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Thread: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

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    Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    During portfolio reviews, reviewers frequently ask if my B&W prints are printed digitally. They are. Unsaid is the sense that they wish that they were. For the moment let's set aside that they have to ask, meaning to me that they are indistinguishable from silver gelatin prints made in a wet darkroom. And the cotton based papers feel great in the hand.

    With an eye toward removing the "digital taint" impediment to getting my work shown more widely, does anyone here know someone who is converting their digital files to physical negatives, then contact printing them on photo paper?

    The files from the Aptus II 12 are large enough to make acceptably large contact prints, and I would like to explore the possibility of working in this direction to remove this gallerist's reason for hesitation.

    Jerry Reed

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    Senior Member mathomas's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    I'm very interested in the technique but don't have any experience with it. I'd like to try some handmade silver prints of my own without the hassle of an enlarger. I do finally have a printer up to the task (I hope -- Epson R3000), but haven't gotten up the gumption to set up the darkroom bits and pieces I'd need.

    Hoping someone else pipes up on the subject!

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    on the color side at least, digital prints are now accepted completely by galleries, considering the alternative was C prints, they had no choice. Eggleston has printed digitally recently. I would assume all the major color artists esp, from the german school are all printing digitally considering the size of the work shown.

    perhaps your gallerist needs some education.

    I would be interested in what sugimoto does for his large scale work. The recent avedon show printed enormous in panels was I am almost certain digitally done since it was on a fabric base.
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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    I print digital negatives for platinum prints (most of my ouput). Elevator Digital (Elevator Professional Photographic Lab ) in Toronto can also print on traditional silver gelatin.. beautiful prints

    That said, I brought up the topic again with the gallery that represents me in LA (Susan Spiritus Gallery Susan Spiritus Gallery | Fine art photography gallery in Southern California ). She's one of the foremost high end galleries in the US, dealing with both vintage and contemporary photography.

    The only silver gelatin prints she sells are those who have been printing them long before digital came out.. George Tice, Roman Loran, Paul Caponigro, Hiroshi Watanabe, Ansel Adams. Almost all the new work.. b/w & color, is digital. Even if captured on film, the actual prints are still digital.

    After seeing some of the prints produced by Elevator Digital , I asked her about offering silver gelatin instead of the baryta inkjet that I currently do (in addition to the platinum). He feedback is that current collectors really don't care. They buy for the name, or for the emotional impact of the image. (or often, if it goes with the color of the furniture in their living room)

    Platinum might bring a bigger price/print, but silver doesn't. She'd expect the same selling price for a silver edition as she would an inkjet edition.

    There are galleries (Photography West in Carmel) that deal only in non digital prints.. but that's an exception, not the rule, in the art world (and is typically a marketing decision).

    That said.. I'll still be offering some editions in silver.. main because of a look i like for a specific image.. but they'll be priced the same

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Jim, thank you for letting me know how you have shown your work, giving the buyer a choice of platinum or digital prints at the same price.

    QUESTION
    Looking at your exhibition of the prints in the gallery's website, I wondered if you tone the digital prints to look like platinum. They are certainly lovely, and I can see that the calm aesthetic that you are showing is nicely supported by platinum toning.

    I am seeing more digital prints, at least in one line galleries, with warm brown tone, maybe not so deeply toned as Brook Jensen. That might be an avenue for me to follow. There is another artist whose work is of paper sculptures (as mine are), Ion Zupku, who is showing at ClampArt in NYC, who prints with warm tones on silver gelatin. Ion work has the same gentle moodiness that I see in your prints.

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Quote Originally Posted by robertwright View Post
    on the color side at least, digital prints are now accepted completely by galleries, considering the alternative was C prints, they had no choice. Eggleston has printed digitally recently. I would assume all the major color artists esp, from the german school are all printing digitally considering the size of the work shown.

    perhaps your gallerist needs some education.

    I would be interested in what sugimoto does for his large scale work. The recent avedon show printed enormous in panels was I am almost certain digitally done since it was on a fabric base.
    Robert - The advent of color certainly called for advances in print permanence that wet darkroom processes were unable to provide, opening the door to the acceptance of digital printing, which is remarkably archival.

    Trying to understand and interpret the gallerists's questions, without testing for the accuracy of my interpretations of their real interests, may have led me to conclusions that are inaccurate, I seem to do that frequently enough that one would think that I might know better by now.

    In my case, to this point, I have been showing only B&W images and have been leaning more toward an architectural aesthetic where the form and line provide the third dimensional solid that is really only the shadow. To pull this off, I have been working with the assumption that I need lots of contrast to create a strong enough change in luminance values to support this interpretation by the viewer.

    Maybe, the softer approach, where the viewer is invited to enter the space, (like Jim Collum's work) rather, as in my case to stand off and admire is the stronger aesthetic notion - just thinking out loud here. Jerry
    Jerry Reed
    http://www.jerryreed.net
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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    [QUOTE=JimCollum;480205]I print digital negatives for platinum prints (most of my ouput).

    Jim, would you be willing to let me know how you have created from the digital file the negative that you are printing from (I am assuming that you are talking about contact print, rather than printing from an enlarger).

    My sense is that with the native files size come off my Aptus II 12, that I could contact print, with very acceptable detail in prints say 20 by 20 inches (another quirk of mine I print square).

    Jerry

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Jerry,

    You might want to take a look at printing your B&W images with a printer converted to K7 piezography MPS gloss and matte. This takes "digital" printing of B&W images one step further and the results imho are outstanding. It is better than my 9900 that I use for color images. I like to retain control of the process (as being the image maker) and the selection of fine art papers. Nothing beats seeing and feeling these images in hand. We will be printing B&W with my K7 piezography MPS printer at CI in Carmel in February 2013.

    That being said, you can still take "digital" into the darkroom with you. I haven't done this although it only takes swapping out a couple shades on my piezography printer to print digital negatives. I would suggest starting your search here with Jon Cone's digital negative process: Digital Negatives | PiezoPress

    I have been using Silver Efex2 to convert IQ180 files to B&W and then printing uninterpolated Tiffs on a converted K7 9890 printer. Super happy, but also greatly admire those that want/can take the time in the print making process to make digital negatives. It's a fascinating read.

    You might want to snoop out his other materials/sites as information on piezography printing is scattered a bit, but not difficult once you've gathered the information you need on digital negatives and B&W printing.

    ken

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    I think determining the gallerist's intent is important when this comes up, on the one hand they can simply be asking about process, because they get questions too from their buyers- and the buyers are often far behind the gallery even - its not the gallerist you have to convince about "value" its is the buyer. Collectors have all sorts of different intents, buying to support and artist, buying simply to appreciate, buying to speculate.

    On the other hand the gallerist may be in the same mindset- I only want to trade in a specific kind of photography, and their attitude might be prejudiced. Or they feel they can't sell digital work. I think this is when you walk away- they are not good curators, they are not appreciating the work, they are protecting money basically.

    Since I have a dim view of collecting as "investment" I tend to have a negative opinion of this sort of thing. To me, you either like the work or you don't, and you feel the price is fair or not. To me I wouldn't care whether or not my Sugimoto or Struth was digital or chemical- altho I would not buy a c print, not ever. It's just going to look like crap in a decade.

    Last year I went to see a show by Adam Bartos and they were 4-color carbon prints, the pigments were automotive paint pigments - I loved them. They had that "new car smell"

    So often photographers get it both ways- either no one cares how hard you worked- this is when you are telling the story about how difficult it was to get "the shot" and the photograph is 'meh, or the opposite, in the case of Winogrand where no one could understand why this "snapshot" was a good photograph, he made hundreds of thousands and so how good can it be??? ie; you need to work "harder" for some reason to justify your vision---same on the gallery side, the gallerist is "selling"- do you know how hard you have to work to make a dye transfer, that is why they are valuable, content aside....

    IN the end, no one cares how hard you work- as long as the photograph is good.

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Quote Originally Posted by jerryreed View Post
    Robert - The advent of color certainly called for advances in print permanence that wet darkroom processes were unable to provide, opening the door to the acceptance of digital printing, which is remarkably archival.
    That is a little bit of a myth. Dye transfer was very stable and new color material like Fuji Crystal papers are also very stable. Digital printing in and of itself is not a cure, but it can be very stable. I had a horrible 40" HP printer that made prints that would turn green in a matter of months.

    BTW, have you ever talked to the gallery people about print processes and what they prefer? They may prefer a digital print. I found most people in the business like to share this information as it only helps get the products their customers want. You also benefit to see the different changes in what is also your field.

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Quote Originally Posted by jerryreed View Post
    Jim, would you be willing to let me know how you have created from the digital file the negative that you are printing from (I am assuming that you are talking about contact print, rather than printing from an enlarger).


    Jerry
    Contact Print from Digital Negative:

    "Making Digital Negatives" Information

    Eric Neilsen has a nice write up here:

    http://ericneilsenphotography.com/HowtoPlat.html


    Bob

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Cprints are only a stable as the lab that makes them- poor processing and they yellow quickly. Same goes for silver gelatin also.

    Injket pigments are pretty stable depending on media. I guess there is no rule.

    I have prints from the old epson 2000p that while have horrible color metamerism, are still as bad as when I made them

    I can't say the same for boxes of cprints made at commercial labs, depending, some are fine, others are very yellow.

    There was a Stephen Shore show a few years ago of vintage prints he made for the book Uncommon Places, and they were extremely mellow yellow. I believe he has since reprinted them all in pigments and the yellow is gone.

    Part of the equation is moot anyway, another artist Massimo Vitale does his large scale prints face mounted on plexi- if they are displayed in sunlight they will yellow. He has said that in some cases collectors have appealed to him and he has replaced the print- ie; the whole "object", since for him, they are not "photographs" but "objects"- the method of display is as much a part of the piece as the image. He said he had an italian "buffer" who will come in to shows to give a final polish on the plexi, all part of the show.

    In this sense the permanence is really performance. Like a shark in a tank.


    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    That is a little bit of a myth. Dye transfer was very stable and new color material like Fuji Crystal papers are also very stable. Digital printing in and of itself is not a cure, but it can be very stable. I had a horrible 40" HP printer that made prints that would turn green in a matter of months.

    BTW, have you ever talked to the gallery people about print processes and what they prefer? They may prefer a digital print. I found most people in the business like to share this information as it only helps get the products their customers want. You also benefit to see the different changes in what is also your field.

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Robert - I have been seeing more and more shows were the work is face mounted behind plexi -no matte in some cases no frame, the print is sandwiched between two sheets of plexi, then the french cleat is bonded to the back of the rear plexi. Now, you and I need to be on the look out for a plexi buffer (I'm smiling). I think that I might try to slip that in my CV, prior experience PLEXI-BUFFER June 1995 - August 1998, just to see if people read them.

    Thank you for your interest and shared experiences.

    Jerry

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    wasn't leica offering or promoting some sort of printing service in conjunction with the MM camera?

    I believe photo paper can be exposed by laser can it not? You'd supply the file.

    btw I only just visited your site and I really enjoyed the work. My mentioning of Sugimoto was not far off- the sculptural, curvilinear, form based minimal work is a fav of mine, also Richard Serra which came to mind when I looked at your work, if you abstract scale for a second, the experience of shape is similar.

    We have such good tools now and the ability to control every aspect and produce images at scales that were unthinkable only a decade ago. I'd be hard pressed to let go of that control just to satisfy a traditionalists concern.

    These are tools, you shoot digital, so print that way. There is a purism in that as well. The precise control over tone that you have on a digital print would be hard to get in the darkroom. And when there is no difference in permanence, when you have unlimited choice of papers compared to the wet darkroom, you can really make the photo-object exactly what you want, isn't that what art is about, not satisfying some retro-aesthetic?

    I of course have argued almost the opposite wrt shooting film....I like the process, I like contacts, I like the slowness. However I am about a year away from getting a digital back and just pitching in. What sealed the deal was getting a 24" printer- seeing ones own work at scale really changes everything.

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Gentlemen, I am new to this forum and I do print Digitally, First, I do not think that inkjet printing looks or has any similarity to traditional B&W or color continuous tone printing, after all it is still a halftone, a bettered halftone, but the best quality halftones are printed by imagesetters on CMYK, not on Epson printers, just look at the differential on OCE printer, both in quality and in price, but the output is not equaled by an 11 color Epson printer.

    Ken, you are absolutely right in the quality of a dedicated printer using Jon Cones's K7 printing, but the output in a Digital Negative did not work for me, and I tried after some older tests from Sandy King where he also could not achieve all the densities necessary for a digital negative for platinum printing, the discussion is both in the Piezzography forums and in the DPUG. In normal inkjet B&W printing, the results of Cone K7 systems are impecable. I only use them on matte, because of texture.

    I also saw a small thread where Jim Collum's platinum was mentioned as outstanding, but do not know the exact details nor his parameters for this type of work.

    I do all my printing; silver halide and color in a digital enlarger by DeVere with an RGB LED color head for RA-4 and a Tungsten light source for B&W. Both fantastic, but only up to 20 x 24 inches, because of the size of the Digital Negative stage, which is 12 x 17 at 300 dpi. I normally print B&W at 12 x 16, plus matt, but I am an old timer who is not interested in 50 inch prints, in which case I use a Chromira 50 inch from a friend, that is only for exhibitions. My personal work, I mount and box, sell a few and some go to walls and my friends do not want 40+ inch prints, so I stick to 12 x 16's or 16 x 20's max. Plus matt, looks fantastic on the wall,

    For platinum printing, after using traditional methods for a number of years, I trued Jon Cone's K5 without a success, because I also could not built my denseties, then I trierd the full K7 set, and I could not make it. I do understand that Sandy King kept on experimenting on it and Jon was to show some notes on this, but I changed to using an HP 3200Z printer after some platinum prints, made by a Spanish photographer in Arles a few years back. All his notes and software developement where in a thread in the LFF, it was extremely simple, HP does not shred any lights in this, and there is some software developement conflict, but from the notes and all the downloads it is a breeze for printing Digital Negatives for both, Silver Halide and for Platinum contact printing, and the output is very similar to a Pyro developed Digital Negative.

    As for high quality digital silver halide printing, I have not tried Elevator Digital, that Jim Collum mentions and did see his thread a few days back, but Bob Carnie does a hell of a job in Canada and prints some friends works for exhibitions, some large prints are also toned. I always liked the work of Blanco & Negro in Australia, like me, they favor warmtone split developement and toning with Selenium at 1+200 or 1+300. FOMA papers in divided developers with Lith+Amidol and a water bath or Catechol instead, so does Lith with PWT from FOMA, then toned in diluted selenium produce some outstanding prints, not to be compared with unespecialized printing techniques. Like myself, they also use a DeVere digital enlarger with a Tungsten head. The only one in Australia that I know of, and if you take a look at their gallery, well DuPont's prints are awesome, being at the top of the food chain, and Blanco & Negro is a lab in its own in the world. Living in Thailand, and via UPS, it is always very easy to have prints made by them,

    This is just my small contribution to this thread, having been a printer for over 40 years and will continue to do so, only in specialized manner.

    Takomaru

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    Jerry, have you come across Mark Nelson's Precision Digital Negatives? It's worth a read, although it's not the only choice. I think Dan Burkholder was one of the first and last time I looked his site had lots of great info. Dan also prints pretty big without issue. I'm pretty sure unblinkingeye.com has more info and people like Freestyle Photographic Supplies - Traditional Black & White Film, Paper, Chemicals, Holgas and ULF provide large UV light boxes for some alternative processes, that are clearly aimed at digital negs.

    Quote Originally Posted by robertwright View Post
    ...I believe photo paper can be exposed by laser can it not? You'd supply the file...
    This is how Lambda printing works and are really nice quality C-Type prints using traditional chemicals, but exposed from a digital file by laser in a large drum. It's a true continuous tone output process (limited only by the input) so althrough 300dpi, the results are as good or better than inkjet (that is don't compare to 2400dpi dithered inkets, because lambda is true continuous tone and does not require dithering). Btw, it's how Gursky prints (lab is in dusseldorf). In the UK you could contact these guys: Large format printing - high quality large prints over 48 " wide - Metro Print - Metro Print


    -Paul
    Last edited by wentbackward; 6th January 2013 at 20:46. Reason: tpyo

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints


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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    I know this is an old thread, but something similar was discussed on flickr.

    Flickr: Discussing Negatives from digital in I Shoot Film

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    Re: Digital Negatives - Contact Prints

    I've started making digital negatives and contact printing them with silver chemistry on ilford glossy fiber photo paper. I have the HP z3200 PS printer which has the process sort of streamlined as has been mentioned here by Jim (I think). It's pretty easy to get to a satisfactory print with the HP profiles and I'm hoping to try platinum as well. Certainly the silver prints have a nice feel to them, but its hard to say if they are better than pigment on baryta paper, different anyways. I have felt that for some images shot on black and white film the traditional silver prints are superior to what I could achieve with the Aptus 12 shots taken side by side. Not more detail, but just a better look.

    If anyone gets into this, I'd appreciate hearing how they sharpen their files for printing the contact negatives. Right now I use the contone 300 routine in the pixel genius software plugin. Also do people add 'grain' to their digital files for printing with silver or platinum processes?

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