Gallery Digital Prints? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Though I strickly shoot 4X5 and some medium format negative film for my gallery images, often ponder if and how soon digital archival prints will be accepted on the level of continuous tone images. My studio friends obviously are in a different situation, at least in dealing with the change over sooner. Will galleries always separate the two? How much can I depend upon my love of film. Sometimes love only cannot pay the rent, but certainly willing to sacrifice the pain of being late. Any comments or sources o

-- Gary Albertson (, November 29, 2000


I am not sure I understand the question. Do you mean prints from digital files, or prints made using a digital process ? While the "analog" folks say their prints are "hand made", in the end, it's the result which matters. In color, I see a lot of digital prints in art galleries. B&W is another matter.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, November 30, 2000.

Q- Do me a favor and can the "analog folks" crap. That's flame bait and you know it. Those of us who prefer to do handwork DO take a sense of satisfaction and pride that we don't need computer manipulation to make a photograph, and it does show that you are willing to grow in your work using "hard" methods first. On the other hand, there are many people who put in a lot of time in electronic manipulation, and are quite skilled and artistic. So, yes, the result is what matters. That does not mean, however, that there is no difference between the working styles - each brings up different issues of philosophy, dedication and aesthetics for those who work in them. I'll give you two reasons to ponder why us "analog" folks get pissy. 1. That kind of phrase is rude and obnoxious, and is usually deployed to mean: "Those old fuddy-duddies, who can't 'get with' the times, whose work doesn't matter, and who are UNCOOL." Basically, you're saying that those of us who prefer not to use digital techniques are invalid, and we have NO justifiable reasons for our choices. 2. A person who goes into Photoshop, adjusts contrast, boosts saturation, removes teleophone lines as a matter of course, etc.,. . .has NOT proved a dedication to meticulous craftsmanship that the "old school, get it in the negative" photographer has. I'm not saying it's wrong to use digital, but I do resent putting someone like this on par with a photographer who a) thinks out his composition and film/light choices before hand b) works with a process that doesn't lend itself to easy corrections via the "history/delete" tool. The infinite room to screw up and start over again that computers offer the photographer is NOT, despite the popular outcry, some great boon to the learning process. They teach laziness. I'm not saying don't use them, but don't tout digital as a great learning tool, when what is really does is tell the student "It's ok, you don't have to think your work out, you can just 'fix' it later in Photoshop." That just teaches laziness and a too casual attitude for my tastes. The best working photographic artists learn their craft by making the most out of the confines of whatever medium they choose, moving up to "easier" working methods, like the computer, once they are truly skilled. See what I mean?

-- Josh Slocum (, November 30, 2000.

Easy Killer.i think You read a little to much into Q`s statement.-J

-- josh (, November 30, 2000.

there are no archival digital printing processes that i am aware of for color work - the best available seems to be the crystal archive paper by fuji, and it is stable for about 60 years according to what i have read (though some testers are claiming up to 150 years). if your goal is to produce archival-quality work (500+ years), you still must work in the essentially classical mode of b/w, with fiber-based paper and archival processing techniques. if all you want is very high quality prints of your color work, digital printing is certainly capable of that. i no longer use conventional color printing techniques at all - all of my LF CT work is scanned and printed at a local digital imaging house. the prints i get from this method are visually superior to the hand-made color prints from the same CTs, and it takes extremely close examination with a loupe to tell the difference between which image comprises grain structure and which comprises pixels.

if you are talking about replacing your film-based camera with a digital camera to make your images, i would say you are jumping the gun by about 2-3 years. the mega-pixel cameras of today (~3mb file size) render pretty good images up to around 8x10 size, but start losing the contest with film at larger print sizes. however, technology is rapidly improving, and within 3 years, you will see digital cameras that can generate 150-200mb files that should be able to render visually satisfying prints up to about 16x20. archival storage of digital image files is not yet a possibility (that i know of), and i dont know how they will solve that problem. i imagine, though, that the gold CD-type discs that NASA creates to send on interstellar spacecraft are pretty darn stable...

-- jnorman (, November 30, 2000.

The eventual outcome will be the same as when someone "paints" a painting on the computer, then tries to pawn it off as original art work. It might work at the swap meet, but a gallery will have a different view of it. This is especially true when other people actually bring in work that is created by hand. The computer is the east way out, the "fake" way of creating anything. If you want to make yourself look like you are playing with art instead of being serious, just stick with the computer.

-- E.L. (, December 01, 2000.

I welcome the computer era. I've seen what digitally made negs can do. Beautiful work. I've seen J.P. Caponigro's digital work. Superb. I use to fight the digital/silver wars. Not any more. The two are very compatible and complimentary. Both bring different uses and outcomes to the photographic table. When I cruise through the Galleries in LA and Carmel, I am amazed at what photographers are doing with digital. From creating works wholly by computer and a marriage of the two. But I am most taken by both digital negatives and digitally enlarged negatives, and how much the medium offers. I don't "want" that damned power line in the image. And no, spotting is not the answer. I "want" a black sky in the image, not a grey sky. If I can make a better image by digital manipulation then I will use that strategy. What rule or law says I have to do these things the "traditional" way. None. And none of us are the arbiters of this struggle. The pictorialists were struggling the same way when AA and Cunnigham and company came along with f64 and their sharpness counts in technique and ideas. Many times it takes more creativity and pure manhours to make a digital creation. Or to manipulate the elements within an image. So when I hear the fight song of the purists, I turn my back. It is a stupid fight. If an image is good, that in itself is the reward to both the maker and spectator. James

-- lumberjack (, December 01, 2000.

Galen Rowell prints all his work from digital files. They surely are gallery quality prints. Some of them are giclee prints, some onto the Fuji Crystal Archive, and some on Fujix, but all are printed from a digital file. Some of the previous posters express contempt for this idea.

There's nothing wrong with scanning film to digital and then making a print. What's wrong is modifying it in a way that's not true to the original piece of film, and then failing to include that information. Any process that faithfully reproduces what's on film is legitimate.

In the comparisons I saw of conventional high quality wet print against a LightJet Fuji Crystal Archive print (from a digital file), the digital print was superior in every way and was more faithful to the original. There was just no comparison.

I have a 30 X 40 print from Galen in my office, and it holds up extremely well in that size--something near-impossible from a conventional print at that size.

I think the people who complain about new technologies that can do things better would prefer to buy CD ROMs that have tape hiss on them.

-- lloyd chambers (, December 02, 2000.

In all due respect to Josh Slocum (are you still single handing?) Digital manipulation, which I still have to learn, is still lab work, only in a computer, not wet. It still takes skill to do it and you will not get a good product from crap images. THe skill needed to make a photo is still needed. We will, almost all, make the jump to digital in some form. Why whine about it. Just use it. It is still just a tool. WE use tools, or as I prefer instruments, to produce our work. How we get there has been constantly changing, otherwise we would still be carting our photo equipment in wagons and using flash powder. Each step in technology has been accompanied with complaints about it not being good,or fast, or causing those who use it not to learn quality. Not so, the good ones learn, the bad may have it easier, but they willnot succeed, so why worry.

-- Steve Bein (, December 04, 2000.

Steve: Read my post again, then recritique. If you'll notice, I talked about working conditions and learning situations more than I did about how "essentially" bad digital may or may not be. Is that not clear? If you don't like the fact that I point out some of the differences of digital as it relates to a photographer's development, I'm sorry. Please, however, respond to something I actually said, rather than telling me "not to whine." That's the answer people give when they mean "give into it because it's popular; don't have your own opinion." No thanks, Mr. Bein.

-- Josh Slocum (, December 04, 2000.

Regarding Josh Slocum's replies, I find that dried fruit or prune juice usually loosens me up real well.

-- Charles Eustace (, December 04, 2000.

I'm really surprised that, because my opinion represents a minority viewpoint, that you all feel the need to resort to personal attacks. Thanks, very much.

-- Josh Slocum (, December 05, 2000.


If my post offended you, I apologize. I went back and reread your post and I believe I misunderstood what you were saying. I agree with you that fine work starts at the camera.


-- lloyd chambers (, December 05, 2000.

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