At the Photoshop World pre-conference, I took a half day class with Stephen Johnson, author of Stephen Johnson on Digital Photography. His bio is quite impressive, which you can read more about here. I was (and continue to be) so humbled by the beauty of his photographs.
The class was on Photographic Exhibition and basically was about
the techniques and practices relating to exhibiting photographs. I took the class, however, to also relate it to quilt exhibition. I am including some of his information here, as it may be of interest to quilt makers who are considering or who are exhibiting their work.
The issue of the “Giclee” (zhee-klay) came up. The term basically means “to squirt” as in squirt out ink, as in what happens when using an inkjet printer. It evolved as a way to distinguish early inkjet Iris proof prints from fine art inkjet prints. it was also a way to avoid using terms such as “digital” and “computer” because of the negative connotation associated with them in the artworld. More recently Giclee is associated with a print using fine art paper and archival inks. Today, however, Johnson noted that the term is overused to the point that it no longer has any meaning. Anyone with an inkjet printer using archival ink can say the print is a Giclee. Also, the words digital and computer no longer have a negative association in the art work. Stephen’s opinion (as well as many of the professional photographers in the class) is to avoid using the Giclee term because it’s not taken seriously by most professionals. If this is so remains to be seen, as I continue to see people using the term associated with their prints. However, I suspect that for individuals doing short runs of their work using an inkjet printers, use of the term will fade.
For printers, however, using the term is another matter. The Giclee Printers Association has a nine-point standard and official logo for its member prints. One standard is “The artisan producing (or supervising the production of the work) has been certified as a Master Printer by the G.P.A.” Interesting stuff.
Also, if you’re interested to learn more about digital printing, see this book: Nash Editions: Fine Art Printing on the Digital Frontier, by Garrett White.
It includes many essays, photos, and a huge amount of information centering around what is considered the world’s premier fine-art digital printmaking studio, Nash Editions, which Graham Nash (yes, of Crosy, Stills, Nash and Young) co-founded with R. Mac Holbert. The book includes, “more than 100 illustrations include Nash Editions artwork, photos of artists in the studio, images of the machines used in digital printing, and illustrations of the proofing process.”
Stephen recommends a labeling system on the back of all work which at least includes name, title, year, printer, inkset. He includes this information, along with copyright information, on the back of his prints. He uses two stamps, with archival ink, with the base info in print and he then completes the specifics using a pencil. The information is again printed on a 6” label (a neutral pH label applied using polyvinyl accetate (PVC) glue – which you can get from Light Impressions), and also includes his address, the type of paper the image is printed on, and care information, which goes on the back of the frame insert and the back of the frame itself.
I noted that he didn’t note model machine or whether it was K3s Ultrachomes and such. I also noticed when going through the exhibited photos in the show that the labeling system for each print was very similar. No where did I see the term “Giclee.” Currently I am not selling prints of my quilts. However, if I do, I will use the labeling system such as he suggests.
Additionally, he had some excellent advice for framing and matting. He took us through the entire process, and used all archival materials. Not once did the print ever touch anything not archival. In other words, no glues or tape or anything of the sort was used with it. Instead, archival photo corners, the mat sandwich being held with linen tape and so on.
Also of interest was how adament he was on everything being of the absolute highest quality as possible. No dust, no fingerprints, if a hair is discovered after framing, to take it apart and remove it, and so on. He made it very clear that if you don’t take your work seriously, no one else will. In that regard, he said “Spend the money for a professional website. It is the first thing people will generally learn of you and your work. Don’t skimp, and get a site that you can maintain yourself.” For obvious reasons, I smiled at those comments!
A short list of some of his recommendations:
- Label your work.
- Have a professionally-created website that you can maintain yourself.
- When exhibiting your work, be absolutely sure of who is responsible for what. In other words, who is handling shipping fees, insurance, what is the commission fee, when is it paid, how are you notified of a sale, and so on.
- Discuss gallery lighting and consider bringing you own lighting if the lighting conditions are not optimal. He recommends 4700KLighting from Solux:
- When framing, use archival materials, including linen tape for constructing the matt, and photo corners rather than any type of glue or tape (these will buckle with time).
This is just an overview of some of the highlights of the class. If you have the opportunity to take a class from him, do so. In addition to the class on photographic exhibition, he does several classes on digital photography. Additional information about exhibition is included in his book noted above, and he’ll have a new book out this summer.