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Printing for other people

As I've previously stated. I've been concentrating on my #altprocess printing. I don't have space for a darkroom so cyanotype and kallitype prints are what I can produce. As I have a limited supply of images worthy of printing with these techniques I reached out to my twitter film photography friends to see if anyone would be kind enough to let me try and print one or two of their images. A few brave souls stepped forward and so began a month or so's collaboration with 4 artists to come up with something I deemed good enough to share with them.

My hope for the exercise was to give me a focus to help improve and nail my technique for these processes. It's not that difficult to produce something, but its something else to produce a print that you are prepared to share with others.

The sources of the images were wildly varied. From a 35mm negative I needed to scan. A couple of swing lens panoramic 35mm film scans. A couple of medium format film scans and digital file from a GFX50R. Each provided their own challenges to overcome and I'll summarise the overall in this blog, and write a separate blog for each image.

I'm not quite finished with the process as I haven't made a satisfactory print of one them. Interestingly it's the image from the GFX50R. It's a huge file, with enormous dynamic range and detail but I'm not quite sure how to tackle it and I currently need some more chemicals to finish this. I will complete this print and add a blog for that image also.

The focus was kallitype printing, but generally I start with a cyanotype. They are a simpler process but give a good idea of how my image processing and the digital negative translates into a print. Even having calibrated the processes it's not easy to visualise on the screen how the print will look especially the relationship between tones. After a little while you get a good idea, but a technique I've found useful is to make an initial print with a best effort, scan the resulting print and use the Threshold layer in Photoshop or Affinity to visualise where the areas of tone have fallen on the print. You can then adjust the digital file, print another negative and expose another print.

One of my hang up's is my internal evaluation of worth and waste. I struggle to go through enough iterations of the process for my work to get as good as results as I ought to. Printing for other people and wanting to make as good a print as I could enabled me to break that and experiment a little and ensure I got the details in the shadows I wanted and the highlights where I though they should be. Printing is an iterative process, you will never get it right first time and you have to be happy with breaking as many eggs as it takes to make that "perfect" omelette. Every digital negative costs money in transparency and ink, every print costs in paper and chemicals, and every iteration takes time. It was good for me to see that "wasting" those eggs got me a better result in the end.

Making prints and sending them to people is so rewarding, but I also wanted to share the process on social media. I've struggled for months to get reproductions of these prints close to what they look like in the hand. Cyanotype is especially hard and I'm sure I read somewhere that Prussian Blue falls outside of most modern colour gamuts so it's probably impossible. I had to up my scanning game so I finally purchased an IT8 calibration print, calibrated my old V700 flatbed scanner and the results are now much closer to how they look.

I'm extremely grateful to those that participated in this collaboration. They are all talented photographers and it was very generous of them to share their images with me to print. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt so much from doing this. Thank you all.

Maureen Bond

Ian Hill

Dean Forbes

David Whenham

Things I use:

Easy Digital Negative process to calibrate my digital negatives.

Epson P700 printer

Pictorico OHP

Hahnemuhle Platinum Rag paper

Moersch Kallitype Kit

2" Jackson's Mottler brush

Silverprint - Gold toner

The kallitype prints I made and sent to my collaborators:

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