1. How do you define an edition?
I define a print edition based on print medium and scale. For instance, a 20″x24″ color pigment print constitutes the scale and medium that would define a print edition for a particular image. The same photographic image reproduced at a different scale, utilizing a different printing method constitutes a new edition. This definition of an edition is subjective, but it adheres to accepted gallery practices. Each print in an edition is numbered, signed, and embossed, to ensure authenticity.
2. How many prints are in an edition?
My prints are typically in editions of 25 with a reserve of seven museum proofs and five artist’s proofs. Only the numbered prints are initially offered for sale in galleries. Museum proofs are available to museums, public collections, or private collections that have some future public designation in place at the time of purchase. Artist’s proofs are typically not available for sale. Artist’s proofs allow me to have prints on hand for reference, exhibition, and portfolio use. They may ultimately be given away to friends, family, or associates. In those cases where artist’s proofs are no longer in my possession, they may appear in galleries for resale, just as a numbered print may be resold by the original purchaser years later. Keeping editions small ensures the purchaser they are acquiring a work of art that is not mass-marketed. It can be treasured as a print that only a few people will own. Small editions are also desirable for me because I can focus on creating new work.
3. What media are your prints offered in and why?
As a photographer, I work in both color and black/white. My color work is available in the medium of color pigment prints. My black/white work is offered in the medium of quadtone pigment prints. These processes are similar, technically and aesthetically, in that both are “ink on paper” processes utilizing digital technology. The papers I print on are typically pH neutral, lignin free, art papers designed for inkjet printing. Pigment ink prints have longevity ratings commensurate with that of other fine art media including traditional photographic processes. (Please reference the statement on longevity later in this section.)
I utilize digital technology for my printing because it allows a greater level of creative control over the final print than traditional processes do. Also, it’s the technology most receptive to my particular working methods. I can print with a longer tonal range, larger color gamut, at larger scale, on a wider variety of papers than I could with traditional processes. In short, I have chosen digital printing because I get aesthetically superior prints with digital. It’s that simple.
4. Are digital prints truly original prints since they could be made from scans rather than directly from a film original?
Yes, my digital prints are originals, not reproductions, based on the methods commonly used in the photographic world to distinguish originals from reproductions. While it’s true that an image recorded on film, must first be digitized via the scanning process before it can be printed, a digital print is the same number of generations removed from the film original as a traditional silver gelatin print made from an original negative. The term “generation” is used in photography as a means of measuring how close a given image is to the original film image from which it originated. Each time a film image is processed through an optical system, this constitutes a generation. This is an important measure in traditional processes because each time a photograph is replicated in this manner, the original image is degraded. For a traditional photographic print to be considered an “original,” it must have been printed directly from the original negative and therefore the print is only one generation removed from the film on which the image was recorded. Digital printing is merely an alternative to optical enlargement.
Bear in mind, as with traditional processes not every photographic print is an original, if it’s generated from a copy negative, for instance. Neither is a digital print original, if the digital file is generated from the scan of a photographic print or a drawing or painting. In both cases, traditional and digital, if the print is generated from pre-existing artwork, then it is considered a reproduction. An original film image or a digital image file is not traditionally conceived as anything other than an intermediate medium from which to make a print. The print is the intended presentation medium.
Increasingly, my print editions launched since 2003 are made directly from digital image files. In other words, they are from digital captures and not film images. The quality is outstanding, and in the case of digital capture, the digital printmaking process is the only practical way to produce prints. These prints are literally the only versions of these images that exist, other than a computer monitor display.
5. Do digital prints have the same value as traditional prints?
All other things being equal, yes, they should have comparable value. Other authorities may answer this question differently, but my view comes from the perspective of a photographer familiar with both traditional and digital processes and whose work is a synthesis of both. There is no inherent superiority of one process over the other. Both involve a lot of machinery that can be temperamental and lacking in the degree of malleability needed at a given instant. Both require comparable levels of skill, patience, and artistic interpretation. Both are capable of achieving results that can be breathtaking or dismal depending upon the skill level of the practitioner.
6. Is there an integrity inherent in the film original that is compromised by the process of digitization?
Possibly, if the photographer is seeking to use the enhanced power and control of computer manipulation to significantly alter the content of the film image. But, the argument of traditional film images having more integrity than digital images because of inherent differences in the process is misplaced in my view. For many artists, their work is about manipulating reality. They utilize montage, solarization, and retouching to alter their images. It was never their artistic intent to render reality faithfully. I don’t think anyone should be criticized for offering an alternative view of reality.
My workflow in Photoshop is straightforward and descends directly from my years of experience in the traditional darkroom. Nothing about me has changed philosophically as I have incorporated digital technology into my work. I’m, at heart, a documentarian.
7. How long will digital prints last?
The longevity of color pigment and quadtone pigment prints can all be measured in decades. This technology is relatively new, however. Inksets are evolving in the direction of greater stability and comprehensive testing using accelerated aging techniques is on-going. So, hard and fast promises for resistance to fading, yellowing, staining, etc, are not simple. Generally speaking, the expected longevity of digital prints should be comparable to traditional prints. The color pigment inksets I use have attained ratings of over 100 years. Quadtone pigment inks have even higher longevity ratings than color prints. The generally accepted standard for an archivally processed silver gelatin print is 100 years. It should be noted that papers, inks, and humidity resistant UV coatings employed by the photographer are only one side of the equation. I would argue that conservatorship is more significant than any other component in achieving desired longevity. No artwork is more durable than the paper it’s printed on and no artwork will last unless it is properly cared for. Proper framing, matting, lighting, and environmental room conditions are vital for artwork to meet or exceed its anticipated life.
8. Do you make your own prints?
Yes, I take great pride in my printing skills and I take the same artisanal approach to digital printing that I did with the traditional printing processes, which preceded them. I have a digital lab in my studio and all printmaking is done in-house either by me personally or under my direct supervision.