This posting is the transcripts from a panel discussion I participated in as part of the Hybrid Book Conference in Philadelphia, PA on June 6th, 2008 at the University of the Arts. Also participating were: Marlene MacCallum, Pierre LeBlanc, William Snyder, Andrew Sallee and Tate Shaw. Michelle Wilson moderated the panel. I spoke after Pierre's Part One, and before Marlene's talk, which was followed by Pierre's Part Two conclusion.

I will try to address how the hybrid process of photogravure has best served my needs when working with multiple producing media. Photogravure perfectly represents the intersection of photography and printmaking. It is one of the first reproductive photomechanical processes.

There has been a historical association with ink and printmaking in the search for photographic image permanence from the start. Photogravure evolved from this search and was a result of photographic and graphic process evolution. Henry Fox Talbot is credited with the invention of the first negative-positive photographic process and for the

foundation of the photogravure process, perfected later by Karel Klitsch in 1879.

Copper plate photogravure begins with the tools and sensibilities of the photographer and ends with a continuous tone intaglio print version or interpretation of the source image in a way that is unique to the process. Photogravures are true hybrids because they are simultaneously both photographs and intaglio prints and address aesthetic concerns from both.

In the 1890s we saw the advent of how photogravure was used by artist-photographers as a valid interpretation of their intent, not as simply prints of their photographs. This new aesthetic took shape as photographic artists preferred the gravure for to its visual and aesthetic characteristics rather than just for permanence.

Alfred Steiglitz in his early 20th Century publication, Camera Work, along with his own work, featured gravures by Alvin Langdon Coburn, James Craig Annan, and others including Paul Strand

who also produced monumental work in gravure form in the following decades.

Personal examples:

I arrived at the decision to revive the use of photogravure in order to integrate manipulated negatives and the photographic image onto a coherent and tactile surface. Scratching the negatives prior to making a silver gelatin print was unsatisfactory. In Swine I and Swine II, the plate image was reworked physically. The plasticity of the copper plate can blend photographic and hand-manipulated information, by combining them in ink onto a paper support in one operation. This unifies the disparities of the two sources of information so as not to distract from one another. Photographic information can be faithfully reproduced or it can be altered using the vocabulary of the medium to suit the artist’s intentions.

The suite, Bestiarum Excerptum, is where letterpress text, a photogravure image, a hand-drawn intaglio, and gold leaf are grouped together

onto a single paper support. I searched for bad or distressed taxidermy with the perfect facial expression for a few key animals found in traditional Latin medieval bestiaries,

so this suite of five is an excerpt, Bestiarum Excerptum. In these prints are found

references to old letterpress books, gold leaf in illuminated religious manuscripts and

Celtic border designs or animal forms.

In The Gallery, graphic elements are again combined with photogravure. I used gravure for its receptiveness to graphic appropriation and manipulation.

The elaborate borders maintain all the detail necessary to remain as convincing as the original 19th C engraved book plate portraits of the aristocracy.

I was very interested in the pompous aggrandizement that this presentation emphasized.

I reused these borders around my trademark portraits of bad taxidermy.

I looked for poorly executed or tattered taxidermy and made head and shoulder portraits paying special attention to eye contact and pose.

I wanted these portraits to simultaneously deal with issues of iconography and the abject.

The bookwork GAZE, is where digital processes were utilized for shooting convenience but also integrated with

analogue gravure work for the first time. On several trips

to major museums and galleries,

I recorded the details, gestures, and expressions

from figurative marble sculpture,

often being attracted to the most over-the-top

romantic Victorian kitsch.

These images, and those of old Roman sculptures found in Italy,

plus my animal portraits, were the basis for my bookwork:

GAZE. Gaze is a book without text,

made up solely of photogravure images, hand-bound together in a sequenced collection,

a few from digital files, most others from film:

a transparent integration of digital and analogue sources.

 

Our project is entitled “Creating the visual book through integration of the technologies of photogravure and digital processes”.

Within that we are hybridizing the hybrid by introducing digital stages to the photogravure process. My recent work is a more deliberate move to hybridization by utilizing the electronic collection of information and digital manipulation with a final form that uses both gravure and digital output on the same support. The film positive is replaced by a digital positive in the same way that the original carbon-tissue positive was replaced by a film positive when these more predictable materials became available in the early 20th century. The use of a digital positive now allows for more control of the final intaglio image, for fine-tuning both technical and creative content variables.

But the end result is still a photogravure, although far more complex as in CMYK or multiple plate and combined-media gravures. Digital processes have again brought photography and print together. Digital imaging has created a shift in the credibility of imagery. Barbara Savedoff outlines how the previous distinction between photography and other art forms as captured vs. constructed, has collapsed since digital images can be both captured AND constructed. This changes the nature of the perception of the representation within the work, thereby destabilizing commonly accepted notions of fact and truth. It is no longer enough for the image to create a convincing representation, the physical form of presentation carries weight in creating the illusion. Our new illusionism relies on the way the physical object of art relates to our viewing experience. Photogravure offers a visual tactility unique to any other graphic form.