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Wednesday, 21 May 2014


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"Bruno's original comment appears in its entirely in the Comments to the "Big Mystery" post." Maybe it did but it is not showing up currently when I search for "Bruno" or several of the other words you quote!

Calling a print a IHD would not encourage me to buy it. None of those three words really describe the medium in a positive way like "platinum print" or "Gelatine silver print" does. Calling a print an "Archival pigment print" seems more descriptive and while "archival" and "pigment" cover an entire spectrum when you put the ink set and paper used in the description on the back, and that information should be there in light of how materials have changed over even the recent years, the collector or gallery will have some way of evaluating how archival a print is.
In regard to signing prints, I would never buy a print not signed by the artist. I have a large collection of prints and the fact the artist signed them indicates it is up to his standards and if he does his own prints, that he did it himself. If he has it printed by someone else it indicates he has seen and approved it and it is not just a copy print done by someone else without his knowledge.
Yes, even a gelatine silver print can be copied and a signature forged but this is where provenience comes in.
Cheers, Jim

Why is the phrase "silver gelatin print," which is universally used by museums and galleries, superior to "pigment inkjet print"? They both describe in a very general way the materials or methods used to make the print. Is it the fact that one phrase contains the word "silver" and conveys a sense or rarity and high value?
And where is the ISO certification on that Ansel Adams "Moonrise" I saw in a Santa Fe gallery for $65,000. If I buy it, how do I know it won't fade in a few years? This fetish-like concern with "archival" is bizarre. It is common knowledge that properly made silver gelatin prints will last a long time (and I'll assume AA knew what he was doing). And the current state of the art for inkjet prints also assures quite a long life. Your inkjet prints will last well beyond your lifetime. What more do you want? If you are lucky enough to be among the rare few whose work is collected in museums or stored in archives, you can be assured that conservators will be working very had to make certain that your prints survive.

IHD sounds fine but 99.99% of the market will not understand it and a confused market does not buy.
Archival is subjective, I advise potential buyers that the print will last a long time, longer than you or I will.
Pigment ink print seems to work for me. I attach a card with title and print info that states the inks and paper used.

Why not ask Henry Wilhelm, he's been doing this his whole life.??

I've seen Michelangelo's David and no mention was made of the chisels, hammers or smoothing tools used. No certification papers either. And yet any museum in the world would love to have it.

Anyway who will certify these "made of the best stuff" prints? You, me, some kid down the street?

If it's good, it's good!

To my knowledge WIR only tests printers with the manufacturers inks and papers. Other combinations are not tested or endorsed. Some of the results might surprise you. For instance, I understand they rate some Brother printers at 75 year longevity under their specified storage conditions. That is a consumer inkjet dye type ink on paper you buy at Best Buy. I assume that Epson et al are probably in the same ballpark, I have never researched it.
Mike you are referring to all the other combinations that are now possible if I understand what you have written. I am not sure how your (andBruno's) proposal would be implemented. Somebody would have to pay for the mind boggling number of tests that would be necessary. Otherwise one or two papers would be recognized and only then on a few specific printers. Everybody else gets left out. I have no idea what a WIR test costs but I can't imagine it would be cheap. This reminds me of the idea of licensing barbers, why? A few bad haircuts and the market will take care of the bad apples. News travels fast these days and if someone's prints fade to nothing the word will quickly spread. By the same token as time goes by trust will build for digital prints and over time they will be accepted, after all it is not that long ago that the "art" world questioned whether photography was art at all.

Just call 'em what they is: a DIGITAL PRINT.

I think it's a great idea! But do we really need to include "Printer"? Does the printer itself have any significant affect on longevity, given the minimum engineering competence required to render a high quality photographic image, and seeing as how what we're dealing with ultimately is ink on paper?

While researching pens, I noticed that HP cites various ISO archival standards to promote certain technical printers and plotters. It may be a place to start without reinventing the wheel. Yes, it would be cumbersome to cite ISO standards for each of P, I and P, per print, but then again, this would be easy enough to streamline under a blanket standard. A simple rating where one point is awarded for each certified constituent, for a maximum of 3 out of 3 points.

Thus, a given combination of paper, ink, and printer where each meets or exceeds the agreed upon archival certification would be awarded the highest The Online Photographer Longevity (TOPL) Rating of 3. Two out of three gets a TOPL Rating of 2, and so on down to 0.

Another advantage of this simplified combination rating is that the TOPL committee could employ not just ISO, but data from Wilhelm, Aardenburg, ANSI, etc., whatever is most useful.

If you build it, they will come: While it's possible that there isn't enough data today for more than a few combinations to earn a TOPL Rating of 2 or 3 (due to lack of data I would think), if enough people start using the rating, it would create incentive, for sellers, curators, manufacturers. If the rating effectively fills a need, enough people will start using it.

There would have to be a distinction between actually tested combinations versus combinations that were only tested separately. Will think on that, but it's just a question of signification. (Or you could limit TOPL to tested combinations, ranking by longevity.)

*Of course, if we eliminate printers as irrelevant, it would be a 0-2 scale. On the other hand, we could include a point or two for storage/display method.

**One could get finer grained, if necessary, with decimal ratings: 2.3, 1.9, etc, but I think it's important to keep it simple.

Er, sorry for the rambling-out-loud, Mike. You needn't post this.

Dear Mike,

There are two separate ideas here. I think the first is ill-advised, and the second unnecessary.

We've tried the obfuscatory name game, already. Not a win. Bruno's name is no better, being both obscure and factually incorrect on several levels. At least it isn't smutty, I'll give it that.

Wilhelm and Aardenburg already make their results known. Wilhelm, in particular, is a long-known name amongst the conservation-savvy collectors and others. His results are cite-able. There is no need to introduce a third party certifier.

I would resist (and likely mock)these proposals as much as I did Giclee, with as good reason.

pax / Ctein

A print certification process already exists. It is promoted by Epson under the name Digigraphie and rely on Stylus Pro printers, UltraChrome inks, Epson, Arches, Canson and Hahnemühle papers. The drawback is that prints are numbered and limited to 30.

I don't mean to pile on, but I'm inclined to agree with Joe Holmes. If I want a print of a photographer's work, I'm going to buy it. In a few cases, I've asked if the print is archival, but I don't need any detail beyond "Yes" or "No". When I buy prints and the photographer includes detail beyond that (printer, ink and paper used), it strikes me as defensive and amateurish (not that there is anything wrong with being an amateur). Will the photographer's definition of archival match up to any sort of ISO standard? Doubtful. But most serious photographers are using printers, ink and papers that will outlive me. That's all I need to know.

It seems to me that this topic is of the most interest to two kinds of people:

(1) Those photographers whose prints aren't selling for as much as the photographer thinks they should sell for. -- In this case, I suspect the value of the photographer's prints is not held back by the art market's irrational aversion to inkjet prints...there probably just isn't a strong market for the photographer's work. Describing the print process differently is unlikely to change that. Improving the photographer's marketing efforts, getting more exposure, improving the quality of the work or picking subject matter with broader appeal is much more likely to have an impact.

(2) People who think that OTHER photographers' work should be selling for more than it does. This I don't get at all. Essentially it feels like someone who is measuring whether their taste in art is "right"/superior/whatever by the market value of their preferred works. Market value and quality are -- at best -- only very weakly correlated. If you want your favorite photographer to get greater recognition, spread the word. But grousing that their print prices are too low????

One more thing: most silver gelatin prints that are selling for substantial amounts of money are either (a) older prints that pre-date the digital era, or (b) prints by established photographers. Inkjet prints are (duh) more recent. There hasn't been as much time for the natural winnowing process to take place and for a consensus to build around what is valuable and what is not. The difference in market price between silver gelatin and inkjet prints probably has less to do with print technology than it does with the simple passage of time.


This has been an interesting thread.

I think I will leave the above alphabet soup alone, and continue with "inkjet print" on stuff I print on my R2880, using Epson's standard papers.

I'll use "archival pigment print" for work done on archival paper, matted and mounted to "museum standards," the term that my framing shop uses. I believe Epson already rates the longevity of the ink-set for the R2880 pretty high (long).

Dear Bill,

That would be extremely unsatisfactory to buyers, collectors, conservators and museums. It's as uninformative as labeling a darkroom prints, well, "darkroom print."

Just what kind matters. Different types of prints have different keeping characteristics and different requirements for display and preservation. Things that are good (or, at least, harmless) for one medium can be damaging to another. There is NO display or storage method that is ideal for all types of prints.

I see no value in producing a new silly marketing name, but more information *is* needed than you'd provide.

pax / Ctein

I like what Bruno brought up based on my posting. At least it is articulated in a technical sense that would be loved by institutions. However, given the vast number of overlapping acronym letter combinations, they can be confusing to remember properly. How about a simple one like PPP = Permanent Pigment Print. Followed by a code list indicating paper, printing machine, and ink set.

One other issue that I would like Ctein or somebody to wade in about is protective coating of digital prints. Should high quality prints be coated or left plain. The sealing materials add another layer of potential problems that need to be identified and discussed.

If I remember right, most Silver based prints have about an 80 year lifespan. Color prints even less. Even with optimal storage, in the dark, temp controlled, moisture controlled, then they will never be handled or rarely seen (as in archived). Only the art world with rich collectors or museums can make these last for the full lifespan of the materials. All others are destined to fade away and be forgotten, unless a decent digital file exits of the original work (again, archived in a Museum).

Not on this topic but as long printer test is hard to come by and whilst I spent a day now reading Ctein review of 3880, can I ask is that printer (or 3885) still a good buy. Should one go to 4xxx (to avoid or minimize the sample variation)? I print only occasionally large.

So far as I understand, most pigments in pigment-based printing inks are also organic molecules, meaning that they have carbon-carbon covalent bonds as their main scaffolds (see for example: http://www.google.com/patents/US5085698).

I agree that although the public and galleries are a bit wobbly about inkjet prints (specifically B/W prints), we should be careful with new terminology at this point.

Currently I just say something like: "archival pigment print on baryta fiber based paper" for prints made on Ilford Gold Fibre Silk by an Epson 9000 series printer. I hope this is fairly accurate.

Hopefully more galleries will start accepting high quality b/w inkjet prints, they already have no problem with colour inkjets.

By the way, “IHD” is just a casual proposal as a replacement of the (IMHO) silly “giclée” moniker.

The attribution of any kind of perceived added value to a new moniker over the prosaic “inkjet print” would obviously have to happen outside of the pure vocabulary domain.

This would probably require, as Mike points out, the establishment and communication of tangible characteristics, like:

  • Print permanence, as buyers would justifiably be miffed if an expensive print they bought just faded away after a relatively short period of time.
  • A certain measure of rarity and exclusivity. It seems to me that numbered, limited-edition, properly signed (the human contact!) prints are one way to achieve this.

  • Hugh Crawford wrote:
    > I'm pretty sure that no one uses halftone screening which is an amplitude
    > modulation technique. Everything I have seen uses stochastic screening.

    Er, stochastic screening is also based on the deposition of discrete ink dots, and is thus a halftone screening method.

    With traditional, “amplitude modulation” non-stochastic screens, the dot patterns are periodic and can generate artifacts — e.g. moiré — if the cyan, magenta, yellow and black screen patterns aren’t correctly angled.

    With stochastic screens, the dot patterns are random (or rather, pseudo-random as they are algorithmically generated) and eliminate the risk of moiré. Stochastic screens can reproduce photography-like, very smooth gradients, but require sophisticated error diffusion algorithms to do so, and are computationally intensive to generate, which is why they are only a fairly recent development in the history of printing.

    Whether a particular printing process uses a non-periodic (stochastic) or periodic dot deposition pattern is dependent on the dot pattern generation and error diffusion algorithm implemented in the raster image processor / printer driver software; that periodic / non-periodic distinction is irrelevant to whether a discrete dot-based printing process (as opposed e.g. to a continuous-tone photographic process) is called “halftone” or not.

    > I'm not so sure about the incremental part either. Canon printers
    > for instance seem to put down the different inks all at once

    Depositing the inks “all at once”, and not incrementally, would require either:

    a) that the same microscopic nozzle be used to mix various colors of ink, and then project that mixed droplet of ink to the paper so that all the constituent colors in the various inks mixed are deposited, in effect, “all at once”.
    This is obviously not the case, even on Canon printers, as the microscopic nozzles of a print head are each dedicated to a single ink color to avoid color contamination.
    b) that the individual microscopic nozzles, each dedicated to a single ink color, be slightly angled relative to each other, and also adjust the timing of their drop firing, so that the various ink droplets reach the exact same spot on the paper simultaneously, “all at once”, taking into account the difference in flight times caused by the distance difference between the individual nozzles and the targeted spot.
    This is obviously not the case, as the tilt angle of the individual nozzles in a solid print head would then need to be fine-tuned each time the paper thickness — and hence the nozzle-to-paper distance — changes. In-flight collision and spreading of ink droplets would also be an issue. In reality, the ink nozzles eject the drops perpendicularly to the paper, and the superposition of the variously colored dots on the same spot of the paper is caused by sequential deposition, as the print head’s lateral scanning movement brings the individual nozzles above the targeted paper point where they need to fire.

    > Carbon and bone black is about as archival and organic as you can get,
    > yet it gets listed as a non-organic pigment in some listings.

    Carbon black is nearly pure carbon, and, at least in chemistry circles, pure carbon and its allotropes, like graphite, graphene, diamond etc. are generally considered to be inorganic…

    After the earlier post taking offense to every term in the definition except "deposition" I feel the need to express my personal dissatisfaction of the remaining term.

    As a materials scientist/physicist I consider deposition to be this process:
    whereby it is the opposite of sublimation and involves the transference of a matter from a gaseous state to a solid state.

    However you are in terrible company and chemists (those devils), insist on using it in the manner which you use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deposition_(aerosol_physics)
    I still don't like this developement.

    I think the term 'IHD print' would be perceived as being a slightly more techie version of 'giclee', with the same whiff of parvenu pretension.

    A few years back I had a conversation with a high end paper conservator and made reference to "archival pigment inkjet prints" and she said there isn't any such thing.
    Her view was that what we are calling pigment prints are actually dye prints in which the dyes have been "chemically stacked" to behave like pigments.
    I put quotes around "chemically stacked" because it's her description, not mine. Since I am not an expert on inks or dyes I can't really put her comment into proper perspective.
    I will say however that dye based prints are getting better and better with regard to their light keeping qualities and in time we may see the whole pigment vs. dye question devolve into a distinction without a difference.
    In the mean time I have a box of Ilford FB Multigrade to crack open and some Dektol to mix up.

    Rereading my ramblings, I see that I thoroughly buried the lede, so please allow me to present an executive summary:

    1. Mike's certification regime is a good idea and also moots Mr. Masset's technology-specific coinage, which is not as helpful.

    2. Because ultimately we really only care how long the print will hold up, i.e., what it's made of, and not how a specific printer, or hand, put that ink on that paper. (At least I think so--needs looking into.)

    3. Divorcing certification from a specific technology means we can compare technologies (e.g. silver RC vs pigment on rag vs C print vs gouache on cellulose vs acrylic on tagboard), and allow for mixed media (including signing method!). It also means that the system won't become obsolete along with the technology.

    4. We can and should keep the certification simple (a 1-3 scale, or gold, silver, bronze, etc.) while making it easy for anyone to dig into the technical nitty gritty via an online database. We need a way to distinguish derived ratings (combinations of materials that were tested individually) from ratings based on testing the specific combination.

    Rats nest of comments are on the way, I'm sure. The floodgates are open. And here are some of my random thoughts:
    - I can't imagine what difference the printer would make, as I'd think the same ink on the same paper would have the same archival qualities if I put it on with printer A or printer B or a paint brush or smeared it into the paper with my finger.
    - Two silver prints are for sale. They both look nice. One was processed using good techniques of fixing and washing, the other one not so much. They are both labelled and dealer-touted identically. One stains badly within a few years. Would you expect the dealer to know or sell the prints differently? This is down to craftsmanship and integrity.
    - The name you are touting is just as opaque and snooty as giclee if you ask me. If "silver bromide" or "silver gelatin" work, why not "pigment ink?" Simplicity, transparency, honesty, trust (see next point).
    - Good dealers accept the responsibility to educate buyers (and themselves), in addition to inquiring of their artists the details of their materials and processes. They should be the glue that binds a continuity of knowledge from maker to buyer and represents the integrity of the whole.

    No artificial scarcity! By which I mean I'm still opposed to unnecessary editioning just to maintain scarcity. It made sense with basically all the contact art-print processes, but it makes little sense for photography and none for digital printing.

    My inkjet printer cost me £45 and claims to be a scanner and photocopier as well. I feed it recommended inks, realign the print-heads every time and make prints using either the manufacturer's premium or Ilford photo-paper.

    Don't splutter - tell me precisely why the output is so much better I should pay 20x as much for the printer.
    Then you'll have some clarity that can go into a description of other prints.

    MHMG articulated, apparently much better than I, my exact sentiments. Substitute Talbot for Strand, etc. Haven't needed standards, and still don't IMO.

    Dear Tim,

    That's pretty much an impossible demand. Only you know what matters to you.

    The most constructive suggestion I can make is to find someone who has one of those 1000 pound printers and pay or persuade them to run out a print of your file for you. Then compare it to the one your cheap printer makes. If you see differences that matter to you... or not... you have the answer to your question.

    The one thing you can't evaluate that way... that may or may not matter to you... is permanence. For that, try Wilhelm Research and see if Henry's tested your printer. If he has (or if ALL similar models from your manufacturer test out the same), you've got information.

    Nothing more to say, really. This isn't an argument, not even a debate.

    pax / Ctein

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