Mar 312011
 

I initially starting forming this post on my new Facebook Page, where I billed the article as, “A few thoughts ahead of a new blog post on my recent research with Richard Freestone into alternative print processes from Digital Negatives…”

However, I think I managed clarity in that first missive and am now publishing it here for you, pretty much untouched…

It has been an enthralling process working with Digital Negatives lately to produce analogue prints, specifically Calotypes—the very first photographic print process from the 1800’s.

The concept of making Digital Negatives is by no means new. However, HP’s new Large Format Digital Negative Application yet again shows their (HP’s) commitment to working at the cutting edge and taps right into the superb technology of my main workhorse, the DJz3200.

An unexpected, exciting bi-product of our research? I can’t help but feel this is the window I have been unknowingly seeking for a large proportion of my own work, which has been stored away for ten years or more.

Photographs of my first two Calotypes, printed by Richard Freestone, illustrate this post.

'Sca Fell' by Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

'Sca Fell' | Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

By combining old and new technology, a whole world has opened up at Jack Lowe Studio…

…photographers who only shoot digitally can now experience the joy of the very first photographic print processes by having a negative made from their files.

'Sca Fell' by Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

Detail of 'Sca Fell' | Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

From that negative, a stunning contact print of a true organic and magical nature.

Why is this important? Well, I believe it’s two-fold:

Firstly, in this age of ‘digital-bish-bash-bosh’ (a notion from which I’ve always steered away), photographers can now offer something unique and different; ironically the process which was so ubiquitous now becomes ‘different’!

The photographer is forced to slow down (this is by no means a rapid production process) and enjoy nature having a little control again through the vagaries and variables of chemistry.

It tickles me that the HP scientist, Angel Albarran, writes in the application’s supporting documentation:

Note that none of these processes are colorimetrically correct…

Wise words, Angel, and a suitable cautionary note against expecting to have total control beyond the making of the negative in such a beautiful, old process.

'Sca Fell' by Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

Detail of 'Sca Fell' | Jack Lowe, 2003, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

Secondly, although collectors of photography are increasingly happy to pay top-dollar for a Digital Archival Pigment Print (such as those I have dedicated my life to making over the years), there will always be those who will only buy archival analogue prints.

The Digital Negative in the Digital Era makes this accessible and possible once more…

 

'Chris' by Jack Lowe 1999, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

'Chris' | Jack Lowe, 1999, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

'Chris' by Jack Lowe 1999, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

Detail of 'Chris' | Jack Lowe, 1999, 20x16" Calotype from HP Digital Negative

A Footnote…

This post has been extremely popular;  any discussions surrounding the good ol’ days of analogue really seem to hit the spot with my visitors—for good reason too with such an inspiring topic for those passionate about photography.

Thank you so much for all your interest, comments and emails and to Paul Debois for the kind mentions in his recent blog post, Alternative Print Processes.

  5 Responses to “The Old And New Unite In The Calotype”

  1. Interesting to see Richard using brushes to spread the sensitizer solution on such large prints. When making Kallitypes, I reverted to glass rods – I couldn’t get an even spread with a brush unless I made several coatings. Perhaps the solutions are different and and Callotype emulsions are absorbed differently by the paper.

    They look beautiful – Good luck with them!

  2. Thanks, Paul…

    It’s certainly a whole new journey and chapter.

    I know Richard has worked on all kinds of coating methods but I rather like the presentation of these. It’s as if someone’s come along with a magic brush and painted the image onto the paper…!

    JL

  3. Fantastic looking prints Jack. For anyone who’s spent the last 15 years printing digitally (guilty), it’s hard to adequately describe quite how pleasing these types of prints can look, “broad tonal range” doesn’t quite cut it!…there’s definitely a certain je ne sais quoi. I’m looking forward to seeing some platinum prints….

  4. Hi Mathew,

    Thank you for your comment…I’m looking forward to seeing some too!

    Just around the corner now, thankfully.

    JL

  5. […] week the printer and photographer, Jack Lowe, added a new posting to his blog about Calotype printing. He has been experimenting with digital negatives suitable for old print processes, and has […]

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