The site Carles Mitjà – ASIS/FRPS wish to show and develop about procedures helping to do the best in photographic final artwork. This best includes the use of both analogue and digital techniques. Although my personal work is nowadays mainly focused on Photogravure by the classic Talbot-Klič method (Heliogravure), some shown procedures involving the processing of digital files, inkjet printing on translucent media and/or calibrating the tonal range, can be transferred to other so called Alternative Processes.
Some people practising alternative processes allege the preservation of its pure analogue origin even today. This is as a respectable decision as many others would be. The proposal of this blog do not want to be a flag in response to or against to. The author considers all options are valid as far as they satisfy the practitioner. Art is very subjective and it is true that some times it needs a bit of non reasoned decisions.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to practice alternative processes other than a historical approximation or a curiosity for the inners of a given procedure. Even today, a final art work as a Palladium, Carbon or Photogravure print, to enumerate only three, can be an important part of the creative process. The way the work is shown is a final but not less important decision. Specially in these days of ephemeral on screen displayed pictures, a sheet of high quality paper hosting the image becomes an opportunity to induce the observer to see beyond the physical picture. If this is the chosen path, there is no reason for do not take advantage from a hybrid work-flow.
Looking at work of the so called Masters of Photography there is easy to distinguish between two basic aspects of pictures. A first consideration is about what the image tells us. The opportunity, the content, the subtlety and as many aesthetic properties you want to consider. In a second but not less important way, there are the image technical characteristics. Things as size of detail, sharpness (or blur), tonal range and/or contrast are often decisive for the observer’s perception. Then, applying a just amount or a concious lack of them is also an important part of the creative process.
Following with this analysis, there is also a constant that can be found in the work of those masters. Almost always, the picture technical properties do not constrain a simple, direct and deep reading of the image. They are present but without excessive prominence. They are serving the image better than being a presence by it selves. This fine balance is not so easy to achieve, but often is the difference between an exceptional image or a merely correct one. Also, when we look at these images, there is no matter if the author has monitored those aspects by itself or he has delegated the technical aspects to skilled operators.
As is already stated, this decisive contribution of the technical aspects of the image can be considered both avoiding the excess or the lack of them. Coming back to a necessary balance, the better we can adjust and control a given image characteristic, the higher is the chance of success. Then, here is a good reason to not discard any tool and/or any advance we can use helping to build our image.
And here appears now a great concept into play. Building images better than simply capturing them. What we want?, point and shot and thereafter decide if we benefit of the picture? Or we prefer to look at, analyse, imagine and build an image beyond the documentation of facts? If the later is our goal, we need to know how the optics, mechanics, electronics and the digital image processing respond to the scene properties. Even more, we need to be concious if they have some differences respective to our visual perception. Any uncontrolled departure from our visual perception would represent a lack in success.
Assuming all those concepts, these pages will show which is the author approximation to the matter. The reader must take the content as a proposal well far away from a dogmatic assertion. There are probably as many ways to achieve a given result as people looking for it. But there are also some aspects of Photographic Technology not being a matter of opinion. Sometimes facts are objective and well defined. Some decisions are also a consequence of the actual possibilities. Having or not a given gadget can decide also the chosen strategy.
Another aim in the following texts is to take advantage of the many tools offered by the electronic image technology. Dynamic Range of some digital cameras is higher than any film available. Digital Image Processing offers virtually infinite possibilities to change local aspects of the image. This is not necessarily be considered as a compulsory practice, but is there when we need it. Another important step in a lot of alternative processes is the need for a life size translucent positive or negative. Here again, high quality inkjet printers provide stunning results both referring to tonal range and resolution. All this can improve the final result.
Finally, being the digital image a container of numbers, it can be very helpful in order to calibrate the process. Beside optical densitometers, the own digital file can be analysed in depth from simple, free of charge and suited measurement software. Graphs can be plotted in a simple spread sheet. Those are important aspects not to be neglected. In most alternative processes, the complexity of factors affecting the final result is well rewarded by a correct work-flow calibration in real and practical terms. The access to the numbers of the digital image file is far simple than the analogue image measurement was.
At the end of this statement, I want to point out some issues. As I have already explained, the reader must take the content as a proposal or as a starting point. All things can be always improved. Often it is more important the path than the goal and the end is always far away. Finally, enjoying the journey through the complexity is better done together with people looking for the same goal. Therefore, any contribution will be welcome.