Questions regarding George DeWolfe in View Camera mag : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have recently read the article in the latest edition of View Camera by George DeWolfe, "Piezography Quadtone Printmaking and the Future of Black-and-White Photography: One Man's View". I will ask a couple of questions based on the assumption that most people who contribute to this forum have read or will read the above mentioned article.

1. Mr. DeWolfe states that, "the combination of scanned high quality black-and-white negatives and prints, a dependable driver, a high resolution printer driver, the Piezography BW Quadtone Inkset and archival papers have enabled us to produce prints from an inkjet printer of higher quality than we traditionaly produced with silver and platinum media". I have only seen such prints reproduced in magazines. Has anyone on this forum seen such prints and if so, give an objective comparison to silver or platinum. 2. I am fairly literate about the components used in his specific workflow to output a print. My question to anyone who has experience with the hardware and software, what is the cost for these components minus the computer? I have been working with 4x5 and 8x10 for several years and while I enjoy the darkroom, I have no qualms about migrating to just shooting and processing film and going digital for prints. I know these issues have been discussed before, but in light of this article and recent articles about Huntington Witherill using medium format negs and digitally "remastering" them into 16x20 contact negs maybe there is some fresh insight from the group that will help me and others to decide if and when to make the jump. Thanks for any and all responses.

-- Jim Chinn (, August 07, 2001


I have seem some excellent prints from the Cone system but they were lacking in deep blacks & brilliant whites in comparison to traditional fine silver prints. The prints themselves were very nice but the limited range I saw would keep me from it at this time. I think the digital print is coming on strong but the marketers pushing "just as good as" ideas are off the mark. I don't want 'just as good as', I want better or a medium that will stand on its own. Right now digital B&W is not one or the other. It has marvelous promise for the future & that is arriving fast. But I still prefer traditional silver as in so many ways it is not so limiting.

As for service, claims are made constantly that remind me of the carney pitchman. Went into one of the better known digital suppliers pushing B&W inkjet, Giclee, etc. Started asking questions on density range, life expectancy, etc. of the 'expert' (as he was presented by both the staff & webpage). Got a great answer: "I am a webmaster, not a photographer"... with the attendant nose in the air & the exasperated sigh as he had to deal with another grubby photographer who just doesn't understand.

If and when digital prints match the full brilliance of fine B&W I will be more interested. Then when the printing life expectancy is really found to be holding up without the damnable surprises (just like we get from RC papers) I will be even more interested. Until then it is really nice but not what I want to present to buyers.

-- Dan Smith (, August 07, 2001.

Why would you assume that I have read the article. Where is it to be found?

-- Wilhelm (, August 07, 2001.

Very good Dan, I agree with you 100%. Pat

-- pat krentz (, August 07, 2001.

Jim, I've had some experience with quadtone printing, and a lot of experience with Photoshop. Here are my thoughts.

Clearly, digital printing is the wave of the future. In the last five years the jumps in technology have been astounding--similar to the technology jumps that happen in wartime--and the reason is that digital photographic printing is a billion-dollar industry being supported by huge dollars in R&D by many world-class companies like Epson and Kodak and Fuji.

So, even if the chemistry v. digital print quality considerations at this point are controversial, it is very likely that digital printing will surpass B&W darkroom printing very soon in every aspect. The quadtone prints I've made have been totally amazing, except in the blacks-- that's the last major hurdle, and with the new papers out there, this problem is being solved as we speak. And, those issues aside, as a darkroom printer-turned-digital-printer, I can tell you that Photoshop gives you creative control over your prints in a way that darkroom printers only dream about.

For example, imagine being able to control contrast locally over every square centimeter of your print. Increase contrast here by 10%, here by 12%, in this large area by 5%, but decrease contrast over here by 40%, and you can do an infinte number of these changes. Darken here, lighten here (in the middle of the area you just darkened), etc., etc., with absolute control and repeatability and reversibility at any point.

And so, here's my real point, and recommendation. Digital printing requires just as much skill as darkroom printing. If you want to be a master digital printer, you'll have to spend years on Photoshop, just the way you did in the darkroom. I know, to a novice, Photoshop looks easy, but it is actually one of the most sophisticated programs ever developed for computers, and its depth is incredible. Once you learn the basic concepts like levels and curves and dodging and burning, then you go on to masking and adjustment layers (which make every change you make infinitely repeatable and reversible), and finally when you get really sophisticated you start getting geeky about the numbers, learning how to understand the numerical data that Photoshop gives you for every pixel in your image. Then you can perfectly control your black point, white point, highlight detail, zone 1.5 shadow detail, and the like.

Similarly to darkroom printing, there are thousands of hackers out there who think they know what they're doing (and who don't know little they know), and there are a handful of real experts who are few and far between. And you can see a HUGE difference in the quality of their prints.

So, my suggestion is, go out and get a Mac and start learning about Photoshop. Then when the printers come fully up to speed in the next couple of years, you'll already be on top of it.


p.s.: if you're interested, check out my work at

-- chris jordan (, August 07, 2001.

Jim, to answer your question about costs, the printer that DeWolfe uses, which I also use, is an Epson 1160, which nowadays costs less than $500. Add the inksets and workflow software and other stuff and (independently of the computer itself) you'd be up and printing for about $700 or so.

-- chris jordan (, August 07, 2001.

I have seen some of Hunter's work with prints from digitally enlarged negs and there is no difference between them and normally enlarged or contact printed prints. They were superb. I also collect Lenswork's images produced using digitally enlarged negs. I can't tell them from the real thing. I have seen some prints from the digital platform using Epson printers with quadtone inks and really nice art papers and they are beautiful. I didn't see any wet darkroom prints to compare with them but I suspect the silver print would look as good. The blacks were superb and the highlights were pure. James

-- james (, August 07, 2001.

The article is in the July/August edition of View Camera magazine.

For more information a Piezography, see the following website:

The original Piezography system works on EPSON 760, 800, 850, 860, 980, 1160, 1200, 1520, and 3000 desktop printers. Some of these can be purchased for about $300. The cost of the software, plus an initial supply of 4 - 4oz. bottles of ink (called the continuous ink supply system) is about $665 for the Epson 1160. Refills are about $260 for the 4 bottles of ink. Therefore you are paying about $405 one time charge for the software. Cartridge ink supplies are also available, but more expensive if you use a lot of ink.

The new PiezographyBW Pro24 system is $2,130 for the software (plus the cost of the ink) and requires the Epson 7000, a very expensive printer. As it turns out, the biggest difference in the qualities between Epson printers is the paper transport mechanism of the printers.

Piezography products can be purchased at:

Piezography (perhaps unlike the other system mentioned above) has excellent technical support. In addition they have a users discussion web site where you can hear about all the successes and the problems people have had with the system.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.

With due respect to Chris Jordan, a PC works fine with Photoshop and Piezography. In fact, at this particular time, a PC is needed for the high end PiezographyBW Pro24 system.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.

Jim, I did read the article and I have a few observations/questions:

1.- Is De Wolfe being paid by these manufactures and/or being given special perks (Toner, printer, etc)? This reminds me of John Sexton and Tmax, he always praised Tmax, even at the beguining when everybody was having a hard time with it, I am sure it had to do with Kodak providing him with oodles of film to test and use, I am also sure him, being the expert that he is, could probably make his beautiful prints with just about any film you gave him. Is all a matter of who is making the print, not really what the medium is.

2.- De Wolf mentions "if Ansel Adams were still alive he would be into this big time, big time". Yeah right! here you would have a 70 or 80's something who is a master in the darkroom trying to learn photoshop, LOL.......Like Chris said, Photoshop is no childs play, I just don't see Ansel Adams doing that, but what really pisses me off and makes me wary is that he is trying to associate Adams's name to this process to convert the millions of photographers who try to emulate Adams. If the technology is as astounding as he wants to make us beleive, then let it stand on it's own, forget Adams or any other famous photographer!

3.- Every time I hear about these new printers, procesess, etc. I wait for about 4 or 5 months to check it out, everytime I have been disapointed with the so called "just like a negative" print. So far nobody has been able to show me a digital printed image that compares to an 8x10 contact print! De Wolfe states that what he saw in piezography is better than any contact platimum print, well since I have not seen one of these prints I will give him the benefit of the doubt and will reserve my judgement until then, but so far I am pretty sceptical about this claim. At this point I like to clarify I am not ingonrant in this subject, I happen to have an acquaintance with Dan Burkholder, who is one of the premier digital/platimum printers and I even have purchased some of his prints. I bought these prints because of their beauty and artistry, but if I was going to be brutally honest, not even his digitally enlarged negatives compare to a real LF negative. Who knows, as Chris said maybe in the not so distant future they will be.

In the end I think it does not really matter wether it is as good or better than traditional printing, I really think what matters is the image produced, and this is up to the artist not to how the image was produced. To me is more satisfying working on the darkroom, and the magic of seeing the image appear still exites me after all this time. Some people say they are glad not to have to work with the smelly chemistry etc, me I found the entire digital process boring, and "sterile". So is a matter of choice and enjoyment, I enjoy the darkroom, others enjoy the "lightroom". One thing is for sure both mediums require a long learning curve and at this stage of my life I have learned not to second guess myself wheter I would be better off doing it digital, I am confident in my abilities and happy with the results I get.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 07, 2001.


I doubt that Mr De Wolfe is being paid or subsidized in any way. The company that owns the Piezography system is Cone Editions Press, Ltd. and is a fairly small company that markets mostly to professionals. De Wolfe is not the first person to write a favorable article about this technology.

The De Wolfe article is available from the following website:

If you want an unbiased view of Piezography, the Piezography Users Discussion Group is a good place to start:

The general consensus of the user discussion group is that the blacks are not quite up to silver capabilities. The Epson printers tend to have problems because Piezography stretches their capabilities beyond what they were designed to do (except the Epson 7000 which costs an arm and a leg). Jon Cone estimates that 1 in 3 Epson printers will have to returned because they will not work properly with Piezography. Fortunately, Epson has a very generous return policy. There are also issues relating to lack of cold tone inks (supposedly coming soon) and the printers constantly having ink clogging problems (the more archival the ink, the more it is likely to clog).

The biggest issue for amateurs and "starving artists" is the cost. In order to get the kind of quality that matches silver, you need a high quality film scan that can cost about $50 each from an image service. High quality film scanners for 120 are becoming available in the $3000 price range, but it is too early to tell if they can perform as well as a $15K drum scanner. The problem gets worse for LF film scans.

All that being said, there is a tremendous opportunity here as the technology improves and the cost comes down.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.

Jorge, your comment about people trying to ride the coat tails of Ansel's name is a good one (and, George DeWolfe is a shameless Ansel-coat-tail rider), but in this context I think you're incorrect. Ansel was still alive when Photoshop came into existence, and Ansel foresaw digital printing and made a comment about it. I don't have the exact quote handy, but it was somthing about having more control and being able to exercise greater artistic choice than ever before, and he lamented that he would not get to use the digital process during his lifetime. So, I suspect that if he were still alive, he'd be whailin away on Photoshop (but probably still making silver gelatin prints, likely from 20x24" digitally-generated negs).

~chris jordan

-- chris jordan (, August 07, 2001.

I agree with Chris' observation about Ansel Adams, except that since next year is the 100th anniversary of his birth, if he were still alive, he might not be doing any photography.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.


First, let me say that until you have seen a well made quadtone piezo print all the nonsense about injkjet prints not coming close to the tonal range of silver or platinum is in the words of a great American president hooey!

Down here at the Palm Beach Photographic Workshops I have seen and handles Goerge DeWolfe's prints first hand. They are truly spectacular. The tonal range (at least visually) is as good if not better than Platinum and far exceeds silver images (Fiber or otherwise).

As a Platinum/Palladium printer I was also hesitant about the Cone Piezography system. Well the truth is with my Epson 7000 and drum scans my 20x24 images have a tonal range that I believe exceeds platinum.

With all dues respect to Dan Smith, he obviously has not seen first hand and compared well made Piezography images. Right now we are having a show in the Palm Beach Photographic Centre's Museum that contains silver, platinum and Piezo images. I would challenge anyone to look at the show and tell me that the Piezo images do not exceed the quality of traditional silver.

This of course is highly dependent on the image, the exposure, the scan and the artists skills. Just as a fine silver or platinum print is. With that in mind, the images in the Museum will be open to the public begining on Friday evening at 6pm and will run through the end of August.


Michael J. Kravit Palm Beach Photographic Centre A Not-For-Profit Organization Board Of Directors

-- Michael J. Kravit (, August 07, 2001.

The only problem is that a drum scanner, the Epson 7000, and the Piezography24 system for the 7000, will set you back about 20-25K.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.

Michael, Opportunity for what? Is the fact that is digital will make it better and/or more beautiful? No! So really, the only opportunity I see is that it might make it "easier" for some people who do not wish to spend time in a darkroom. In the end they will spend the time learning how to use photoshop, either way it will require effort and "taste" to produce something worthwhile. According to De Wolfe piezography gave him better control of the shadows etc, that maybe so, but if anything I have learned working with photography is that there comes a time when is best to you leave the image well enough alone! any additional tweaking will only make it worse. My question is how much more control do you need? If a person who is now doing photography is not able to control their medium, I don't care how many gizmos and gadgets you give him/her, they still will not be able to create something beautifull. Look, I an neither against or for digital and/or piezography. My point is I don't care wether you make a beautiful image with a $7000 mac,coupled to a $50000 dollar film recorder and printed on a $2000 printer, or you made it in your bathroom with a besler printmaker 35 jumping on one foot and chanting voodoo prayers, if the image is beautiful I will buy it or at least say it is beautiful. I just wish people in the digital area would stop saying "As good as....", "better than...." let the technology stand on its own and people will make a descision. If it truly is a better mouse trap then soon Kodak will stop making film and I will have to get a ten pound digital back for my 8x10. Until that happens I will stay in my darkroom because I enjoy it no matter what the digital advances are.

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 07, 2001.

Chris, I think you are correct, I now remember he did make a comment like that. You are probably right he might have been working on photoshop now!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 07, 2001.


Obviously you don't agree, but some photographers would like to have more control over the image, as opposed to simply accepting what "is there" when the film is exposed. But this is really a philosophical argument about the nature of art and expression and not a technical one.

There are actually two starting points to digital Piezography printing: 1) high quality scanning of traditional film, and 2) digital cameras (or digital film backs). Right now even $3K digital cameras cannot yield the kind of detail (or digital file size) that can be obtained with a drum scan of a 6x7 negative. Not even in the same ballpark. Obviously. it gets worse with LF. So don't plan on giving up on film anytime soon, even if you did try (God forbid) digital printing. But as I have mentioned in my previous posts, the very highest quality Piezography process that others have been raving about (drum scans, Epson 7000, etc.) is still extremely expensive.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 07, 2001.

Michael, Actually I think we agree, If you want to "add" or "substract" something from the image you capture and doing it digitally is easier, great! As a matter of fact the master of this genere, Jerry Uelsmann I think is doing some of his compositions digitally now. As to the price it does not really matter, eventually the prices for all the gizmos will come down. A perfect example of my objections is Mr. Kravit's post, in it he throws down the gauntlet and dares all of us to go and examine the prints and how much better they are than traditional silver prints. Of course he never mentions not only the price of the gizmos, which as I said before is irrelevant since they will come down, but all the time he has spent learning photoshop and all the process required to create these prints. It is this obsession digital printers have of trying to make people beleive that digital is the magic bullet that will make everybody with a lap top a master photographer that I find insulting. Of course right at the end comes the disclamer....all depends on the operator, etc! well like I have been trying to say in all these post, No s**t Sherlock! wether it is piezography or traditional the outcome depends on the operator, and a crappy piezography print will be crappy no matter how wonderful the process is, so...why worry? In any case enought of the soap box, in answer to Jim's question, no I have not seen them, and no, I dont know if they are any better than traditional prints. (Although I doubt they are)lol....could not ressist the last dig....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 07, 2001.

The learning curve for Photoshop is steep because the manuals for photoshop will sometimes leave out a step or procesure that must be done before achieving an effect the manual is trying to explain. It should also be said that most of what the Photoshop manual explains is easier to do than how they describe it, so a lot of the inherent difficulty in learning Photoshop is not learning Photoshop but figuring out the manual. I taught myself Photoshop starting with Photoshop 3 around 6 years ago, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do it that way.

The first 6 mos, I had my head stuck in the manual trying to figure it all out with endless calls to Adobe for whatever. I got comfortable w/Photoshop in the next couple of years, and now I'm at the point where I can do anything I want. You begin to learn to use tools in different ways than they were inteded, and you begin to create your own procedures and effects and then your ability to create anything you want in Photoshop becomes almost infinite.

Looking back on it now, I honestly wasted quite a bit of time teaching myself Photoshop, and think it's a better deal for someone starting out in Photoshop to go the Class/mentor/tutor route. My brother tutors people in Photoshop, and I am contually amazed at the speed at which they pick up various aspects of Photoshop.

One related issue to this that is amazing to me is the work of some folks out there that are obviously good with Photoshop but didn't take the time to learn composition and/or some of the other basics, and they many times, come up with spectacular ideas which are poorly executed. I get the feeling some folks out there feel like, 'I'm smart, I'll learn photoshop, and start producing fine art'.

My point is that if you need to go over the basics, you should reading some good artbooks/auditing art classes/auditing Photography classes while you're tackling that Photoshop manual. The fact also remains that a lot of what makes up Photoshop is taken from traditional or straight photography and Photoshop like a lot of what is called digital is really an offshoot of Photography and not something separate.

I recently moved up to 8x10 to contact print with POP paper and maybe later experiment with some of the other alternative processes, and no matter how good digital gets, I'm still going to try this as opposed to giving up or selling the 8x10. Digital isn't going to replace the other things that people want to get into and these predictions of what digital is going to wipe out have been going on for years with a lot of what is straight photography still here. Digital is the wave of the future in how it changes Photography and not how it replaces it.

The shame is the influence that the hype for marketing purposes, has on the folks who gain the wrong perception and expectations of digital(it doesn't have to be one or the other), as opposed to what they could pursue with Photography as a serious hobbyist/advance amatuer/professional. Learning straight photography, or at least the basics of it, gives you a foundation that carries over to your digital work.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, August 07, 2001.

Thanks for the discussion. Since I brought up the issues i would like to clarify where stand. i will probably migrate to digital but not untill I can afford to do it with the quality equal to the best silver and platinum prints I have seen. But "cost to quality ratio" is going to have to approach that of Large Format when I started. What i mean by that is if the only way to get the quality results that I wanted required I buy a $3000 camera, a pair of new lenses for $3000 and a variable contrast head 4x5 enlarger for $3000 i would still be playing around exclusively with 35mm. But I was able to accumulate the equivalent in used gear for about $2500 to start out. Im not suggesting we will be buying used scanners and printers, but there will be a time when the bottom rungs of the technology will provide the tools to produce the prints we want at comparable costs to the wet darkroom. As far as the comment about some people just not wanting to spend the effort in the darkroom, I love the time I spend there, but with two small children and trying to balance photography, work and family, it becomes difficult to find more than a few hours a week get in there. It just seems very appealing that once you have processed and scanned the neg, you can spend your time creating the print, not mixing chemicals, testing chemicals, throwing out used chemicals, testing papers, trying to make identical prints with complicated printing designs etc etc.

-- Jim Chinn (, August 07, 2001.

Jim, I am pretty much in the same boat as you with two small children, I can't do anything as much as I used to do anymore so outside of spending time with my little ones, my time is precious. I love doing straight Photography and digital and any kind of mix of the two, but contrary to what people perceive and/or want to beleive digital is MORE expensive and MUCH MORE time consuming than straight photography(whatever that is).

Consider the whole process you have to go through from day one when you decide to go digital. You gonna need a computer, monitor(and get it calibrated),scanner(scanner software), printer(printer software), CD burner(software), OS, software, surge protection, extended three year warranty(you're crazy if you don't get it).

You're going to have problems problems with some or all of this stuff at some point in time, and everytime you do, you'll have to take the time to trouble shoot/call tech support/break down your system and ship it back to the manufacturer/add and or remove hardware and software that's causing your system to crash. You'll have to take time to watch for and download the updates and patches. No matter what you do, sooner or later you're going to have crashes, breakdowns, downtime, and a great amount of your time is going to be spent trying to figure out if the problem was caused by you OS, your software, your hardware or whatever.

Over the 6 years or so that I've been into digital I honestly think that when I add it all up, waiting to talk to hardware and software manufacturers, that I've spent close to about a week just being on HOLD! It is simply intolerable to me anymore, to sit on hold for 45 minutes for anything and I will no longer do it.

Every time you purchase anything new, your head is going to be stuck in a manual which you've gotta read at the risk of messing up your system.

It going to take some time for you just to get you system to work. Photoshop is going to take you a substantial time to learn, practice, and then master. If you jump into digital this very day, figure on at least 6 months to a year, and probably a lot more time than that to get everything working right and to get proficient in Photoshop before you start kicking out the kind of prints you want.

There is the merry-go-round of software-upgrades-updates-bug fixes-crashes caused by the updates-patches to fix the bugs caused by the updates, and on and on. I have gotten off this merry-go-round and currently will not purchase any more hardware or software. I've got what I've got and that's it.

Digital isn't easy or quick, it's hard to learn and time consuming. I use it because the results are sometimes spectacular but I don't hear a lot of people discussing what happens when things go wrong. When you system is down, your CD burner isn't burning, your printer isn't printing, you're out of business until it's fixed.

My camera equipment almost never breaks down, never malfunctions, and you only have to learn how to use a piece of equipment ONE time. I can go out and photograph any time of the day, and by the way, I need someone to explain to me just how do you do digital in the middle of a power outtage.

As great as digital is, it's delicate, hard to maintain, and time consuming. Straight Photography is quick, simple, and almost always works.

Don't get me wrong, I love digital, I'm just sick of the problems.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, August 08, 2001.

I think the major problem with these sorts of discussions is that with the exception of the occasional poster like Dan, nobody says what they mean by "quality".

I think I've said this before, but in terms of their physical qualities, the most beautiful prints I've ever seen were conventional quad-tone lithographs. They had a gorgeous semi-matt surface finish, wonderful microcontrast, and were printed on a paper that simply felt superb between the fingers.

The thing that excites me about inkjet printing is that it offers me the chance to make this sort of print without a lifetime's apprenticeship. The relevance to this thread is that nobody who took the trouble to look would mistake one of those prints for a conventional photograph, and those who prefer the transparent richness and glossy smoothness of, say, ferrotyped fiber prints will never agree with me that the lithographs are 'better'.

High quality work is possible in both digital and analogue, but I agree with those who say that digital is much more expensive for good results. I do a fair bit of image processing in my day job; I roll my own routines, and have access to specialised tools which make photoshop's tonal control look like trying to do brain surgery with a monkey wrench. Despite that, and despite the preference outlined above, I'm still trying to find time away from two seven-month-olds to improve my wet darkroom skills. It's partly cost, partly a love of process, but mostly that I see no reason not to do both, and enjoy both. Once you get past a certain stage of competence, "best" becomes an aesthetic choice, not a technical one.

-- Struan Gray (, August 08, 2001.

Hey guys, one other comment. Someone here said that getting set up with top-quality quadtone printing equipment is extremely expensive. But, if you add up everything you need, including the computer, it actually ends up costing quite a bit less than a good quality darkroom. And, once you've paid the up-front costs (i.e., bought all the stuff), the prints cost about the same-- a couple of bucks each. A few years ago I was all set to drop about thirty grand on a massive Cibachrome darkroom setup (that cost included plumbing and some other major work on my garage) and then I saw an Epson print! With the amount of money being spent on R&D in the industry right now, our wildest hopes will be sure to come true much faster than we can imagine.


-- chris jordan (, August 08, 2001.


Thanks for pointing out the "darkside" of the technology. Everything you say is true. besides the costs in dollars, one also has to decide the cost in time. I may spend an ungodly amount of time in the darkroom trying to get a print just right, but it is still time spent on the image. There is very little that can go wrong with my current wet set up that can not be quickly replaced or repaired by myself. I can see that for photographers like myself who create images not as a career but as a personal endeavor, on somewhat limited funds and creative scheduling, the technology might sour the great joy I find now.

But on the other hand there is a mountan of ektachrome and kodachrome slide boxes from 35mm sitting around here, maybe i will just get a cheapee scanner, basic photoshop, low end Epson printer. Wait maybe a better printer to start, no better get a high quality scanner, no aughghgh, were is the asprin bottle! anyway thanks for the discussion, my 5 yr old wants me to "help her" make some prints from some 8x10s I made of here most recent block architecture. Good Shooting

-- Jim Chinn (, August 08, 2001.

Great -- if it were just a matter of going into the darkroom and working until the perfect print was achieved. Instead, there's half an hour setting up, just at the time I'm most anxious to get to work, and half an hour cleaning up at 3AM when I'm totally wiped out and need to get to work the next morning. Not to mention the final dry- down which may turn out badly the next day after an all night drying down session, requiring that the whole thing be repeated. None of that with digital, and one can start and stop when it's most convenient. And no problem reproducing a perfect print once you've got it; just "push the button, Max," for as many perfect duplicates as you want. Not another whole night in the darkroom.

-- Wilhelm (, August 08, 2001.

' "push the button, Max," for as many perfect duplicates as you want. '

Why would I pay more for these than an Adams print at a poster shop? Prettier? Maybe. 100X prettier? John Q Public may be bamboozled now but how long before they catch on that their $1200.00 original can be duplicated 1200 times in 12000 minutes? Each identical to the other. Where's the intrinsic value in that? Whatever happened to paying your dues? Is it replaced by monthly "pay"ments on your gig-a-dollar anybody could do it set-up?

Just some thoughts....don't get me started. J

-- Jim Galli (, August 08, 2001.

Maybe 40 years from now, if I am still around, I will read an article by a master of digital processes about how he has discovered how a print made on paper coated with silver halide or paltinum and "wet processed" has a depth, lustre, luminosity and feel that can not be achieved through current state of the art methods.

-- Jim Chinn (, August 08, 2001.

This is an interesting discussion. Valid points have been made on both sides.

I don't buy the argument that the labour involved in making a darkroom print increases its intrinsic value. The same argument was made one hundred years ago to denigrate darkroom prints: a painting takes many hours/days/weeks to produce, and results in one original. A photo? A couple of minutes to shoot it; a few hours to print it. Once the printing procedure is established, you can pump out copies at a rapid rate. So, obviously, compared to a painting, a darkroom print is not art and has no intrinsic value.

Another example:

To make a truly valuable photo, you must coat glass plates with photosensitive chemicals, and then expose them. To use something like mass-produced film "cheapens" the process and makes the resulting print worthless. Likewise, purchasing mass-produced photographic paper is cheating.

If the creation of art and intrinsic value requires machismo, pain, and suffering, then you should go to the extreme. Anything else is cheating.

Otherwise, where do you draw the line?

-- Michael Chmilar (, August 08, 2001.

If you'll permit me, I'll draw on your analogy of painter vs photographer 100 years ago Mr. Chmilar. Eventually we discovered that these are two very different art forms that could hang on a gallery wall comfortably but mutually exclusive of each other. My bride walks in and looks at the paintings, perhaps is even moved by one. I walk in and look at the photography and am or/not moved by them.

Piezography is more an extension of the graphic arts/ printing medium than it is of photography. You could use the same tools and talents to perfectly reproduce either the paintings or the photographs. Perfect reproductions are nice, (and what most of us can afford,) but are they art?

-- Jim Galli (, August 08, 2001.

I was refering to digital printing from the viewpoint of the photographer, not the collector. I notice that Matisse and Picasso lithographs, (for which they didn't do the work themselves), don't go cheap.

-- Wilhelm (, August 08, 2001.

Jim, I have to admit that I don't understand your point.

I guess my question is: where does "original" end, and "reproduction" begin?

If I make 100 darkroom prints from a negative, is the first print the original, and the remaining 99 reproductions? Perhaps only the negative is the original, and all prints are reproductions. Of course, the negative is only a reproduction of the scene I was looking at.

When I make a Piezography print, when do I stop having an original? The negative, the scan, the Photoshop file, a copy of the Photoshop file, the first Piezo print, the second?

To say that a Piezography print is a "reproduction" and a darkroom print is not makes no sense to me. Both are repeatable.

My original point was that photography was once considered a medium of cheap, mechanical reproduction. Now, most people seem to accept darkroom prints as "fine art".

Now, I see people implying that Piezography is a cheap, mechanical reproduction method. I think it is as valid as a darkroom, chemical print. Both are photography.

-- Michael Chmilar (, August 08, 2001.

Fair enough Michael,

I guess I truly am struggling with the new rules. I am about 6 years into filling a dumpster with bad prints. I figured when it's full perhaps by then I will have put enough blood sweat tears & time in to begin to see the art. But now all I've got to do is go buy a $200,000 scanner and a piezo printer and presto. Call me old school but I believe the blood sweat tears frustration disappointment and time are indeed part of the equation that ultimately = intrinsic value.

America is the land of the instant. Something in me is fighting against that.

I think I'm steering this discussion off course from the original question too. Sorry.

-- Jim Galli (, August 08, 2001.


I don't know that there are any "rules", new or old. A lot the avant-garde art movement in the 60's and 70's was about throwing out the rules.

As to blood, sweat, and tears, if you scroll back up in this discussion, you can read about the blood, sweat, and tears involved in digital: computer crashes, software upgrades, etc. You can still enjoy all of the frustration, disappointment, and bad prints. Maybe more. Digital moves quickly - maybe too quickly.

Getting a good print from Piezography (or LightJet, Iris, etc.) is not "automatic". It requires some technical knowledge, just as darkroom printing requires technical knowledge. Only the domain has changed to computers, printers, inks, monitors, etc. instead of light sources, lenses, chemistry, papers.

Artistic knowledge (ie. where to dodge and burn, cropping, too much/little contrast, etc.) from darkroom printing is fully transferable to the digital realm. Some of the best digital printers have extensive backgrounds in traditional processes. Experience has value.

In a few years, it is likely that Piezography/LightJet/etc. will be obsolete. Knowledge of what constitutes a good print will not.

Digital is just a new set of tools to employ towards the same goal: Making beautiful prints. Time, evolution, and economics will determine which tools succeed.

-- Michael Chmilar (, August 08, 2001.

I spent some time in Maine with George DeWolfe a year or so ago and saw a couple of his prints. They were very fine prints but they should be, he's spent years getting to the point he's at. I wouldn't say they were "better" than say John Sexton's silver prints, certainly not "better" than many platinum prints I've seen by people who really know how to do platinum, but they were very very good. We were supposed to visit his home but time got away from us so I didn't see his equipment. I do remember him telling us that he used several different printers. I believe the Epson 3000 was his principal printer at that time. Although the Epson 1160 is supported by the Cone materials, that wasn't what he was using then, maybe he is now.

I don't know whether he's being paid by Cone or not. There certainly seems to be a relationship over and above just someone who likes the equipment and writes about it. This is the third article he's written in the last year or so raving about Cone stuff (the first two were published in Camera Arts magazine) and of course Cone publishes the articles on his web site. George does serve as a consultant to at least one digital camera manufacturer so possiblyhe is a consultant of some sort to Cone. I think he goes off the deep end a good bit in his raves (if I remember it correctly the article in question said something to the effect that the Cone stuff was the biggest overnight sensation in the history of photography) and of course he does teach workshops on the Cone stuff so he certainly has an nterest in promoting it. Still, I don't think anyone who has seen his prints would deny that they are really very very good.

-- Brian Ellis (, August 09, 2001.

(Stupid question coming)....

What is George DeWolfe's web site? I cannot seem to find it.

-- Andy Biggs (, August 09, 2001.

Andy, who cares? at screen resolution even if his prints are the best thing since sliced bread, they will still look like any other print!

Brian, thank YOU! I was wondering all this time wether it was wishfull thinking on his part or if it really was that good of a process! Since you have seen his prints and although as you said they are very very good, they are not anything better than say a Sexton or a Baer. You just clarified everything for me and confirmed my suspicions, I think that with piezography he probably has more control over the local contrast, middle tones, can't get any more white than paper white, or any more black than solid black, so comparing the output of a printer without the Cone software and the inks, then probably the piezo print is that much more outstanding, but to go as far as saying " as good as a platimum print and better than silver" I really don't think so!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 09, 2001.

No, silly. I don't think I can get a good feeling of what is prints are like from the web. I just want to see other factoids and get an overall overview of what his work is like. Perhaps some of his own comments on Jon Cone's B&W system.

what was that web site again?

-- Andy Biggs (, August 09, 2001.

Andy, I also made a search and could not find a web site for him, so I guess he does not have a site. I did see his article on the piezography web site and some of the pics he shows, they are nice, of course in screen resolution is hard to tell, but to tell you the truth I have seen better scans and the pics, although very nice, were not somehting I would open my wallet for. Also in my search I found other sites that were showing people who are printing with piezography and it confirmed my initial suspicions, although the process might be wonderful, is all in the hand of the artist. Some of those prints looked like crap...worse than freshman

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 09, 2001.

There are a couple of websites that I audit and they may be old hat to most everybody but then again some folks may not know about them, so for what its worth I recommend checking out and for an overview of the relative vices and virtues of your better scanners, printers, and RIPS.

These folks don't seem to be on anybodies payroll, they recommend stuff that is cost effecdtive, which systems are trouble and/or trouble free. They'll recommend what you should and shouldn't get based on your budget and skill level. They show examples on their website of terrible prints from the high end printers of some very big name outfits and they go into detail about inks and they tell you which stuff to stay away from.

Jim if you haven't visited these folks, I strongly recommend that you do. I don't plan on buying anything digital at this time but I audit these sites anyway to see if anything jumps out at me in terms of having the capacity to be operated cheaply, with very little hassle, and something so good that it's going to hang around awile.

I've got this feeling I can't shake after a few months, years, whatever, that something will rise to the top, become very cheap, and simply cannot be beaten. Well, maybe something so good it will take ten years to be beaten, and with a price of several hundred dollars not several thousand.

I don't like the idea of $20,000 backs,$20,000 printers, $20,000 scanners, and I expect and/or hope the day will come when all of this stuff will be very cheap and easy to operate. May be a pipedream, but it may come true.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, August 09, 2001.

This is certainly an interesting conversation and one that is very timely for me personally.

Like many other long time photographers, I was a digital naysayer who swore I'd never cross over to the dark side. There was no way, in my mind, that an inkjet printer could possibly deliver output that compared favorably to a fine archival silver print. I held to this conviction for quite a while despite seeing several inkjet prints at local galleries that were quite stunning. I was occasionally surprised when I looked at the tag on a print and found that it was ink based rather than archival silver. As time went by, I found myself looking closely at prints to try to determine the process prior to looking at the tag. I won't lie to you and tell you the difference wasn't noticable because, for the most part, it was. I did notice, however, that the difference in well done prints was minor. In no way did the digital process detract from the strength of the image and, in some cases, the digital printers ability to use matte surface and watercolor papers made the images stronger and more interesting. Basically, I guess I'm saying that I finally realized that I was wrong (that's something you won't hear me say in public very often!). Digital is a damn fine process that gives results that, while different, are no less valid or exciting than those achievable with traditional processes.

I spent years doing traditional silver processing. I've also dabbled with platinum and carbon printing of some of my 8x10 work. Years ago (after adding a wife, a few kids, and pets to a house that is far too small to accomodate my clan AND a darkroom) space and safety concerns led me to pack my darkroom away. Unfortunately, this situation will continue until my children are older or my wife finally convinces me buy a bigger home. I definitely miss wet processing and when my life gets back to a place where I can restore my darkroom, it will be very high on my priority list. In the meantime, digital has been a godsend for me.

I started digitally printing my work with an Epson 1270. Later, I equipped it with MIS quadtone inks so that I could focus on black and white work. I'm in the process of testing and installing a bulk ink system on an Epson 1160 that will become my quad printer and I'll return the 1270 to color duty. The 1160 printer is no longer manufactured, but units are still available from a couple of sources for $200 to $300. It's well suited to quad work because it's a 4 color printer rather than the 6 color cartridges that are used in the newer printers (6 color "hextone" sets are made for the new printers that give similar results to the "quads"). The bulk ink setup I purchased isn't required (you can get quad ink in prefilled cartridges), but I paid $125 for the convenience of easy refillability. The inks themselves were $42 and a starting paper supply ran another $30 or $40. Photoshop 6.0 was available direct from Adobe for $299 as an upgrade from the LE version that came with my printer. I already had the computer (as, presumably, most of the people on this board do!), so my out of pocket cost was around $800.00 to get started. This seemed like a reasonable expense to get in on the first floor (I think we've left the ground floor!) of a process that's obviously showing a lot of promise. It was cheaper than many workshops and it's been just as exciting a learning experience.

The piece of the puzzle that's still missing for me is the scanner or camera. I've got a consumer level (3.3 megapixel) digital camera that I'm playing around with and I've had negatives and slides scanned with consumer level scanners. So far, I'm not really thrilled with either option. There are pricier solutions, but I'm not quite ready to take that plunge yet. I've gotten excellent results from drum scanned images, so my general conclusion is that the film/scanner route is the direction I'll probably be heading. Digital capture is definitely still the weak point (or cost bottleneck) in the digital darkroom process. I can't tell you what to figure for a cost because it's literally anywhere from a few bucks for individual scans up to tens of thousands of dollars for a drum scanner.

The process required to balance your digital darkroom equipment and materials is remarkably similar to the testing necessary to establish exposure and processing parameters for the zone system. When starting out, I decided against using the Piezography system; Not because of any perceived weakness in Jon Cone's solution (in fact, the Piezogrpahy system results are pretty astonishing), it's just that I wanted to learn the whole thing inside and out. Jon's process struck me as more of an "out of the box" solution, as opposed to the raw inks I decided to buy. The lower entry cost was a nice side benefit to my choice, but not my major concern. I wanted something where software WASN'T part of the deal so that I'd have to learn, myself, how to manipulate ink laydown (Looking back now, that was pretty ambitious. I was coming at digital with absolutely zero experience, and the learning curve is quite steep). Gradually, over time, I've managed to beg, borrow, steal, and develop adjustment curves and workflows that are generating very nice results. I definitely would have been up and printing sooner if I'd chosen the Piezography system, but comparing my output to that of Piezography users, I feel that the results I'm getting are nearly equivalent and I feel like I've learned a lot more about quad printing than I would have with an out of the box solution. Another interesting possibility with the MIS inkset is the ability to replace one of the grays with a specially mixed "toner" ink that allows a user to vary the tonal qualities (cold to neutral to warm) of the output. There are a couple of workflows that describe this process, though I haven't yet had a chance to give it a try. I don't believe that this is currently possible with the Piezography system, though I'm certainly no expert on Jon's system.

Regarding comments that digital processing is somehow "easier" or merely the equivalent of pressing a copier button; I can safely tell you from first hand knowledge that this notion is simply bogus. Getting really strong prints from a digital process can be every bit as painstaking a process as traditional "wet" processing. Sure, there's software available that will download Joe Newcomputeruser's JPG file from his digital point & shoot and dump a passable printout to an inkjet printer. Comparing that result to a fine print from an accomplished digital artist is like comparing a Wal-Mart one hour photo to a fine archival silver print from a master printer though. Heck, I developed my first roll of 35mm film in my bathroom when I was around 10 years old. I bought the chemicals and equipment with money I earned on my paper route, and I taught myself how to do it from a couple of books my grandfather owned. How "hard" is a process that a 10 year old can figure out with no supervision? (I didn't get to try my first print until a couple of years later when a retired gentleman down the street asked my parents if it was OK for him to teach me a little about printing in his basement darkroom. Mr. Miller is probably long gone from this earth, but I owe a lot to the instruction he gave me).

It takes a mastery (or at least strong competence) of your equipment and processes to make full use of your medium. In this, there is no difference between wet darkroom processing and digital. I really look forward to having a darkroom again, but I doubt that I'll dump digital when that happens because each process has its strengths and weaknesses. Combining the strengths to minimize the weaknesses will only serve to give better results. I'm especially intrigued by the prospect of digitally enlarging my 4x5 negs to make unusually large alternative process prints (so, combining digital with platinum or carbon). Why would anyone want to ignore any process that can open up new areas of experimentation? Why would anyone turn their back on something that could potentially make their work better?

Photographers who look down on digital ought to reconsider their position. It may not be the solution for them now, but at some point, digital processing will enter their work in some way. Gain some understanding and familiarity now, and it will be that much easier when you really need it. Along the way, you might find something that you can use to make your work better today.

-- Tim Klein (, August 10, 2001.

Having now read the article in View Camera, I feel able to comment ;

(i) When photography first appeared, it distinguished itself from the aesthetic of fine art by the fact that an image was readily reproducible. I really do not understand this new view, that has recently appeared by stealth, that the art of the print is all. This trivialises the other aspects of the image (exposure, development), which are equally valid, and most importantly of all, visualisation. The terms of the current wet v. inkjet debate are quite ridiculous ; in this and other recent threads on this board, no-one has once mentioned what drives them to visualise and create prints in the first place. The fact that I use an inkjet based approach is really irrelevant - what is important is what I am trying to convey in the image, and the aesthetic that I want to develop. All my equipment is merely a means to an end. By all means have a debate about the relative merits of differnet technical approaches, but don't pretend that this is anything more than a technical discussion, and please don't make wholly specious arguments about the relationship between a photographer and the print in support of a particular point of view.

(ii)The article itself demonstrates again some of the naivity of the editor of View Camera. I really don't know or care if Mr De Wolfe has a commercial interest in Piezography, but this should have been made clear, either way. More importantly, the article doesn't actually say anything of substance ; it would have been better to have had a detailed article comparing a wet print to a piezography inkjet print, to an inkjet print made using other methods (e.g. using Lyson inks), to a platinum print. Then we could have had different views on the technical aspects of different appraoches, which photographers could have used in furthering their own technique. Instead we got an article that offers nothing but an endorsement without any facts to back that up.

-- fw (, August 12, 2001.

The commercial interest that Mr. DeWolfe has is that he teaches workshops in digital printing. Those who teach workshops usually don't offer comprehensive instructions in magazine articles.

He currently uses Piezography, but in the past has also used and written about MIS and Lyson inksets in the following article:

Mr. DeWolfe is not alone in his opinion that Piezography now offers the best product for B&W digital printing.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 12, 2001.

I've looked at digital prints and indeed they can be beautiful, but when compared to a fine print on Azo, they did not quite hold up. Alred Stieglitz said, "If you place the imperfect next to the perfect. people will see the difference between the one and the other. But if you offer the imperfect alone, people are only too apt to be satisfied by it." That's not irrelevant here. To compare, you have to look at them both together.

Michael A. Smith

-- Michael A. Smith (, August 12, 2001.

No offense Michael, but I tend to think that Stieglitz's comment may actually be irrelevant when one is talking about which process an individual artist feels represents his work best.

AZO is simply YOUR preference for YOUR work. I know platinum printers that would argue that platinum is superior, and presumably, George feels that Piezography is the process that perfects his work. I wouldn't argue with you if you told me that you feel digital prints of YOUR work don't match up well with your preferred process, but you can't use that to declare that the medium is somehow substandard or inferior.

George is comapring his experience with traditional processes to digital, and he feels he gets superior results with quadtone inks. He is trying to create his own vision, so who can argue with him?

-- Tim Klein (, August 13, 2001.

Tim, although I also find Michael's post a little self centered I have to disagree with you and I CAN argue with DeWolfe! You apparently did not read the article in ViewCamera, in it DeWolfe states that piezography is the equal of platimum printing and better than ANY silver print! If he had said " I feel piezography is the best medium to express MY art" then I would have no problem with him, and/or you, but he actually states how much better piezography is than any other medium, so c'mon, how can you defend this position? Since DeWolfe teaches workshops with this system I get the feeling he is just trying to drum up exitement for the process so that people will take his course by making these outrageous statements. Reminds me of the snake oil salesmen of yore!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 13, 2001.

Jorge - My understanding was that George claimed Piezography was equal to platinum, and superior to silver from a TONAL RANGE standpoint. If George is making the outright claim that Piezography is simply a superior process, then I agree with you. He would be making the same type of statement that Michael made.

I have no problem with those who make comparisons between specific aspects of various processes, especially when they are able to provide something to back up their conclusion. For example, though I think there are ways to combat the problem, I tend to agree with those who say that quad ink prints often lack the deep blacks of most wet processes. On the other hand, I do also happen to think that quad prints exhibit a smoother and more pleasing tonal range than traditional silver processes (though I don't agree that it beats platinum in that respect). I also can't argue with those who point to the lack of hard data regarding the archival expectations of quad prints.

Blanket statements about a process being inferior (or superior) are rarely worth much in my opinion.

-- Tim Klein (, August 13, 2001.

Tim, then we are in agreement. Actually I think with digital you do have better control of the local contrast and middle tonal ranges since it is so easy to build masks etc. Something that in the darkroom might take a few days, in the pc takes a few hours. With piezography the technology has not found a way to translate what people saw in the monitor to a hard copy. I think this is great but lets not get carried away and ask people to throw away the LF cameras!

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 13, 2001.

Those interested in more discussion on this subject might look up a thread from last month (filed under "Digital" threads in this forum) called "Piezography: Ansel Adams and the Inkjet Print":

-- John (, August 13, 2001.

Mr Feldman ; I don't think any of the points you are trying to make are valid. Those writing and editing articles in magazines endorsing specific products have a duty to back their statements up with facts, which has not occurred in this instance ; would you accept an article praising Nikon SLR's without any reference to Canon or Minolta?. DeWolfe's article is also accessible from, and I find it rather curious that it is simply reprinted wholesale in View Camera. Finally, those who teach workshops can and frequently do offer instructions, guidance, and perspective gained from experience in magazine articles ; if not, I wouldn't bother buying any magazines.

-- fw (, August 16, 2001.


I don’t think the purpose of Mr. DeWolfe’s article was to compare and contrast the various digital printing products available. Mr. DeWolfe was obviously trying to promote digital printing over wet processes, and he used Piezography has his best argument to state his case. Many photographers are asked about , and are gracious enough, to discuss the products and technical methods they use. I don’t believe that they necessarily have an “obligation” to discuss all competing products. Since Mr. DeWolfe has previously used and taught workshops in digital printing using the MIS and Lyson products (see my previous post above), I suspect that he would glad to explain, in the appropriate forum, why he prefers Piezography.

Since the introduction of PiezographyBW Pro24 using the Epson 7000, there is not much serious debate about the superiority of Piezography (which includes proprietary print drivers and inks) over other digital B&W printing products (inks only) among people knowledgeable in this field. There may be debates about the cost of Piezography vs. the other digital products, but not the quality. In fact, the reason why Piezography is so expensive compared to MIS and Lyson, is that they are not serious competitors to Piezography in terms of quality.

For a comparison of a Piezography and MIS print see the following:

Cone vs MIS

I don’t believe that there is a similar magnitude of difference between photographs taken by equivalent models of a Nikon and Canon.

You make note of the fact that the Piezography web site has a link to a copy of Mr. DeWolfe’s article. There are thousands of manufacturers web sites (not just in photography) that have links (or copies) of favorable reviews of their products. That does not mean that there is “payola” involved. If you have hard eveidence to the contrary, please share it with us.

The above comments notwithstanding, I think your criticism of the article (that it was a bit thin in terms of technical content) is perfectly justified. Perhaps Mr. DeWolfe will follow it up with more detailed articles on this subject. Or maybe he just expects that we will sign up for his workshop to get the answers.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 16, 2001.

Please refer to my first post ; normal editorial practice would be to disclose whether the writer of an article praising specific products commercially available, with reference neither to specific testing data nor to competing products, had a commercial interest or not in those products. This just hasn't happened in this case. That's all.

-- fw (, August 16, 2001.

I don't know why you think it would be normal editorial practice for DeWolfe to deny that he has any financial interest in Cone Editions Press or Piezography (other than teaching Piezography at his own workshops). Many people talk about the products they use without such denials. In fact, I don't recall seeing anyone deny a financial interest in a product they discuss. Obviously, if the reverse is true, and someone does have a financial interest, then it should be disclosed.

-- Michael Feldman (, August 16, 2001.

at the risk of repeating myself ; because of the way the article was written, and where it was already publically available. Have you actually read it?

-- fw (, August 16, 2001.

This might need to be addressed in another thread but it has a place here. In the current issue of Focus on Imaging (a lab magazine) Ron Eggers states in his article "Piezography Black & White: Digital Fine Art Printing" the following.

"In order for a digitally generated print to compete with a darkroom print, it has bo be able to reproduce all the subtleties that are inherent in black and white. Until recently, that hasn't been possible. With ConeTech's Piezography BW black and white printing system, it is possible. In fact, in some respects, the results are better than what can be produced in a darkroom".

"Using proprietary ICC profiles, which optimize the tonal response according to the paper selected, Piezo black and white prints exceed darkroom generated prints in tonal range and quality."

"New England landscape photographer George DeWolfe was the first beta tester for the ConeTech system. He firststarted playing with it in early 1999, with an Epson 3000. He now has 12 different printers generating fine art prints of his work, four of which are dedicated to black and white work". He's very satisfied with theresults. "They're much better than anything that can be printed in the darkroom .The quality is higher....the control you have is infinitely greater. It's better by a factor of ten, at least".

Nationally known wedding and fine art photographer Rober Hughes is using an Epson 300 to generate his B&W prints. He was the fifth or sixth person to install a ConeTech system. ....Hughes has totally abandoned the darkroom. "I'm totally digital now. I just can't see why anyone would want to continue working in the darkroom."

So it *appears* as a result of these articles and the all too prevalent 'follow the leader' mentality of so many that B&W darkrooms are now dead and gone except for a few of us old farts, who obviously produce inferior prints with a now limited tonal range compared to the newest, latest & greatest printing medium on the planet.

I have two enlargers, a total investment of $500, lenses for them in formats from 35mm to 5x7, an investment of approximately $2000, and trays, etc. All work well and have for years. They don't crash and don't 'do down'. If need be I can print by running a dryer tube from the enlarger head to the roof & piping in sunlight when the power goes out. I use those damn old smelly chemicals and can print a series of the same image, put in varying developer and toner combinations as I search for the elusive image that speaks to the message I want to convey... and I can do it without owning 12 different printers and 55 different paper combinations.

As for "Quality", I admit the Piezography prints I have seen to date looked nice. But in direct comparison to the prints I have done they are missing the blacks & high end whites due to current limitations in inks/pigments/papers or whatever. I am also not sold yet as to the real life of the prints. I still want to see a good scan of one of my 8x10 or 8x20 negatives and a same size print of it to do a direct comparison to a fine contact print. I know digital is getting there, but anyone who doesn't know why someone "would want to spend time in the darkroom" is getting too many gamma rays from their f*****g computer screen to think straight. I bet such idiots drive automatic transmissions only or live in New York City and take Taxi cabs...

If Piezography works for you, use it. It is a different medium and a different interpretation. Let it stand on its own rather than the incessant insecure blathering of "as good as... or better than". Niether digital or silver will win that argument when the participants have already chosen sides. It is the equivalent of an election where a bunch of partisan judges appoint a president & are so ashamed of themselves they say the decision can't be used as precedent for anything else... they say they are right & cover their eyes, ears & mouths and shut up. This argument is the same... except we don't really have an independent standard all will use for comparison.

I don't care if DeWolfe works for Cone... but if he does I think he should (and would) post that information just as Arthur Morris posts "I am a Canon contract shooter" on all his posts, publications and talks. I will leave it to DeWolfe to do so and will give him the benefit of the doubt for now. I see he uses the system & loves it. I print on silver paper & love that. I have to live with the computer just as I have to live with mosquitoes in the field and just as with them I take pains to limit exposure.

I think the trumpeting of superiority is premature at best & deceitful at worst. Maybe the stuff really is that good. For now I see it as the digital equivalent of RC paper... no reason it isn't MUCH better than fibre except every time we are told that by the makers & marketers it comes back & bites us in the ass big time.

-- Dan Smith (, August 16, 2001.

Dan, I think we need to give Jim a rest and continue the thread somewhere else, maybe in the news group. In respect to your post, I agree with you (big surprise being a LF fotog myself) but lets face it, DeWolf and all these other people are just trying to drumm up business for themselves, When I first read the article I dismissed it right away and now I am wondering why I got sucked into this discussion. The article is a self serving piece, lacking depth and I saw it more as a piece of advertisemnt than a "real" article. If anything I think we must be more concerned with Simmons's choice of article and ask ourselves why he keeps running it in his two magazines? If his magazine is titled the Journal of Large Format Photography, why is he running this c**p? As a chemist I have never seen the ACS Journal run a piece without explanation, background and examples, so lets face it we LF fotogs are in a tizzy because of what one self serving snake oil salesman said in a run of the mill magazine. Maybe WE are the fools for paying attention to this guy, if anything he accomplished his goal he got some of us curious. In the end I think those of us who enjoy LF and darkroom work will keep on working like this, and those who are itching to try piezography can't wait for the prices to go down, or to win the lottery. In any case we will not decide this here and I doubt we will change the opinions either way.....

-- Jorge Gasteazoro (, August 16, 2001.

Perhaps, again, a different thread but might I expand your discussion with a view from across the pond?

Here in London there is a very large sector of "traditional" photographers, and as a result we have some very fine B&W printers. I myself use a celebrated fellow called Robin Bell (prints for Bailey / Avedon / Griffiths etc) to make my 'exhibition' prints, whilst using my own cosy (though properly set up) darkroon in my basement for more commercial printing. I have recently setup a little digital side to this (now even more cosy) room and so have a 'dry' process at my disposal.

I have three points to make. Appropo of nothing I took in a test print of mine to Robin to ask his opinion. This was printed on an Epson 2000P converted to running with Lyson inks, on some superb heavyweight (300gsm) Permajet Portrait matt paper. His jaw nearly hit the floor.

This was a test print, and Piezo24 is meant to be better than Lyson!

My assesment of his reaction is that he didn't realise how good digi has got and he also was looking at a print on paper of a weight and mattness that he cannot use. It looks like a piece of artwork. Thus he was actually reacting to it itself, rather than as a possible replacement for his traditional processes.

Sceondly, and echoing a lot of the previous comment in this matter, it is a widely held view by each and every decent snapper over here that you cannot put shit in and get shinola out. We live in a very competitive city where there are over 1000 people going for each commission, and I can assure you that discerning Art Buyers and Art Directors are not impressed by portfolios full of mundane images, however gimmiky the presentation. Conversely a stunning image, presented in an non conventional way (ie wonderful paper, modern process) gets extra attention.

I too was a n'ersaydigital, but am now fully into it. It suits my business, which is commercial photography - I need to output prints at a reasonable cost to my clients and with less drain on my time. Unfortunately I do have clients who won't let me only print up a lovely 20x16 of their darling Johnny, but insist on 20 7x5 and 3 10x8 also. Printing 20 matching 7x5 prints conventially is depressing. Digitally I get it right once and then bash 'em out. Frankly on a 7x5 you're pushed to see the difference. I think a lot of the discussion has come from people (apologies if I'm wrong) who sell their prints as art. These men are the true descendants of Adams and his like and have their own place in the current market. These are the guys who understand receiprocity failure and know how solarization really works. I'm old enough to have been through that school of learning, but at 36 young enough to embrace the good points of what is happening now (and indeed to look at what's happening objectively through experienced eyes). It's horses for courses.

Lastly a comment on large format. Firstly I would just like you over there in the USA to know that we cannot buy 10x8 Tri-X here, so count yourselves lucky. We sadly, really have to deal with the T-max issue. However I (not being stupid) get people to bring me some back when visiting NY, and have been doing some film/scanner tests.

The only point that I want to make that shouldn't arouse any controversy is that you really need to see the difference between a drum scan of a 10x8 and that of a 120 neg. WOW! It takes you back to that intial excitement of seeing your first 10x8 neg through a lupe. Now do a Piezo print from that and we can start to compare it properly.

However, if this takes things that extra stage that convinces the doubters then unfortunately another element comes into play - COST. There are numerous comments from the pro lobby about cost, and the inexpense of printing digitally. Well just in much the same way as LF photography is more expensive per image than 35mm so we should be aware of scanning issues in digital work. You cannot improve on the quality of a hi-end drum scanner. A 10x8 100MB 16bit Grey scan costs £200 ($350) from a bureau over here. The initial cost of a drum scanner (hardware) are obviously prohibitve and the learning involved in that.....................Let's face it; are you a photographer, a printer or a scanner chappy. As a commercial photographer, time spent scanning is time not spent shooting or touting for work, and with wanting to retain the printing element there is only so much time you can dedicate to your portfolio presentation!

In summary I think you have to adopt the old adage, "If it ain't broke' don't fix it".

If you already make a living from selling beautiful silver prints that you loved making - keep doing it. If you don't enjoy the smell of fix and having to print 20 7x5 all matching, get out of the wet and into the dry. There's no right or wrong, better or worse. This is simply an alternative way, and it needs perfecting - so Jon Cone should be applauded for that and, although his manner of delivery might has been less dismissive, for those that are interested George DeW's comments are worth hearing.

If you don't want to buy a car, don't go and talk to a salesman in your local auto dealers!

-- Charles Dickins (, January 10, 2002.

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