Nov 192013
 

Col Du Peyresourde, L’Alpe D’Huez, Sa Calobra, Stelvio can only mean one thing to some: Le Tour de France — the famed cycle race established in 1903.

Michael Blann (a keen cyclist himself) has a passion for Le Tour, so much so that he’s set himself the challenge of documenting the stunning course.

Printing Michael’s work has been a real pleasure, so I recently asked him to talk me through the series:

“The idea for doing a project based on European mountains and their roads has been simmering for some time and I guess is rooted in my formative years riding a bicycle and watching the Grand Tours (of cycling). For me, there’s always been something very mythical about mountains and when I’m there I always feel a sense of excitement mixed with serenity. The challenge they present to cyclists adds a very primeval dimension of man overcoming mountain. They are always painful experiences but equally rewarding.

Col Du Peyresourde by Michael Blann

Col Du Peyresourde

“So I guess I came to the project wanting to portray these mountains as something more than just rocks. I wanted to show their character, the way they are defined by their roads and man-made structures, the vegetation, the way they change through the seasons. But I also wanted to put this into the context of cycling, after all, many of these mountains have been given mythical status through cycling. L’Alpe D’Huez wouldn’t have the same notoriety if Le Tour hadn’t passed over it in 1986 when Bernhard Hinault and Greg Lemond resolved their differences and rode the climb together with a clear lead over the rest of the peloton.

Col Du Peyresourde by Michael Blann

Col Du Peyresourde

“For me, I wanted to capture the permanence of mountains, their scale and sheer presence. It was important to shoot them through all times of the day and seasons. The contrast from winter when just a faint impression in the snow shows the line of the road set against the spectacle of a race in mid summer was very appealing. I also kept coming back to the idea that a cycle race is no more than a travelling circus that visits for the day and is then gone again, leaving the mountain behind. There’s the notion that the mountains are the constant that provide the platform for these dramas to play out.

Sa Calobra by Michael Blann

Sa Calobra

Stelvio by Michael Blann

Stelvio

“This line of thought dictated my approach as I wanted the work to have a quietness about it that showed a certain homage towards mountains. Pulling back from any human elements whether it is the roads or fans lining the race route was important, as it showed everything in context. People became insignificant in the grand scheme of things and scale became a strong thread throughout.

“This also dictated the equipment I chose to shoot on — a Hasselblad H4D-50. Like the old 10×8 cameras, I wanted to capture all the detail and fidelity to ensure nothing was lost when the images were enlarged. Great care is needed at the size as all the faults and imperfections become more apparent and it offers less leeway for error. For this reason I teamed up with Jack Lowe to help ensure a great result through the printing process.

“With the initial phase of shooting completed I am now embarking on the winter shots, much of which will be shot from a helicopter. The project will culminate in an exhibition and coffee table book in the autumn of 2014.”

Stelvio Hairpin by Michael Blann

Stelvio Hairpin

On a Technical Note…

I’m not generally one to have ‘camera conversations’ but you can imagine that I’m often asked about the best camera files from which to make the finest prints.

For years, in partial answer to that question, I’ve banged on about the fact that more pixels don’t necessarily result in a better file — pixel size plays a huge part in the signal-to-noise ratio battle, for instance.

In addition, any photographer will tell you that the following statement is high on the list of insults:

That’s a great photograph — you must have an amazing camera!

(I have some great replies but more on that another time…)

That said, I thought you might be interested to know that Michael’s files from his Hasselblad H4D-50 were among the best I’ve ever seen (and please note that I’m by no means associating that with his great photographic skills!).

I loved poring over the details lurking in just about every corner.

A quick conversation on Twitter confirmed a general consensus that this camera is fast-becoming a modern classic…

Finally, here’s an example to illustrate my point — first a full-frame image and then a crop showing the file at 75% (not 100% as it then became so close that it was hard to see where the crop had come from!):

Ventoux by Michael Blann

Ventoux

Ventoux by Michael Blann

Ventoux — crop showing detail from the image above at 75% from Michael’s Hasselblad H4D-50 camera…

Nov 132013
 

There are so many puns I could have used for the title of this blog post but I’ve been a good boy and refrained.

What you are about to read has been a long time coming. During my digital printing career, the best part of fourteen years now, there’s been one issue that’s bugged me throughout and just doesn’t want to go away.

In fact, it only seems to become more prevalent.

It occurred to me that the best thing to do in this situation would be to empower you, the art world, with the appropriate information and let you decide for yourselves.

So, here’s what’s been bugging me, along with what I know about it:

The word Giclée.

In the art world, Giclée has become a widely adopted term to describe inkjet printing of the highest quality — so much so that it’s even in my computer’s dictionary.

In galleries, websites and portfolios around the globe you’ll see it misspelled and mispronounced like no other as people try to get comfortable with this tricky word.

Even Photogravure and Daguerrotype (names for other processes) seem easier to say than Giclée.

Paul Kenny, O Hanami edition prints for Chris Beetles Fine Photographs

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — ‘O Hanami’ by Paul Kenny

A Little Bit of History…

The original intentions behind the use of giclée are totally innocent and honest.

Back in the Nineties, a famous established American printer called Jack Duganne was at the bleeding edge of digital inkjet printing technology.

In making his beautiful prints, Jack was among the very first people to offer inkjet printing commercially to the discerning fine art world.

But he needed a name for his process, a name that would sound elegant and really pop

“The French language sounds good”, thought Jack (who told me this himself many years ago), so he picked up an English-French dictionary and looked up the word for squirt or spurt — after all, that’s what happens when the printheads fire ink onto paper, right?

And, lo, Giclée was born and we’ve battled with its spelling and pronunciation ever since.

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From North Northwest Beginnings by Julian Calverley

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — From ‘North Northwest Beginnings’ by Julian Calverley

What’s Wrong with Giclée…?

It sounds nice doesn’t it? And, in a way, it is.

Unfortunately, you only have to speak to a Frenchman (or, as happened recently, a Swiss friend) about your Giclée process to be sure of a drenching as a result of the coffee they’ve just spat all over you…

Why? Because, and there’s no easy way to say this, in French slang giclée means ejaculation.

In his first week working with me, Antoine (a wonderful French assistant) saw an email drop into his inbox entitled ‘Giclée Print Order’.

Through his tears of laughter, strong French accent and slightly broken English, he finally composed himself and managed to utter the now legendary words:

“Hey, Man, we’re going to be really tired after making these prints, no…?”

HP Designjet Z3200 Service Station

So, Which Name Should We Use..?

If you’ve ever worked with me or downloaded my Price List, you’ll know that I only ever use Giclée in brackets like this:

(sometimes known as Giclée)

Digital Inkjet Prints of the Highest Quality doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so I like to call them what they are:

Archival Pigment Prints (APP)

Take note, however, that I only use this name because that’s what they are — archival and made with pigment inks.

Be sure of your choice of paper and ink before you adopt the name to describe your own printing methods.

Liam Murray Caravan

Archival Pigment Print (Detail) — Liam Murray’s ‘Caravan’

Spread the Word…

Once you’ve digested the information above, decide for yourself.

If, like me, you feel that Giclée should no longer be used to describe high quality inkjet printing, then spread the word — PLEASE!

Tell everybody who needs to know and, hopefully, we can make a difference…

Sep 192013
 

This year, the Bupa Great North Run was a two-pronged affair for me…

Firstly, I ran it (see my blog post Great North Humanity). Secondly, I made a series of one metre high prints for designer and illustrator Daisy de Villeneuve and Great North Run Culture 2013.

Daisy de Villeneuve with Run Colour Run at the Laing Art Gallery, printed by Jack Lowe Studio

Daisy de Villeneuve with ‘Run Colour Run’ at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (Photograph © Colin Davison)

Best known for her eye-catching designs for the likes of the V&A, Nike, Moët & Chandon and Topshop, Daisy created a series of portraits in her distinctive colourful style for the commission, entitled Run Colour Run.

Daisy writes:

“What I saw when I went to the Great North Run was there were a lot of people, it was very visual. I went around with my camera and I took photos of anyone I thought looked interesting. So, I’ve taken pictures of a whole range of people – not just the athletes and participants, but the hospitality staff, security, the Red Arrows, event organisers, people with their families, kids cheering on their dads, people in costumes, different characters that stood out to me. A lot of these will show up in my portraits.”

Daisy de Villeneuve, 'Run Dad'

‘Run Dad!’ by Daisy de Villeneuve

From her Paris studio, Daisy discusses the project further:

Recently, top international athletes Ryan Bailey and Josh Cassidy came face-to-face with their portraits, now showing at the Laing Art Gallery here in Newcastle upon Tyne:

Ryan Bailey with Run Colour Run at the Laing Art Gallery

Ryan Bailey (Photograph © North News & Pictures)

Top international athletes come face to face with themselves at 'Run Colour Run' portrait exhibition at The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle

L-R: Great Nort Run Culture Director Beth Bate, US track and field sprinter Ryan Bailey, Canadian Paralympian Josh Cassidy, Daisy de Villeneuve (Photograph © North News & Pictures)

May 082013
 

Fresh from his flight across The Pond, I had the pleasure of meeting the street artist Yis “NoseGo” Goodwin in my studio yesterday.

As recently described in the Huffington Post, Goodwin creates playful, energetic totemic imagery of animal characters born from his imagination.

NoseGo's The Marvelous Clash with Unit 44 Gallery

Goodwin is working with Unit 44 Gallery here in Hoults Yard, gearing up towards a solo show opening this Friday 10th May entitled The Marvelous Clash.

I’ve known Danny Hughes and Steven Dunn at Unit 44 Gallery for some time now — Goodwin’s work has provided a great opportunity for us to collaborate together for the first time in making the editioned Archival Pigment Prints to accompany the show.

Danny kindly describes the editioned prints I’ve made for Unit 44 as, “the most beautifully finished print we have ever released.”

Find out more information on their pricing and availability here.

NoseGo's The Marvelous Clash with Unit 44 Gallery

In his latest blog post, Danny recalls a conversation with Goodwin over breakfast:

“He [NoseGo] described the totem composition of a number of his paintings, comprised of multiple layers, each distinguishable, separate however contributing to the over all form of the character. He referred to peoples experiences, lessons, and memories good or bad that make up who we are. He then went on to describe the somewhat ‘random’ composition of style, character, and look of the artworks. The result in this made absolute sense. He described the childhood toy box filled with all kinds of gems, figures, characters, animals, action heroes, vehicles etc. He then described that back then there was no constant ‘style’ in which you would arrange and play with your toys – this being the ‘marvelous clash’.”

NoseGo's The Marvelous Clash with Unit 44 Gallery

Finally, I’ve always been fond of the photographic eye of the inimitable David Bilbrough.

David popped into the studio last week to capture the print production process. Along with Unit 44, he’s kindly allowed me to share some of his observations with you here…

Production of NoseGo print editions at Jack Lowe Studio in conjunction with Unit 44 Gallery

Production of NoseGo print editions at Jack Lowe Studio in conjunction with Unit 44 Gallery

Production of NoseGo print editions at Jack Lowe Studio in conjunction with Unit 44 Gallery

Production of NoseGo print editions at Jack Lowe Studio in conjunction with Unit 44 Gallery

Production of NoseGo print editions at Jack Lowe Studio in conjunction with Unit 44 Gallery

If you’d like me to make prints for you, please feel free to contact me.

My latest list of services and prices can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.

Apr 232013
 

Three years ago, I wrote a short post on printing a series of Arabian Horses for Tariq Dajani.

I mentioned at the time how special that felt, not least because many of the prints I made for Tariq over the years are now with the Jordanian Royal Family, some members of the ruling families of the UAE and with various other influential people in the Middle East.

So, perhaps you can imagine my eyes lighting up when Tariq mentioned that some more images were on their way to me. Falcons would feature this time for a show in Dubai.

Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), 2011 by Tariq Dajani

Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) 2011 © Tariq Dajani 2011

I love Tariq’s approach to photography, using very modern methods to realise photographs with a very traditional feel.

Tariq describes:

“The falcon series was shot over a period of two years from 2011 to 2012. The Peregrine, Gyr and Sakr falcons are all female birds, more aggressive and are bigger than the males.

“They are all prized and valuable hunting birds owned by some very important people, whom I’m not at liberty to mention.”

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 2011 by Tariq Dajani

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 2011 © Tariq Dajani 2011

“While the precise origins of falconry are lost in time, the keeping of falcons in the Middle East is as ancient as the emergence of its civilizations and goes back at least 4000 years.

“As with my series on the Arabian horse, this series pays tribute to the traditions and heritage of our region.”

Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) 2011 by Tariq Dajani

Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug) 2011 © Tariq Dajani 2011

The prints I made were huge; most were around 130cm on their longest dimension.

Due to their size, each print more-or-less filled my entire print table, making them many times larger than life. On my way to the studio each morning, I had to remind myself what was waiting beyond the door so as not to get a shock each time!

The beautiful, trusty combination of HP Vivera Pigment Ink and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm prevailed once more; I thought I’d leave you with some photographs I captured during the printmaking process…

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail 02

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

Tariq Dajani, Falconry Print Detail

Print Detail: HP Vivera Pigment Ink on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm

UPDATE: Tariq tells me that the prints look beautiful in situ, which certainly looks to be the case from this photograph he sent me:

Tariq Dajani interviewed by the media during his show in Dubai

Tariq Dajani conducting one of many media interviews at his show in Dubai…

If you’d like me to make prints for you, please feel free to contact me.

My latest list of services and prices can be downloaded in PDF format by clicking here.

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