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Monday, 04 May 2009


Looking at the Swann Gallery catalog, it appears that the bottom is falling out of the famous fine print market. (Or at least, the bloom is off the rose.) Nice to see that there may be some exceptions such as HC-B.

True story: I was visiting an old college friend who lives near Seattle about 6 years ago. He knew I loved photo books, so just before I left for the airport he showed me "a couple of old books I found in my uncle's attic". His uncle had passed away, and he inherited the modest estate. The "old books" were nearly immaculate originals of Alvin Langdon Coburn's New York and London, with original covers and all the leaves intact. The images were photogravures, in perfect condition. He asked me what I thought they were worth, so I researched it. A week later I informed him that at the time the individual gravures were worth about $800. Each. The books were almost priceless as intact volumes. Some people are just lucky, I guess.

The photogravures in Edward S. Curtis's monumental The North American Indian are really lovely; a large selection of them are on display at the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. Photogravures are a uniquely beautiful form of photo reproduction, wherein a copper plate is etched through a photochemically hardened gelatin 'mask' with aquatint or mezzotint screen to produce a relief image. The density of resulting miniscule ink "wells" in the plate is proportional to shadow density in the photograph. The plate is then inked and printed by hand on paper. The process is insanely labor-intensive, but it produced the best possible reproduction in 1907. And ironically they bear an uncanny resemblance to a modern inkjet print on cotton rag paper.

The estimates on some of the books are pretty impressive. The Ruschas in particular since I have some of them, all purchased for $8 a copy. The Gallery is local to me , I think I'll go take a look next week.

And, they call that a large contact print?

George R. Lawrence made 17-by-48-inch contact prints of an aerial panoramic photograph of the San Francisco earthquake and that was using a negative from a camera hanging from a kite.

Lawrence was also well known for making a slightly larger contact print of a 54 x 96 inch glass-plate negative, not to mention building the camera.

Oh, and he more or less invented flash photography.

A pretty interesting article about George R. Lawrence ( one of my hero photographers ) here -

Any Ctein's working with photogravures? Seems like something I'd like to get a sample of. (Also need a daugerrotype example.)

"Any Ctein's working with photogravures?"

Richard Benson's done a lot of photogravure. I know he's sold some through Aperture; you might check their site.


"All the estimates seem pretty reasonable to me. You can get the whole collection for just a small fraction of what it would cost you to have Richard Prince make a single copy print of one of them."

hee hee hee hee hee!

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