12/03/2015

FROM DAGUERROTYPE TO GICLÉE

A (incomplete) history of photographic processes.

   Browsing catalogs (may it be from an auction, exhibition or collections) you will find in the picture‘s description a lot of informations. Some of them are quite clear like the name of the photographer, the year the picture was taken, the title etc. Some are not so obvious like the description of the used photographic process...

An example from an online auction catalog (13th Westlicht Photographica Auction, Nov. 2015)
   As you can see on above sample it says „Vintage Silver print“. Now this actually is an intermixture of two different definition: „Silver print“ is the photographic process involved while „Vintage print“ has nothing to do with it.

What is a „Vintage Print“?
A vintage print is made during the artist‘s lifetime, by the artist or under his/her close supervision. A vintage print is usually priced higher than other print types because it can be seen as the original. 

What is a „Modern Print“?
Usually a print made long time after the artist has made the negative and without his/her supervision. In order for them to have value, they must be printed by someone who knew the photographer personally and had a sound knowledge of how he or she wanted his photographs to look.



   So now to the photographic processes. As there where so many different processes especially in the pioneer era of photography (when almost every photographer invented his own process) I will mention here only the most important ones, those you will encounter very often.

Daguerrotype (1839)
The daguerreotype, invented by Louis-Jagues-Mandè Daguerre and introduced in 1839, was the first publicly announced photographic process, and for nearly twenty years, it was the one most commonly used. By 1860, new processes which were less expensive and produced more easily viewed images had almost completely replaced it. The whole process was quite complicated involving a silver-plated copper sheet, long exposure times and a lot of chemical treatment (eg with mercury vapor). As  there is no negative to make prints from a daguerrotype is always an unique copy (which could only be duplicated by copying it with a camera).

Ambrotype
or amphitype, introduced in the 1850s, also known as a collodion positive,  is a positive photograph on glass. Like a print on paper, it is viewed by reflected light. Like the daguerrotype, each is a unique original that could only be duplicated by using a camera to copy it.

Calotype (1841) 
or talbotype is an early process introduced in 1841 by William Henry Fox Talbot, a Scottish scientist, inventor and photography pioneer, using paper coated with silver iodide. The calotype process produced a translucent original negative image from which multiple positives could be made by simple contact printing.

  In the final decades of the 19th century the negative process was further developed. 1851 Scott Archer invented the wet plate (or collodion) process, using glass plates as carrier for the light sensitive silver emulsion, 1879 the first dry plate factory was founded, celluloid was introduced as carrier agent, which was replaced in the 1950s with acetate. In 1881 Gorge Eastman founded Kodak („You press the button, we do the rest“), and it was the Kodak Company, which presented in 1989 the first megapixel sensor for digital cameras. But all of this is important for the negative process only.  For the final print one needed the positive process, and over the time a lot of different processes where developed. Here are the most commonly used, the one you most likely will find around auctions (and some of them are still used by contemporary artists).

Salt print
The salt print, created by Henry Fox Talbot, was the dominant paper-based photographic process for producing positive prints during the period from 1839 through approximately 1860. 

Albumen print
also called albumen silver print, was published in January 1847 and was the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photograph on a paper base from a negative It used the albumen found in egg whites in to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper and became the dominant form of photographic positives from 1855 to the turn of the 20th century, with a peak in the 1860-90 period.

Platinum print, Palladium print
Platinum prints, also called platinotypes, are photographic prints made by a  monochrome printing process that provides a large tonal rangeThe palladiotype is a less-common variant of the platinotype. The process came into greater use after World War I because the platinum used in the more-common platinotype quickly became too expensive, so photographers tried to replace the platinum with the much cheaper palladium which gave similar effects. 

Silver Print
or gelatin silver process is the photographic process used with currently  (still) available black-and-white films and printing papers. A suspension of silver salts in gelatine is coated onto a support such as  flexible plastic or film, baryta paper, or resin-coated paper. These light-sensitive materials are stable under normal keeping conditions and are able to be exposed and processed even many years after their manufacture.  Gelatin silver printing was the dominant photographic process from introduction in the 1880s until the 1960s when it was eclipsed by consumer color photography. The gelatin silver or black-and-white print is thus a primary form of visual documentation in the 20th century. Its widespread use in applications as wide-ranging as fine art, snap shots, and document reproduction led to an extraordinary variety of papers with a wide range of available surface texture and gloss, and paper thickness.

Parmelian print
An oddity in the history of print processes, which is nothing else but a silver print. The story behind: In 1927, not long after he decided to become a professional photographer, Ansel Adams published a portfolio of 18 silver gelatin photographic prints (in an edition of 100 copies, plus 10 artist's copies) named „Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras“. The term "parmelian" was a meaningless word invented by Jean Moore (the publisher), who believed that calling them "photographic prints" would not allow them to be taken seriously as art. Adams later said "I am not proud at allowing this breach of faith in my medium." 

Chromogenic color prints (Analogue C-Prints)
are full-color photographic prints made using chromogenic materials and processes. These prints may be produced from an original which is a color negative, slide or digital image. The chromogenic print process was nearly synonymous with the 20th-century color snapshot

Lambda prints (Digital C-Prints)
A system that uses lasers to expose light-sensitive material to produce a latent image that is then developed using conventional silver-based photographic chemicals. 

Cibachrome
is a dye destruction positive-to-positive photographic process used for the reproduction of slides on photographic paper. Since it uses 13 layers of azo dyes sealed in a polyester base, the print will not fade, discolor, or deteriorate for an extended time.


Nowadays, in the age of digital printing, there is no convention anymore for the naming of the used process. You can find merely different designations like Inkjet Print, Pigment Print, Archival Pigment Print, Pigment Ink Print or Giclée Print. All of them are printed on inkjet printers, also giclée has become synonymous with fine art reproductions printed a high-end inkjet printer and pigmented inks.

There are much more photographic processes and i listed here only the most commen one. If you find something not listed here - I will tryto solve it for you.

Filed under [Collector's Basics]

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