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As I return to my traditional film photography roots, I find myself more drawn to hand-crafted prints once again. From this point forward, I will be offering traditional silver gelatin prints, salt prints, and my Carbon inkjet prints. As I experiment more with other antiquarian processes, I may add those print options as well.
I like to embrace both traditional and modern photographic methods in my work. My goal isn’t necessarily to be a traditionalist, but to use various methods to achieve the look and feel I want in each image.
Traditional Silver Gelatin Prints
I print the majority of my B&W negatives on traditional B&W fiber base photo paper. Fiber base paper is the standard to traditional fine art black and white prints, and I process them to the highest archival standards.
Carbon Inkjet (Piezography) Prints
For my inkjet printing I use Carbon inks which are shades of pure black ground carbon (think charcoal), and are extremely archival. I primarily use the Carbon inkjet process for my digital images or scans of my wet plate collodion positives, but may sometimes scan and print my B&W negatives using Carbon inkjet. There may be times where I feel that scanning a negative, adjusting it in Photoshop, and printing to Carbon inkjet is the way to provide the best possible image and print.
Salt printing is one of the first photographic printing methods invented. At its simplest, a salt print consists of paper coated in salt water, then once dried, coated with silver nitrate to make it light sensitive. Since this paper is much less sensitive that modern photo paper, images must be contact printed in the sun, or under a very bright light. The print can only be as large as the negative is.
Since the emulsion of salt prints are hand coated, each print from the same negative will vary from one another. Variations may include color, tonality, rough edges, or variations in the emulsion. No one print will be exactly the same. While this is technically not one of kind (since there may be more prints of the same image), each print will be unique.
Print editions are often a hotly debated topic. Serious collectors and gallery owners prefer limited edition prints (and small editions at that) so they know the image has the potential for a higher resale value in the future. This usually only benefits the collector or gallery owner, and not the artist. (Van Gogh made almost nothing from his work, but future collectors have made tens of millions per painting!)
Limited editions can also benefit the artist initially by allowing them to charge a higher price per piece than they would with an open edition print. In theory, they can also charge more for prints as the collection begins to run out.
Open edition prints basically mean an artist can make as many prints from an image as they’d like. Some collectors may worry that with an open edition, an artist could print thousands of copies and flood the market. My response to that is… Really? Think about it… we are artists. If artists were able to sell thousands of copies of their work, there wouldn’t be that stereotype of the “starving artist”. I would bet that these collectors do not worry that photographer such as Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston never numbered their prints or limited themselves to print editions!
So what do I do in regards to print editions? All of my photographs are printed as open editions, unless otherwise specified. That said, it is highly unlikely that I will print much more than 250 prints of any image. In fact it is more likely that most of my images will not excede 25 prints each. Each year I come up with new photographs which become my favorites, and slowly retire older images.
I will leave you with two quotes on this topic:
“Why limit the number of prints one can make from a medium that is by nature unlimited and in which each print of an image is potentially as good as all other prints?” – Ansel Adams
“My ideal is to achieve the ability to produce numberless prints from each negative, prints all significantly alive, yet indistinguishably alike, and to be able to circulate them at a price not higher than that of a popular magazine, or even a daily paper. To gain that ability there has been no choice but to follow the road I have chosen.” – Alfred Stieglitz