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Breathe Life into New and Old Images

By Gretchen A. Peck

Jim Richardson: Liberated Print

“I believe in making pictures work, in getting them out there, and making them do something,” suggests Jim Richardson.

 

He recalls honing his photojournalistic skills when he went to work for the Topeka Capital Journal newspaper. “We had a staff of photographers there that included a number of luminaries in photojournalism. Like me, many of them went on to work at National Geographic Society. Not only did we shoot picture stories; we laid them out, wrote the headlines, and printed them. We never had anyone else print them,” shares Richardson.

 

“For many years, I was never really happy with color prints,” he says. “I didn’t want to sell them, because I was particularly uncomfortable selling a print that wouldn’t last. You had to be honest with people that what they were buying might only last 25 years.”

 

Fast forward to Richardson’s contemporary professional life, which is all digital. “I’ve been digital for eight years now,” he estimates, and says his favorite camera is Nikon Corporation’s D3700, for its ergonomic design and high ISO.

 

Though he still spends approximately six months of the year traveling and documenting moments in time and place, he and his wife Kathy consider Small World: A Gallery of Arts and Ideas located on Main Street in Lindsborg, KS their home base. Nearly half of the square footage is what Richardson refers to as production space, where he uses a stable of Epson printers.

 

These include an Epson Stylus Pro 9900—a 44-inch, ten-color pigmented ink system, an Epson Stylus Pro 4900, and the smaller format Epson Stylus Pro 3880. As for papers, he is most enamored with Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper and Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper.

 

“I believe in the aesthetic principle that you have to let the process get out of the way. You want people to see what was happening in front of the lens, not have their attention drawn to how the image was printed, or what it was printed on. If they’re aware of those details, you’ve done something wrong,” suggests Richardson.

 

In addition to photographic-quality output, Richardson credits developers of digital inkjet equipment with enabling photographers to reproduce their work in a truly on demand fashion, and increase the value of their prints by ensuring longevity.

 

“Digital printing is liberating,” marvels Richardson. “It gives photographers another way to put their images to work. It’s all about getting those pictures out of filing cabinets, or off of the hard drive, and giving them life.”

 

Thomas Hoepker: The Image Maker

“In the beginning, I never thought about the market. I simply was interested in taking pictures.” That’s how photographer Thomas Hoepker remembers his early days in the business of making images.

 

As student of art history and archeology, Hoepker embarked on a long, illustrious career in photography, photojournalism, and filmmaking, which began in the early 1960s and continues to this day.

 

“I became a staff reporter for Stern, a weekly magazine,” recalls Hoepker. “The magazine provided the means with which to take pictures—meaning, they gave me tickets to exotic places, and more importantly, they gave me the time. I had the luxury of going to Africa, Asia, all over Europe, and staying there for extended periods, so I really looked at the area or country, got to know it intimately, and found a story.”

 

One needs not even look at the entire body of his photographic storytelling to see Hoepker’s talent, skill, and passion.

 

Though Hoepker still enjoys traveling on assignment, his opportunities to do so are fewer than they once were. But at 74, he is far from retired. He partners with his wife, Christine Kruchen, on television and film documentaries, and spends many of his days making prints.

 

“I go back into my past, into my archives, and produce prints from those images,” he explains. “I have original negatives that date back 50 to 55 years. Some are negatives; some are color slides. And I’m still using them to produce new products. Sometimes I feel like half my professional life these days is spent scanning old prints!”

 

By 2002, Hoepker retired his analog cameras in favor of digital and built a workflow link with a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Designjet Z3200 printer and Adobe Systems Incorporated’s Photoshop, which Hoepker says he uses as sparingly as possible—he feels it is important to leave the print as close to the original as possible.

 

“I apply the same rules to digital as I did in the darkroom,” he emphasizes. “I never want to alter the content of the picture. I am careful not to cross that line and eliminate not even a single branch of a tree. As a documentary photojournalist, I want to report real life. The moment I change something, I’m lying," he admits.

 

The HP Designjet Z3200 is a 44-inch thermal inkjet device that prints in 12 colors with HP Photo Inks, offering maximum black optical density. Hoepker first witnessed the printer in action while taking a tour of HP’s Barcelona, Spain facility, and saw great promise in its ability to reproduce with the quality and integrity his photographs deserve.

 

“I’m working on two projects at the moment. They both involve exhibitions and books. I’m also making prints for two museums, and a print collection for a traveling show. So I’m using the printer a lot,” adds Hoepker.

 

He also uses the HP Designjet to produce color-guidance proofs for books and limited editions of his work. When creating the limited editions, a 300 gram, heavy, cotton fiber-based paper from Crane & Co. is used, which comes in rolls  of up to 44 inches wide.

 

Hoepker is attributed with having said, “I am not an artist; I am an image maker.” When asked about the distinction between the two, he chuckles.

 

“I always refused to be called an artist. Where do you draw the line? I don’t know. I suppose it is advantageous if people see my prints on the wall of a gallery and they think that it’s art. Of course that’s fine with me. Art is in the eye of the beholder, after all. Then, they get out their checkbooks and buy my photographs,” concludes Hoepker.

 

Mark Lukes: Philanthropic Photographs

“I was a school teacher and an avid photographer,” recalls Mark Lukes, co-owner, Fine Print Imaging, based in Fort Collins, CO. “Back in the 1970s, I had a friend—a fellow school teacher and photographer—and we were looking for places that could print what we were shooting. But we couldn’t find anybody who really understood outdoor photographers’ mentality.”

 

From that frustration grew the inspiration for Fine Print Imaging, which had humble beginnings in the basement of Lukes’ colleague’s home. “We started to do our own printing, and eventually began to print for others, just through word of mouth,” he remembers. As the decades since unfolded, the business evolved—from film lab to full-service print supplier.

 

Since the beginning, Fine Print Imaging has been keenly focused on a niche market. “We print for people who are trying to make a difference—people who are telling the story of what’s really happening to this planet,” he explains.

 

Much of the print work Lukes and a staff of 16 produce is large format and for exhibition and limited edition sale purposes. Clientele is split down the middle, with approximately 50 percent representing artists and 50 percent photographic arts.

 

“From the late 1980s until the early 2000s, we enjoyed our heyday. The biggest changing point was the advent of digital camera, and more importantly, the advent of the digital printing,” asserts Lukes. He reminisces about the first LightJet printer—now owned by Océ North America—to come to market, and the Durst Image Technology US LLC Lambda after that.

 

“It wasn’t until pigmented inks came out that everything changed. When people could print archival-quality images, the photographers were empowered. They could control the process from start to finish—from the point of shooting, to Adobe Photoshop, to output. They had complete control,” recalls Lukes. This not only changed the workflow; it changed the nature of his business, yet again, as some of his best customers began to invest in digital print equipment of their own.

 

The company relies on 50- and 60-inch printers from Roland DGA Corporation’s Hi-Fi series, and most recently invested in an Epson Stylus Pro 11880 to produce artwork that comes in from several sources, including Fine Print Express—a fully automated e-commerce-capable Web-to-print storefront, Fine Print Imaging’s clientele, and members of Art for Conservation, which is part online gallery and part social networking site.

 

Lukes acknowledges that technically inclined photographers usually make the transition to printmaker fairly easily; however, he cautions, there is still a demand for talented suppliers specializing in fine art and photographic reproductions.

 

Fine Print Imaging clients rely on the staff to make educated recommendations about media. At the start of the relationship with a new client, the supplier sends out sample packages and often accommodates requests to see customer-supplied artwork printed on an array of media.

 

The trickiest part of supplying print to artists is not only giving them a quality reproduction, but maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the image, according to their very particular—myopic—expectations.

 

“If an image was photographed in low-light conditions, I’ll bring up the shadow details without blowing out any of the details or highlights. Sometimes the photographer will see a proof and say, ‘I printed it at home on my inkjet printer, and it was much more muted than that, and that’s what I want.’ I may think, ‘but it won’t sell,’ but to that photographer it’s not about that; it’s about telling the story. As a print supplier, you have to be sensitive to that.”

 

Barbara Bordnick: Infinite Possibility

“For me, it’s made a huge difference,” marvels Barbara Bordnick at the advent of digital inkjet printing and its ability to enable the creative process and business of photography. “The entire body of my flower work could not have been done if I wasn't able to print for myself.”

 

Bordnick herself is an internationally acclaimed photographer with a rich, 35 year career in portraiture and fashion photography, publishing, and teaching.  Her photographs have been featured in publications, broadcasts, traveling exhibits, and on permanent display.

 

Today, Bordnick often captures images with the aid of a digital camera—a Canon U.S.A., Inc. EOS 5D Mark II, which she likes for the quality, weight, and portability. Though, on occasion, she still gets what she calls “the itch” to shoot film.

 

Large format digital print comes in handy when Bordnick creates individual fine art prints for private buyers, as well as when she’s organizing prints for an exhibition. She had the opportunity to test a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 a couple of years ago and developed a fondness for the device—a 12 pigmented LUCIA ink set, 24-inch print engine, capable of generating a 2,400x1,200 dpi maximum print resolution.

 

Though she doesn’t profess to enjoy experimenting with various combinations of consumables—digital inks and papers—she isn’t averse to trying out new digital printing papers as they come to market. Her preferred paper supplier is Legion Paper Corporation, maker of the Moab by Legion Paper line of digital inkjet papers.

 

“When they have a new paper they send it to me. I’m delighted to try it,” reports Bordnick. “But I do have favorites. I print my flowers on one paper; I print my nudes on another. I print my proofs on a different paper. It really depends on the end use.”

 

“I’ve become what I think is a substantially good printer,” she adds. “It is part of my process like the darkroom always was. I made creative decisions in the darkroom. They weren’t just technical decisions. It’s the same thing when I’m making prints.”

 

Conclusion

There’s a consensus among photographers—wide format digital printing is awesome. While they may leverage digital print in different ways—some employ their own printers; others defer to trusted suppliers—on this basic principle, they all agree. For it’s the advent of good, photographic-quality inkjet printing—that makes it easier to be in the business of photography and recreating larger than life artwork for the masses.

Feb2011, Digital Output

 
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