The problem with digital printing is about everyone can do it and fairly well. Although I display a few digitally printed images, I set out to makes images that can’t (probably can’t?) be reproduced digitally. Since I still use a traditional wet darkroom, I set out to conquer a few old timey processes with mostly success but far from mastered. While these images are reproduced digitally, which is pretty much the only way I can show them to you, I feel they can only be fully appreciated in person to see (feel?) the texture and their embeddedness in the paper.
My greatest satisfaction comes from making lith and 2nd pass lith prints. Lith prints are made by heavily over exposing a monochrome negative to photo paper and partially developing in a dilute lith developer to produce a colorful black & white print. The process produces different contrast and textures in different parts of the tonal range – soft in the highlights and hard in the shadows. It is dramatically affected by variables in many different papers and developers.
Those variables are magnified by the 2nd pass lith process, where a print is developed in either regular black & white developer or lith developer. It is then bleached back to almost paper white (usually in copper bleach) and redeveloped in one of the lith developers. This process has a reputation as difficult to execute and nearly impossible to duplicate as each print is a one-off in a dynamic process with too many variables to permit reproduction. This is often quoted as one of the attractions of the lith print as each is a unique work – infinitely more individual than one of a limited edition series of conventional prints.
Gold/copper prints pay homage to tintypes. The overall look of a tintype is intriguing but I feel lacks vitality in the highlights. To make these ‘tintypes on steroids,’ a positive print is made on transparency film. That film is secured to gold leaf, copper or brass which in turn is secured to a substrate. I feel the best presentation is made by placing this shimmering print in a shadow box.
Digital pigment and silver gelatin prints are the most traditional. Occasionally an image tells me it needs to be made on a digital printer and I don’t argue. My heart still belongs to the traditional wet darkroom silver gelatin print as some argue there is a depth to a silver gelatin print which cannot be duplicated digitally.