Roger Fenton, Water Gate, Raglan Castle, 1856
Google alerts are great if you are searching for information on obscure subjects. That is exactly how I discovered Paul Morgan. Paul was offering a talk at the National Media Museum entitled ‘Paul Pretsch and Photogalvanography 1850 – 1870′. Surprised not only to find someone interested in the subject but also to see one of photography’s most prestigious institutions offering a talk on photogralvonagraphy, I emailed Paul to introduce myself and see if he would let me read his lecture.
Paul and I have since had in depth correspondence about Pretsch. He has provided me with a plethora of images and text regarding Pretsch, photogalvanography and Fenton. Eventually, I asked for Paul’s bio. Expecting to see something like Professor of Art History – Oxford, I was surprised to see that he is a layperson with a passion for creating, learning and writing — rendering his work on Pretsch all the more impressive.
From Paul’s bio….”I was educated at Rossall, then took a degree in Communication Studies at Aston in Birmingham. Have been through quite a variety of jobs, but the main spell was living and working with profoundly handicapped youngsters. Have always been involved in the arts, my own output including painting, drawing, photography, poetry, drama, and prose. Usually occupied in writing of some variety, in latter years mainly odd articles, covering subjects from local history to Captain Morgan the pirate. My interest in Pretsch came about from finding some photogalvanographic prints, but very little information about them. I ended up spending a decade intermittently pursuing the full story. Now have turned my attention to an investigation of the Battle of Loos in 1915, where my maternal Grandfather died.”
Paul has generously agreed to let me publish his work on Pretsch in the text section of the site. It is as comprehensive essay on Photogalvanography you’ll find, celebrating the forgotten innovation that lead to the first published photographic art portfolio in ink – Photographic Art Treasures.
Thank you Paul.
Theodor and Oscar Hofmeister, The Solitary Horseman, 1904
Swann Galleries Photographs and Photographic Literature
Sale 2191, October 22, 2009
Camera Work made a strong showing at Swann last month. While many lots in the sale passed or sold within or below their estimates, seven of the ten Camera Work lots commanded prices that exceeded their high estimates (including buyer’s premium.)
Numbers 2 & 19 $5,280
Numbers 7 & 8 $3,360
Numbers 13 & 15 $6,960
Numbers 16, 17 & 18 $4,560
Number 22 $3,360
Numbers 25 & 31 $6,480
Number 27 $4,560
To learn more about Camera Work pricing, visit Photogravure Gallery.
This summer Eric Lutz, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs for the St. Louis Art Museum, asked me to give a talk to the museum’s Friends of Photography collectors group. It was my first opportunity to present my research to a captive audience. I was concerned that it might be hard to fill the 90 minutes with relevant information, so I edited together a Keynote presentation complete with video clips, sound bites and fancy graphics.
The problem was, I never timed it. Well best laid plans…turns out the talk I prepared would have taken 90 hours! I shifted from plan A to just winging it and the 90 minutes went by in a flash and resulted in just a brief overview. The good news is everybody not only stayed awake, but also left excited about photogravure. Eric later said it was some of the best group energy he had seen at a Friends talk.
The experience was an affirmation that the topic is broad, relevant, rich in detail and able to be appreciated by a wide audience.
Thanks to David Spencer forh is help and for supplying this image of Karl Klic’s first published photogravure.
“There is a sense of panic out there…” were the words of Dick Sullivan, proprietor of Bostick-Sullivan. “Without it, photogravure in its present form will cease to exist. End of story,” were Craig Zammiello’s words. ”This is very big!!!! and harrowing!” said Jon Goodman.
What is all the fuss about? Well it appears as though Autotype, the only manufacturer of pigmented gelatin tissue, a material critical to the photogravure process, has decided to cease production… “It is with sadness that after 100 years of supply, MacDermid Autotype is now forced to discontinue the manufacture of Gravure Pigment Papers and films due to the withdrawal of two unique raw materials.”
Without this material, practicing photogravure ateliers have two choices – make their own gelatin tissue (a laborious and unpredictable prospect) or practice polymer photogravure – a distant second choice and not an option for purists.
Hopefully Richard Sullivan will come to the rescue. He is versed in manufacturing carbon tissue and is working diligently to save photogravure. Talking with him today, it appears as though he is making positive strides toward a product that might just be better than Artotype’s (thicker – allowing more depth in the etch). Too complicated for this layperson, the status of the situation can be followed on Richard’s forum, which – if you take the time to read it, illustrates just how complex this process is.
By the way, I must admit I was pleased to hear Richard, a legend in the world of alternative process, tell me that photogravure was among his top top three of all photographic processes when it comes to beauty.
Robert Adams always wanted to try photogravure. He admires its tactile qualities as well as its rich tone. This series of images is from his book, Harney County Oregon and was printed in collaboration with Paul Taylor of Rennaisance Press. The project was co-published by Mathew Marks Gallery and Fraenkel Gallery. An Art:21 interview of Robert discussing the project can be found here.
James Craig Annan is under recognized in today’s photography scene. He was not, however, overlooked by Stieglitz during the peak years of the Photo-Secession and the publication of Camera Work. Just a year before Stieglitz introduced Paul Strand in Camera Work 48, he devoted an entire issue to Annan’s photographs from Spain. This somber, quiet, introspective body of work was born out of the most ordinary subject matter. It is reticent, reserved and tenderly beautiful. The signed prints are from the collection of Raimondi Antonio who died shortly after World War I.
Mrs. N. Gray Bartlett distinguished herself as an amateur photographer at a time when relatively few women were involved in the art. An active member of the Chicago Camera Club, she displayed her work in several exhibitions, receiving recognition for idealized and sentimental imagery of women and children posed in outdoor settings… Her books, printed in high-quality tissue photogravure, combined photographs, fanciful lettering and whimsical drawings and exemplify the creative opportunity that photogravure offered to combine photography and illustration (GEH, Imagining Paradise, White, From the mundane to the magical, 65) Find here examples from A Girl I Know.
George Davison’s innovative impressionist photographs turned the heads of the Photographic Society of Great Britain in the 1890’s. Davison’s use of a pinhole lens resulted in photographs that were difficult to distinguish from paintings. And although this particular photographic technique came to represent all that was wrong with photography’s struggle to be recognized as art, it has found its place in history as a distinctive early phase of the pictorial movement. A signed photogravure from this period is rare – especially one originally in the collection of Margaret Harker and published in her book, The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892 – 1910, London: Heinemann, 1979
Die Kunst in der Photographie. These two images, one by Constance Puyo and the other by Ernest Ashton, exemplify photogravure’s capacity to offer a quality of print that is uniquely beautiful. Although historically forgotten, they will always remain highlights of this collection.
Peter Henry Emerson’s most distinguished and most impressionistic work is considered Marsh Leaves, his last published book and one of only two in which the photogravures were printed by Emerson himself. This may be the earliest body of photographic work to show Japanese influence. The misty quality he achieves in these landscapes is also strongly reminiscent of Whistler’s ‘Nocturnes’. (Life and Landscape: P.H. Emerson Art & Photography in East Anglia 1885-1900, p. 39) This collection of prints was exhibited by the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, The J. Paul Getty Museum, and Chrysler Museum of Art between 2006 and 2008.
Roger Fenton is relevant in the study of the history of photogravure from at least two perspectives. He has been credited with the birth of photojournalism when in 1855, The Illustrated London News published examples from The Exhibition of Photographic Pictures Taken in the Crimea (Farber, Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them, pp. 12-13) And in 1856 Fenton managed the Photographic Department and photographed for the Photo-Galvanographic Company in London, which published, “Photographic Art Treasures” – the first periodical devoted to artistic photographic reproduction illustrated by photomechanical process. The published photogalvanographs were strongly criticized in the photographic press for their heavy retouching. Today not only are they charming, but also are rare examples from the evolution of photomechanical reproduction and photogravure. (Eder, 582)
J Dudley Johnston, elected to the Linked Ring in 1907, was twice president of the Royal Photographic Society where he played a key role in starting the Society’s permanent collection. Johnston became one of the earliest photographic historians and his awareness of the history of the emergence of photography doubtlessly inﬂuenced his own photographic work. Margaret Harker in her The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892 – 1910, considered Johnston a leading Secessionist… ‘The more adventurous of the Secessionists explored the visual world afresh, breaking away from what had become established forms of picture making by photography.’ Most of Johnston’s work is to be found in the collection of the Royal Photographic Society, now at the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television Bradford. It is rare to ﬁnd examples on the market. This photogravure from one of Johnston’s most famous images was purchased from the collection of Margaret Harker and happens to represent its commencement, for it is notated on the back “No.1 – the first photograph in the Harker collection.”
Unai San Martin has won accolades as one of Spain’s most accomplished printmakers (Premio Nacional de Grabado, 2002; Joan Miro Foundation, Mallorca.) Experiencing one of his photogravures in person leaves little doubt why. His work is ethereal and mysteriously beautiful. And his craftsmanship when it comes to photogravure is non-pareil.
Man Ray was one of the few American artists involved in the international movements of Dada and Surrealism during the first half of the twentieth century. Published in 1931 and commissioned by a French electric company to promote the use of electricity, Électricité is a prime example of Ray’s experimental style and consists of 10 rayograms all related to uses of electricity and printed in photogravure.
Electricite la Ville, illuminated by Fernand Jacopozzi’s fanciful lighting design, explodes with an overlay of neon advertisements in Man Ray’s dynamic, multiple-exposure print. Fragments of words float through the photograph like bits of overheard conversations.
In its first show of 2009, Kicken Berlin presented an overview of art photography from 1896 to 1916. The following text is an excerpt from the show’s press release written by Carolin Förster, Berlin based photo historian.
The turn of the century saw the establishment of an ‘international style’ in photography, laying claim to the medium’s recognition as a fine art. An additional goal of the Pictorialist movement was modernity; in contrast to the medium’s commercial and private uses, art photographers aspired to transform reality. By adapting the subjects of Symbolism, art nouveau’s awareness of form, and the craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they participated in the artistic avant-garde of fin de siècle Modernism and conveyed a very clear message: Photography is art.
Rather than being obvious or shocking, this modernity was hidden within individual aesthetic expression and in the art object’s sumptuous materiality. Numerous photography clubs, magazines, and museum exhibitions provided art photographers with a forum for critical recognition. The movement’s important centers included Vienna, Hamburg, and London, and it found its most important champion in the American Alfred Stieglitz, who published the magazine Camera Work.
Study, Heinrich Kuehn, photogravure 1911
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June 25 – 28 and August 7 – 10
Photogravure is perhaps the most beautiful of the photographic processes. It is also one of the most challenging. This summer Paul Taylor of Renaissance Press is sharing his expertise and offering two hands-on photogravure workshops.
Paul’s work with early photographic processes spans over thirty years. He is the founder of The Rhode Island School of Design Press and has been teaching photogravure at RISD since 1993. Renaissance Press has published or produced work by artists including Duane Michals, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel Peter Witkin, Linda Connor, Robert Adams, Aaron Siskind, Roy DeCarava, Tom Baril, and many others. These prints are collected by museums internationally.
The workshops will take place at Renaissance Press’ atelier in Ashuelot, New Hampshire. Participants should expect intensive days in a relaxed environment. Renaissance Press is located on the bank of the Ashuelot and is a 25 minute drive to Keene New Hampshire or Brattleboro Vermont..
Each workshop is limited to 4 participants.
more details after the jump…
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I see the term ‘color photogravure’ here and there but never really know what it means. Is it a photogravure printed with a vibrant conté color ink? Or is it a plate inked simultaneously with multiple colors, like Aperture’s version of Steichen’s Moonrise, Mamaroneck? Or maybe it means plates run through the press multiple times each time using a separate color ink to achieve some type of Warhol screen-print effect?
Well Crown Point Press has teamed up with Susan Middleton (celebrated photographer of endangered species) to set the record straight. Together they have produced a series of true full-color photogravures.
The technique incorporated produces four-color positive separations from a color negative and etches each onto four individual copper plates. The plates are then inked with the appropriate color and printed in perfect registration resulting in a full-range color photogravure.
And while I have not seen one in person, I can’t help to believe that they would be anything less than beautiful. I hope to see one soon. If you are anywhere near the Crown Point Gallery in San Francisco, then it would be worth a visit to see for yourself.
The Crown Point Press gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A brochure is available.
A PHOTOGRAPH PRINTED AS AN ETCHING
Learning the Language of the Realm
Featuring photogravures by Susan Middleton
February 27-April 7, 2009
Video of Susan Middleton talking about the project
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About three weeks ago I received in the mail Imagining Paradise, the new book highlighting the world-class collection of photographically illustrated books in George Eastman House’s Menschel Library. I immediately read the book cover to cover. It represents a concise, well-designed and beautifully printed book offering an overview of many of the publications that are represented on this site.
Then I recalled, when learning the wet-plate collodion process several years ago, I was allowed access to the GEH collection to view examples of vintage ambrotypes. I realized I could take a field trip to Rochester to see, in person, the books highlighted in Imagining Paradise.
So I assembled a list of titles that interested me (using their powerful Voyager catalog.) The list was ambitious to say the least, but it did not intimidate my gracious host, Rachel Stuhlman, the curator of rare books. She said she would see what she could do and agreed to meet me early the day I arrived so I could get a jump on the project. I was joined by friend and fellow photogravure enthusiast, David Spencer. His list doubled the number of titles I wanted to see.
When we arrived she was ready and waiting in the study room with carts of books. We wondered – could it really be this easy? We were beginning to understand what a powerful resource the George Eastman House is. Rachel was not just an accommodating hostess, but she was also a wealth of information when it comes to the photographically illustrated book. Having nurtured the library since 1982, she could answer questions about obscure variations in editions of ancient titles and could immediately put her hands on anything.
Believe it or not, our time was not spent only looking at books. We also had the good fortune to meet with and learn from the superb and talented staff of the GEH.
Mark Osterman, the process historian for the Advanced Residency Program for Photographic Conservation, gave us a crash course on a plethora of early photographic techniques including the use of a Camera Lucida and a Physionotrace.
Valentina Branchini, a research fellow in the Advanced Residency Program, provided fascinating insight into the work of Alvin Landon Coburn, teaching me more in a couple of hours than I have garnered from any book I have read on the subject. Together we examined Coburn photogravures, prints and negatives, comparing the subtle variations that may have motivated the directio
n of his work.
Sheila Foster, an independent researcher and co-editor of Imagining Paradise, (and a big fan of Camera Work photogravures) shared with us plans for an exciting new web resource on which the GEH is working and plans to unveil at the upcoming APAID.
Joe Struble, assistant archivist of the photo collection, pulled from the collection some rare examples of George Davison gravures as well as the large Coburn plates. Knowing we were in a hurry, he allowed us to take over the print viewing room, spreading out work that he would happily put away after we left.
Even Director of the ARP program, Grant Romer, made a point of stopping by to introduce himself and welcome us.
In short, we were very well taken care of at the GEH, so well in fact that we left with way more than what we originally expected to see, and plan on returning for we only scratched the surface of this great resource – a resource available free to anyone interested in almost any facet of history, processes, conservation or art of photography.
Thank you, GEH.
Please consider helping the George Eastman House continue to fulfill its responsibility as stewards of its consequential collection of photographs by visiting their website where you can find information about becoming a member or making a donation
To consider the history of photogravure is to also consider the evolution of fine art photography. Nowhere is this relationship more evident than the Pictorial period. The photographers that today standout as instrumental forces in this movement are also the names that rise to the surface when examining the history of the photogravure. And while TruthBeauty may not specifically address the close relationship between Pictorialism and photogravure, it certainly offers a platform from which to explore. This writer is particularly satisfied to see an Alvin Langdon Coburn photogravure, Wapping, used for the show’s announcement as well as and the cover of the accompanying critically acclaimed book.
Rochester, N.Y. — George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film focuses on the masterworks of Pictorialism with the exhibition TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945, on view Feb. 7 through May 31, 2009. Featured will be more than 100 hauntingly beautiful photographs that illustrate Pictorialism’s desire to elevate photography — seen at one time as merely a mechanical tool of documentation — to an art form equal to painting and drawing.
Pictorialist photographs are among the most spectacular photographs in the history of the medium. TruthBeauty will reveal Pictorialism’s rich aesthetic, diverse approaches and technical innovations. Pictorialism was simultaneously a movement, a philosophy, an aesthetic, and a style. While its undisputed role in shaping our idea of the photograph cannot be overlooked, critical opinions on the movement’s artistic importance and historical significance have been deeply divided for at least the last 50 years.
Through photography clubs, exhibitions, and journals, Pictorialism spread from Britain to Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. Adopting a soft-focus approach and utilizing dramatic lighting, unusual camera angles, and bold technical experimentation, the Pictorialists created highly atmospheric compositions that opened up a new world of visual expression in photography. Like Impressionism, which upset the traditions of painting and to which it is often compared, Pictorialism continues to be highly influential more 100 years after it began.
This exhibition traces Pictorialism from its early influences to its lasting impact on photography and art. TruthBeauty examines the generation of photographers who continued to strive to meet Pictorialist ideals long after the movement had concluded, particularly the transition from Pictorialism to Modernism — with the exhibition featuring some surprising early work by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, on whom the influence of Pictorialism is not generally recognized.
TruthBeauty was curated by Dr. Alison Nordström, George Eastman House curator of photographs, who also edited a critically acclaimed book by the same title as the exhibition (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008, $60).
“It was the Pictorialists’ core assertion that photography could be a vehicle for personal expression — rather than merely a factual description of the world around us — that is now widely accepted despite the changes in style and philosophy that have characterized the medium through its subsequent phases,” wrote Nordström, along with Eastman House archivist David Soures Wooters, in the book’s essay “Crafting the Art of the Photograph.”
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Recently I noticed that an issue of Camera Work XXVIII (28) was on the auction block. The minimum price was $875. The lot, in very good condition, did not sell. This is not surprising considering the current economic climate. When I consider what was offered, however, I am surprised – if not downright disappointed. I wonder, is this material not worth this price? Or – does the market just not understand what it is?
Camera Work 28 contains 10 hand-pulled photogravures. Alvin Langdon Coburn himself pulled one of these plates, On the Embankment. Coburn was one of the few photographers that worked directly in photogravure, making his photogravures, in my opinion, original vintage prints.
In addition to the Coburn, James Craig Annan supplied seven of the plates. Annan, possibly the finest photographer ever to work in photogravure, is credited with reviving interest in the work of Hill and Adamson. Annan’s connection to D.O. Hill is substantial. When Annan was a child, his father Thomas was a friend of Hill’s. The Annan’s even lived in Hill’s home for a short period. Thomas Annan, a skilled photographer himself, made his living photographically reproducing paintings and worked closely with Hill in the reproduction of his monumental and important painting, The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. In fact it was this work that initially inspired Hill to explore portrait photography as art. And Hill’s portraits inspired James Craig Annan’s pursuit of photography (Janet Burnet, 1893.)
In this issue of Camera Work six of the photogravures made by Annan are from Hill and Adamson’s original collotype negatives. These prints can and should be considered the best representations available of Hill and Adamson’s work. A talented craftsman intimately related to the original prints made them. In fact, in some way, these images are more accurate a representation than the original calotype. Over time Hill and Adamson’s calotypes have faded – subject to the same fate as the prints in Fox Talbot’s, Pencil of Nature (which consequently motivated Talbot to invent the photogravure process.)
Yes I could go on and on about the reasons these images are so important, and in my opinion, of such great value. The question remains, however, what are they worth? This collector thinks they are worth preserving, that’s for sure.
When is a restrike not a restrike?
Andrè Jammes is recognized as one of this century’s greatest photography collectors. An expert in early French photography, the photographically illustrated book and the history of photomechanical reproduction, Jammes was an early advocate of the importance and beauty of photogravure. This portfolio, printed in 1982, is a testament to Jammes’ belief that the photogravure process holds a relevant place in the history of the medium.
“Charles Nègre (1820-1880) was one of the most influential photographers of the XIXth century. His approach to architecture and his special taste for genre photography made him famous. He played a leading part in the field of photomechanical process in which he made important discoveries. As early as 1855 he brought the hand-pulled photogravure process to an extraordinary degree of perfection. His work, thus translated into permanent photographic etchings, is classical in the history of photography. So much so that at the Universal Exhibition of 1855, some critics considered that he had reached such perfection that “the important question of engraving through the action of light was finally resolved.”
The present portfolio demonstrated his successive trials, from the modest “Maçon accroupi” published in La Lumière in 1854, to the large-scale plates of Chartes cathedral, which are his masterpieces.
The fragile silver salts of normal photography are transcribed in the photogravure process with printing ink. This process adds to an appreciated esthetic improvement the guarantee of absolute permanence. These values have always been recognized as famous photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand adopted photogravure with enthusiasm in Camera Notes and Camera Work. It ceased being used after the Second World War because of its cost. It is only recently that a few workshops have revived this old and marvelous process.
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American Pictorial Photography, published in an edition of only 150 by Alfred Stieglitz and the New York Camera Club at the turn of the century, is a key example of the role photogravure played in the crusade to have photography accepted as a fine art. The photogravures, mostly images from Camera Notes, were presented in portfolio form – beautifully printed and mounted on carefully chosen papers thereby achieving ‘parity’ with the more accepted platinum print.
Completed in 1932, ÉGYPTE is one of the finest books I have come across. Commissioned by King Fouad I of Egypt, Frederick Boissonnas traversed what was once ancient Egypt with his large format camera photographing the landscape, the people and the architecture. His photographs convey the impression that very little has changed in the structures and the lives of the people who inhabit them. We see veiled women in the streets, men at prayer, oxen in the field, and statues larger than life – all are bathed in strong light, or hidden in the deep shadows. The choice of hand-pulled photogravure makes this one of the finest of twentieth century photographic books.
In 1911 Constable and Company of London published the Memorial Edition of the Works of George Meredith. Housed in a separate folio was a set of sixty illustrations, including many drawings and portraits of Meredith, printed in photogravure. Included in this collection are several particularly successful quiet landscape photographs made by Frederick Evans.
Brine, Mary D., Little Lad Jamie. 1895 This charming little book is an example of fine tissue photogravure printing. The photographs are by Emma Justine Farnsworth, an important American amateur at the turn of the century and a member of the American pictorial movement in lead by Alfred Stieglitz.
Illustrated with seventy photogravure plates, Photographs of nebulae and clusters made with the Crossley reflector celebrates James Edward Keeler’s remarkable series of photographs of spiral nebulae and led to the realization that they were exterior galaxies. This work is a triumph of astrophysical and observational skills, astrophotography, and of photogravure as a medium of astronomical illustration.
For Evidence Of The Truth Of The Christian Religion, Derived From The Literal Fulfilment Of The Prophecy Alexander Keith asked his son, the medical doctor George S. Keith of Edinburgh, to make daggureotypes that would show the veracity of the Bible. George’s daggureotypes were made into engravings in order to ‘convince the unprejudiced inquierer or te rational and sincere believer, that it is impossible that his faith be false’ This was one of the earliest publications to incorporate the use of photographs as evidence – albeit not directly
Sun and Shade. An Artistic Periodical 1888 – 1896 This journal included many large, beautifully printed photogravure plates and should be included in any comprehensive survey of influential photographic publications at the turn of the century. Photographers represented include James Leon Williams, Julia Margaret Cameron and Alfred Stieglitz.
Die Kunst in der Photographie. 1897 – 1908 This publication may well be the most important and valuable documentation of art photography in the German language but, because of its rarity, has remained virtually unknown. Some consider it the first photographic journal in the world that concerned itself only with the photographic image and its aesthetics, which ignored all other themes, and treated art photography as an international movement. (David Spencer)
“Edward Steichen is an immortal among photographers. During the seven decades of his career, he advanced photography as an art form as well as a vital medium of visual communication. His richest, most profound photographs were made between 1900 and 1927. It is from this period that in 1969 he selected 12 masterpieces and, for his final photographic project, asked Aperture’s Michael Hoffman to attempt at that time what appeared to be impossible: publication of his prints as hand-pulled photogravures.”
Like his close colleague Alfred Stieglitz, Steichen understood the potential of photogravure and considered photogravure prints to be original works of art, in many cases the most faithful realization of the photographer’s intention. It is no wonder then that he chose photogravure for his last great work.
In the 70’s, Jon Goodman, already working to revive the photogravure process, teamed up with Richard Benson and Hoffman in an attempt to execute the exacting plates. The painstaking task of printing the plates was accomplished, under Jon’s supervision, at the atelier de Taille Douce, Saint-Prex, Switzerland. Twelve years later, the portfolio was finished. Of the twelve plates, three were made from Steichen’s original negatives – Torso, Isadora Duncan and Three Pears.
It baffles this writer why these portfolios have been sitting in Aperture’s inventory all this time. Is it possible that people just don’t realize that they are still available?… Well, they may not be for long. Only three complete portfolios remain. My sentiments…. It’s about time. It’s about time that this great portfolio is sold out, finally acknowledging that it is indeed an amazing and important achievement and a milestone in the history of photogravure.
Link to Aperture’s catalog
From a recent email…. "I am studying photogravures and don’t understand the difference between photogravure and photo-etching. Can you clarify this for me?"
Embarrassed not knowing the answer, I turned to Jon Goodman, who replied….
Photogravure is an intaglio printing process where a continuous tone image (photograph) is etched into a copper plate by means of a gelatin resist and an aquatint or screen substitute. The gelatin resist controls the etching in a manner that creates a true continuous tone rendering of the image being etched. It is a continuous tone ink printing process. There is no conversion of the “grayscale” into “half-tone” dots. “Photo-etching” as the word is commonly used is an intaglio process where line or tone is created through what is essentially a black or white “half-tone” process. The etching process either etches the plate or not, there is very little (no) variability in the tone due to the uniformity of the depth of etch. Gray tones are either created by converting them to “half-tone” or by etching the plate multiple times for varying amounts of time to create different depths in the plate.
The gelatin resist used in photogravure is essentially a “Carbon Print” that has been transferred onto a copper plate instead of a piece of paper. It is the act of the transfer that allows the gelatin to control the etching in a continuous manner. Since the exposed “face” of the gelatin is in contact with the copper plate the hot water development allows the gelatin to adhere to the copper in thickness that is in proportion to the amount of exposure received. If a gelatin (or other) was simply coated onto the copper and then exposed (as in photo-etching) and developed (no transfer) it would be virtually impossible to render a long continuous scale of tones.