially the Di-Bond which is VERY nice, it's stunning in my opinion. A close friend did huge Di-Bond prints for an exhibition, spent about $3,000 on them, none sold and they're sitting at his house and parts of the plexi is scratched. But they are gorgeous!!!!

    Your other point is also well taken in that I really like the hand crafted aspect of the artwork that I created, the "one of a kind" nature is a big bonus for clients too. In addition, I'm not producing 100 aluminums, not even dozens, so there is a huge collector value to these. I won't be creating any more soon too.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Richardson View Post
    Derek, this is pretty cool, but you are aware that they sell adhesive coated aluminum and dibond sheets, right? Are you looking for the metallic look, or are you just looking for a rigid substrate to mount large photos to?

    You can buy large (very large...3m even) aluminum sheets that have an adhesive coating on them, designed to accept a paper print over the top. My clients do this all the time. There is also Di-Bond, which is an aluminum/plastic/aluminum sandwich. It is even cheaper and lighter, yet very rigid and archival. Even if you don't have an adhesive coated sheet, you can use a roller press and pressure sensitive adhesive to mount the print on aluminum, dibond, pvc, foam core and so on. This is extremely common in the signage industry, but increasingly popular in the art market as well. I just received a quote of about 65 dollars per image for 1mX1m prints on DiBond done by a very good mounting company (this is in a country that is MUCH more expensive than the US)...I imagine that if you were to look around, you could find someone to mount your prints for less time and money than you are currently spending. That said, your process does add value to your work, in that it is unique and done by you as the artist etc, but if you are just looking for a cheaper alternative to framing, there are other options!
    Last edited by jecxz; 27th August 2012 at 18:53.

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hello Derek. Very creative approach to dealing with the financial issue of having to pay to frame a large group of prints for a gallery show, but a lot of work. I have done several gallery shows and the galleries expected me to cover the cost of the framing, with the proceeds from any sales split 50/50. I balked and insisted that the first proceeds from a sale go to me to cover the framing, with the balance split 50/50. Not foolproof, but, to me, a fairer approach. I am not sure what is "market" in such cases.
    BTW, check out the following website: www.michaelseebeck.com. The photographer is also printing on aluminum and calls the prints "Alugraphs". [Insert the smilie of your choice.]
    Best, Howard

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    Re: Going Aluminum

    Hi Howard,

    Long time no speak, and I hope all is well with you. 50/50 is quite a steep split, generally I demand 70/30 (70% for me). I've never heard of a gallery going in on the artist's costs, and I've been in a lot of galleries. But I never stop learning!

    Just to clarify my position to everyone: as I consign more and more inventory to multiple galleries, costs add up and they become a concern. My galleries do solo shows for my work AND keep work in stock after shows. I just turned down a gallery yesterday that wanted to do a show of my work in October because I'm tapped out cashwise and can't frame any more at this moment. This is a harsh reality; gluing artwork to mats or using cheap-ugly frames is not the solution, clients see it, in my opinion.

    If vanity is the motive, costs are not as important, however, profit is important to me thus, so is reducing cost. Another big factor, which I mentioned in my write up, are the scratches on plexi for the larger pieces; scratches cause ugly shadows on the artwork under gallery lights. Replacing plexi is such a waste of money.

    I still do paper prints and regular framing, and I use quality supplies (i.e. 8-ply mat, etc...). The Aluminums were an amazing experience and perhaps someone can improve on my technique or find something better because of it.

    Kind regards,
    Derek

    Quote Originally Posted by hcubell View Post
    Hello Derek. Very creative approach to dealing with the financial issue of having to pay to frame a large group of prints for a gallery show, but a lot of work. I have done several gallery shows and the galleries expected me to cover the cost of the framing, with the proceeds from any sales split 50/50.

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