Tissue Photogravure At last!

Today is a day I have waited for 30 years. I just now pulled my very first photogravure on Japanese tissue paper.
The image below was shot on the streets of Peru in the early 80’s. The only period during which I ever worked with a handheld 35mm camera. This is of course a jpeg made in photoshop and not a photogravure, the subtleties of which would not remotely carry over to a web image. And besides, it would involve photographing a photograph; a pretty silly pursuit.
Passed Out
Passed Out
It worked and it looked good. Of course, with some experience it will look even better; I hope! At last, I can get precisely what I want out of a print. It has been a very long time coming.
Just a little background…
I became interested in photogravure about 30+ years ago. At the time it was my privilege to handle some of Edward S. Curtis’ largest original photogravure prints made on Japanese tissue paper. (This is a bullet proof art paper that looks like nothing else on Earth.) The tissue print versions of his work are the rarest and most sought after.
Photogravure is one of the three printing processes for photographs considered to be among  the most beautiful and stable. They are:
  • Platinum/Palladium
  • Carbon
  • Photogravure

Photogravure is the most difficult and until now, the most expensive. In recent years various advances have been made that have resulted in the process becoming less expensive and a bit easier.

In August of 2013, I learned of a new approach for getting the image onto a plate for the purpose of exposing the plate, that was the last major key to making the whole thing practical and within reason from the standpoint of cost. It took several months to put the equipment together and start experimenting. The new process wasn’t entirely usable so I spent some of those months working on those wrinkles, with success.

Previously I had printed a number of test images on cotton rag printmaking papers, but not on Japanese tissue, the original goal. Just before the move to Fort Davis I purchased a couple different types of tissue in roll form for testing, from Hiromi Paper in California, but the move caused that testing to be put off until today.

There is a long tradition in fine art photography of printing photogravures on Japanese tissue. It started with Alfred Stieglitz and the gravures he tipped into his famous magazine Camera Work, and reached its zenith with the monumental and extraordinary work of Edward S. Curtis. Gravure has experienced a renewed interest in recent years but still has not approached the strength of its heyday. This new approach may lead to a long overdue revival.

More on this in coming days.

BTW, I have not posted the last couple of days because I lost an altercation with a friend’s dog on Saturday and am busy licking my wounds. The dog is in a corner somewhere, snickering! It’s true what they say: those jaws can really crush tissue! I have a calf with some funny angles to it that didn’t used to be there.

Muttley snickering
Muttley snickering

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