Platinum/Palladium printing ethics and disclosure

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by BellM, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. BellM

    BellM Member

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    With my retirement pending I will soon, for the first time in my life, have time and some money to spend on taking my 40 year on/off hobby more seriously. I've decided to concentrate on platinum printing from in camera negatives shot on an 8x10. I want to spend my time becoming as good a platinum printer as I can be by concentrating all my efforts in this direction.

    My questions are directed at those of you who create platinum prints from in camera negatives and sell to the public.

    Should prints made from digital negatives, particularly if they are enlarged from 35mm, medium format or digital camera files, be sold as being printed from a digital negative to differentiate them from, what I would call, a traditional platinum print?

    Does it matter to serious buyers and collectors?

    I'm not suggesting that printers shouldn't use digital negatives but i do think the "purity" of a traditional process should at least be recognised by disclosing digital input when it applies.

    Mike Bell
     
  2. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    If I'm just displaying print(s) at an exhibit, I'll merely note "pt/pd print". If I'm actually trying to sell, then I would expand the description to something like "traditional pt/pd print" or include "from in-camera neg". I think its important that both sides of any transaction understand or have all the pertinent information. Otherwise, the transaction suffers from asymmetric information (Joe Stilglitz).
     
  3. greenrhino

    greenrhino Member

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    I think it does not matter how you got to the print. The print is made and it is either successful or not. I'd leave it at that.

     
  4. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    I do both in camera negs and enlarged dupes (done on an enlarger). I don't specifically indicate they are one or the other. However I show a bit of edge so someone who knows the difference can see it. I don't think it is something to be concerned about on a title card. I do generally indicate it in places where more information is appropriate, like flickr or in bios.
    What I do have a problem with is someone being dishonest. Making an enlarged or digital neg and then presenting it as in camera. It would be easy for me to do that. I would merely need to use a film holder to hold duplicating film under the enlarger. I don't do that.
    My enlarged negs are generally larger than my in camera negs. So the value of enlarging them is obvious. My in camera negs are mostly 8x10 and my enlarged negs are 9.5x12
    Dennis
     
  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I show the rebate of the film, so unless I photoshop that onto a MF or 35mm negative, one can tell the type of negative used.
     
  6. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I see no reason to think you need to specify unless you feel it necessary. The print as an object is still PT/PD and the negative used doesn't matter one bit.
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I would be far more concerned with someone tweaking a digital file to "look like" a platinum or palladium print, printing it via inkjet and then calling it a "platinum" print (and there are idiots out there who do that). The times that I have done digitally enlarged images from 2 1/4 negs, I have at least kept the proportions of the original negative (square) and/or included the edge of the negative to show the medium format camera film gate (I still have a little inner Hasselblad snob in me). If anyone asks about the how/when/where/why of it, I'll gladly explain. The only things I've done to the files digitally is dust/scratch removal and applying printing curves to help the digital negative work with platinum or palladium (and when working from digital files, you do need to make a different negative for each type because the contrast is different).
     
  8. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    I make pt/pd prints from in camera negatives (4x5) as well as from enlarged negatives (x-ray duplicating film and digital enlarged negatives). I like to show the coating but have found that some like it better when they are "clean". I don't really indicate what type of negative was used and it has never been an issue. I prefer film negatives but the recipients of the prints are interested in the image more than the process.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  9. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Remember, nobody else is thinking about it as hard as you are..
     
  10. Maris

    Maris Member

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    From the point of view of a maker and collector of photographs the relationship a photograph has to its subject matter is important to me. Mere appearance is not enough.

    It's part of the mystery and majesty of the original (and only true) photographic process that there is a direct physical path traceable from real world subject matter to a real photograph made out of light sensitive materials. I know it is possible in a digital environment to confect plausible looking pictures of a plausible looking world but such fictions don't afford the horripilation of the real thing.

    I will not buy a picture touched in any way by digital technology and frankly I not interested in looking at one either. Yes, do celebrate the wonderful qualities of a real photograph by declaring it has no digital taint. And yes, it's good to be in APUG.
     
  11. BellM

    BellM Member

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    Thank you all for your input. I am probably in line with Maris when it comes to the large format platinum process with 5x7 and 8x10 negatives. I really want to try to master a purely analogue approach with these negative sizes.

    However, as I have gathered hundreds of small format negatives I will probably also create digital negatives and print a selection at 5x7.

    If I eventually get to a point where my prints are good enough to sell I think I would feel obliged to make the distinction to prospective buyers.

    That doesn't mean I'm right of course or that any differing opinions are wrong.
     
  12. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    I agree with the previous remark about nobody is thinking as hard as you do. Also, to me, that kind of (over-detailed) disclosure would be kind of inappropriate in a context where your images are good / strong enough to be sold...

    My 2c,
    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  13. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I understand that perspective, but after seeing hundreds of PT/PD prints done from both, not only can I not differentiate, but I find from the artist perspective it doesn't matter. They want to make a print to match their minds eye. Why the focus on one way or the other when the exact element is achieved either way? There is skill and craft to both, the digital approach does not cheapen it.
     
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  15. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    BellM,

    Just came down from the cliff-side where I was viewing the Venus transit, met a photographer who talked of the moment he pulled out a laptop and showed Ctein a digital shot he'd taken. Ctein started to say "you know digital will never...." and then Ctein shut up when the shot came on screen.

    Then I told the story of my recent mind-shift towards focusing on the artist as a person, instead of judging what medium the artist choses to present. Recently participated in a print exchange and got several wet prints and two which for understandable circumstances couldn't be wet prints.

    So I changed my philosophy. The person who creates has the choice of what standards they want to uphold. If a direction they take differs from what I would do, I am willing to hear the story.

    Of course I prefer the Silver Gelatin print because I am a printer. And I would appreciate a Palladium print contact printed from an original camera negative over a Palladium print from an enlarged dupe neg - even if that neg was duped by analog processes. Likewise, I would prefer a Palladium print made from an analog enlarged dupe neg versus a digitally outputted digital file. But that's me and how I feel. It's how Maris feels and you say it's how you feel.

    Klanmeister, I get that it might be impossible to tell them apart. I don't know if I've ever seen a Platinum print, and probably only saw a few Palladium, though I would want to know if I was looking at a print that used the rarer element. I'd like to be told whether the neg was Pictorico, imagesetter or other film output from digital file.

    So if you are comfortable with PT/PD from anything, maybe it is because of the people who are doing the work, you appreciate who they are and it just happens to be what they are doing.
     
  16. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    I previously used the NA2 method and called my prints "platinum/palladium" even though there was likely very little to none of pt in the prints (I would regret that if I had sold any;-( Since I've switched to Dichro method and only use Palladium, I label them "Palladium prints" with additional details when asked. I'm sure at some point there will be inks that can contain pt and/or pd; and, like with carbon prints, somebody will label their digital output as pt/pd prints. Does a prospective buyer have all the information needed to make an intelligent decision to invest/collect if you just label your prints as pt/pd but use hybrid methods?
     
  17. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Gosh there is so much over-thinking of this process going on here. For a conservator's purposes, yes it is important to record which metals were used in the making of the print, but the viewing (and buying) public either cannot or does not care to tell the difference between the two 99% of the time. While on a sentimental level I agree that there is something to the look of a platinum/palladium print contact printed from an in-camera original negative that is not there with a digitally enlarged negative, and a trained eye can perceive a difference between the two, I really don't think it is worth getting titties in a twist over. Some things will never have been recorded in-camera, like 20x24 inch platinum prints of live action scenes. But if it aesthetically displeases you, you don't buy it, same as you would dogs playing poker on velvet. I don't think you need to label in a sales situation with the same level of detail that an FDA food product label requires - that's something you explain to the customer when they engage you in a discussion about the image, and you can provide as documentation after the purchase is completed. Far too many photographers get hung up on over-explaining the technical details of their work to audiences instead of communicating the why of the image. People buy on the why, not the how. As long as you're honest about how you create your images, I don't see what the big deal is about the how. We're really getting into the level of asking a painter which brand of oil paint he or she uses and which brand of brushes. If I'm buying an oil painting, I do care that it is in fact an oil and not acrylic. And sure it would be cool and impressive to know that the artist grinds her own pigments, but that's not what is going to sell me on the painting.
     
  18. TimFox

    TimFox Member

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    I have seen many obvious digital-capture prints where the rebate was photoshopped on to the final print.
    Usually with large-format borders, the edge notches are strange or are for a real film that makes no sense for the image.
     
  19. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    Ditto, exactly!

    And please let me add that you won't leave a good impression on the potential "art" buyer if you insist on labeling the prints with a such strong "craftsmanship" bias... (Hence my previous comment "inappropriate" depending on the context.)
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    That goes to the whole honesty thing. Don't pretend to be something you're not - getting caught will be far more embarassing.
     
  21. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Many interesting and valid points of view here. I'm most in line with the opinion that you can not over-think this issue. Actually, I've been thinking of little else for the last month or so. The image is important, yes. Maybe even of the highest importance. But, the process is also important.

    I'm in perhaps a unique position in the photographic world right now (and how weird is it to say that!) No one else (who I'm aware of) is making a silver gelatin print from soup-to-nuts. The wet plate-to-alt process print folks are the only others in the neighborhood. In my case "uniqueness" equals consumer ignorance and this does not equal bliss. It has been nearly impossible to educate/convince/some other verb? people that my final prints and the negatives that produced them started from bottles of raw chemicals.

    Most people don't care, nor should they be required to. If someone likes an image and the way it is printed, that's a stand-alone nice thing.

    But, some do care. What I'm ending up deciding to do is to write a VERY detailed description of the work flow of a particular print, in addition to a VERY limited description of 'why' I bothered to make it. This is on the back of the print, but also available upon request -- as in: "For detailed information about this print, including how and why it was made, please ask at the desk." (or some such.)

    It's hard for me to believe that the interested consumer should be denied information. Education is always good, but right now, during a state of transition and incredible diversity of photographic processes and approaches, it is also smart.

    2 cents,
    d
     
  22. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'm not saying to deny the consumer information. I'm just saying don't fixate on technique to the point it obscures or displaces the content. I don't think anyone other than a museum and/or academician would care about an Ansel Adams test strip, but unless the customer asks for your burning and dodging patterns/chemical formulas/studio lighting set-ups, don't present that information prior to engagement with the potential buyer or you run the risk of converting your work from art to technical exercise.

    Denise- in your case, because you are doing something unique, it does merit discussion and explanation. That said, I know you also don't hang a separate page-long blurb about each print on the wall - like everyone else, the label reads (for example)

    untitled bottle #2
    hand-coated silver gelatin print
    2009, #3 of 10
    $400

    I guess I feel the way I do about this also from my day job doing software development. At heart I'm a geek and I geek out on explaining technical stuff to people. But I have to remember that 99% of my customers don't know and don't care about how I'm going to build a list in SharePoint for them - they just want to know that when they click on a link, they can put data in and get data out. The technical documentation is there for the 1% who want to know.
     
  23. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    It's a table full of puzzle pieces waiting to be pulled together. I really enjoyed this Vimeo of Neil Gaiman giving a commencement speech. http://www.apug.org/forums/forum50/106220-inspirational.html

    All his advice to new grads in the arts (every artist, actually) was excellent, but his observations about the changing nature of distribution was profound. Any rules you thought you knew about how to get your art recognized are probably in the dustbin. It's not just photography and our digital 'revolution'.

    I live in a very dynamic and creative arts and sciences community, and I volunteer at the reception desk of our Visual Arts Center. Not that many years ago, there would be 'weaving' or 'glass' or 'acrylic' or 'watercolor', or 'pottery' -- i.e. broad, uni-dimensional, recognizable categories. Today: "glass mosaic embedded in encaustic, floating in a framework of acrylic-painted tapestry." Some of it really works, some not so much. Some I say, "Wow!" is that gorgeous (or ugly)! I don't care in the least how it was made." Others pieces (like or dislike, it doesn't seem to matter) I want to follow the artist home and learn every detail. So far, for the life of me, I can't decide what prompts my deeper interest in the process.

    I don't see myself ever putting exhaustive labels next to every print, or bending a viewer's ear about my technical process, but some dialogue tool has to be in place for the person who is honestly interested. I just hope it doesn't come down to a 'requirement' that you have a book for sale or a Youtube link to go to, or some new elaborate set of rules we haven't even thought of yet. Right now, nothing would surprise me. There are a lot of us out on the ground competing for the same pairs of eyes and pocketbooks. Sometimes, that makes people nuts. Of course, a little crazy is often an excellent thing. It's going to be interesting.

    d
     
  24. WillL

    WillL Member

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    As a professional printmaker of photogravures, etchings, etc., I don't think most serious collectors spend much time worrying about the "purity" of an image with regard to the intrusion of digitalia. Collectors are usually curious about process, but they don't usually allow digital/non-digital to dictate the worth of an art object to them. The borders between media are so porous these days, it seems fetishistic to me to fixate on whether any digitization is used on an image. I think situational ethics dictate that one be transparent about how an image was made if gallerists, curators, or collectors inquire. But, as has been stated earlier, nobody thinks about this as hard as you will. I use everything from 30"x40" copy cameras and view cameras to scanners and digital cameras to make images and can't imagine limiting myself to one way of working anymore. IMO, thinking digital "intrusion" into image making cheapens photography or is "easier" than the old school wet processes is reactionary oversimplification. In some respects, digital is easier in the ways it allows an image of some competence to be created. But if anything, that "ease" makes it even harder to make great art. How so? The greater plethora of choices digital imaging introduces requires ever greater restraint, insight, and developed aesthetic sensibilities to harness productively. Case in point - we've all seen WAY too many beautiful but vapid digital images of hyped up HDR landscapes too good to be true. All this reminds me of Fred Picker's funny anecdote about an attendee to one of his large format workshops. He said "You've spent days teaching me how to expose and develop film, days on printing, and how to set up and use the camera. But, you've still not told me where to point the camera!"
     
  25. BellM

    BellM Member

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    When I started this thread I didn't expect to get so many responses. There are clearly differing ideas about how important disclosing a digital step in the process is and I respect and appreciate all of the opinions expressed.

    For me, if I ever become a competent enough platinum printer to be able to sell my prints I will feel the need to find a simple way of labeling them so as to differentiate between analog and partially digitally processed prints. After 40 years as a self employed provider of services the habit of ensuring that clients know exactly what they are buying from me is too deeply ingrained. That doesn't mean I think for one moment that I am right and others are wrong regarding the subject of this thread.

    Many thanks everyone for your input.

    Mike
     
  26. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    * "Palladium Print", or,
    * "Platinum/Palladium Print", or,
    * "Platinum Print"
    + (maybe)
    * "on <...> paper?"

    :wink: ???

    Hoping you'll find a labeling / disclosure method that works both for you and your clientele.

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2012