The Art of the Photogravure
A Comprehensive Resource Dedicated to the Photogravure
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February 10th, 2008

Photogravure Meets Pop?

IvorySnow.jpgWhile the focus of this site is traditional, I think Pieter Myers’ comments are noteworthy…..
Photogravure enjoys a reputation for excellence in crafting the photographic image. Perhaps because it is a relatively new among graphic media, photogravure has yet to exhibit the freedom of expression that has become the norm in much older graphic techniques. Complicating this evolution, photogravure is a chameleon, encompassing many manifestations of printmaking, and is therefore hard to classify.  Since this confuses almost everyone in the art world, people tend to focus on what they know, i.e., beautiful prints of classic black & white images. As a result, publishers, collectors, and galleries tend to overlook much of the contemporary work being done, such as creative interpretation of the original image and, yes, color. So I would like to open up the dialogue and suggest that it might be time to update the definition of photogravure.
     I recognize that definitions are not popular in today’s ecumenical art world. Yet the blurring of the boundaries between media diminishes the uniqueness and identity of any of them. Because of this, some exhibitions don’t know what to do with photogravure, and interestingly, the American Color Print Society will not accept photogravure no matter how obscured the original photographic image may be. Should we care about this? And how far away from  “photographic” can a subject be before it is no longer a photogravure? Regardless of how you feel about historical purity, I submit that photogravure is uniquely suited to contemporary subject matter, social realism and (why not?) Pop Art.  In my own work I prefer to stay within the traditionally held definition of hand pulled copper plate photogravure in order to keep the integrity of the medium intact. But I am not comfortable with photogravure as primarily a purely photographic medium.  I like to balance the scale, and even tip it more to the graphic side by using a variety of darkroom and etching techniques. If the subject suggests color, I use color. Already I have lost the photogravure traditionalist. Perhaps “avant-garde photogravure” will remain a contradiction in terms. If this is the case, the medium may even be able to hold the line against the horrors of digital manipulation.
    I hope I have stirred up some discussion with these thoughts, but it is not the photogravure police we should be worried about.  The real battle is with all the mechanical reproductions sporting fancy names that masquerade as original prints.  

Pieter S. Myers

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