About the Prints

Rùm from Skye, Scotland 2013

I am fortunate to come into printmaking during an age when digital colour photography and reproduction have matured to the point of being seriously considered as highly valued, collectable pieces of artwork. Countless technological achievements had to happen over the past decades for photography to be accepted this way. Today, we have digital camera sensors with photosites smaller than an individual bacterial cell, capable of capturing detail far exceeding the quality of 8×10 film, with the help of the stitching of multiple images together in post-processing, that are tiny enough to fit into the palm of one’s hand. The tools to make prints of incredible quality and exceptional beauty that will last for generations on display are no longer expensive monstrosities that need entire factories to house them and teams of humans to operate. While the digital process has empowered many to make both photographs and prints with relative ease today, the considerable work I invest in making each of my photographs and prints is anything but simple, and is beyond what most photographic artists have decided to incorporate into their work.

The degree of precision that digital imaging affords is utterly phenomenal and it ideally suits my insatiable desire for fine control over how my photographs look. My fastidious approach is contrived to overcome the multitude of limitations that are inherent to the photographic process. It begins with an elaborate weighting of a multitude of factors in the selection of cameras, lenses and accessories I chose to trust in the field. Extraordinary measures have been taken over years of research, study and experimentation, to ensure my photographic instruments perform optimally to my unusually fussy eyes. I have been told by many that I am often dissatisfied with what others perceived to already be very good.

No photographic device perceives the world exactly the same way as people do, not to mention our individual perceptions are often dissimilar enough to be noteworthy. It is therefore patently incorrect to think that an unmanipulated photograph, straight out of the camera, can somehow represent reality or the truth — whatever that means. If one chooses to refrain from any editing, then one is at the mercy of the in-camera image optimisation engine, or the raw processing software default rendering (so the notion of unmanipulated is already disputable), neither of which would give an optimal result in virtually all circumstances.

To that end, I make careful choices about demosaicing interpolation, interpretation of raw image colour data with custom-made camera profiles, overall and localised luminance contrast, colour balancing and chroma adjustments through the use of masks, noise reduction, restorative sharpening, resampling interpolation, focus stacking, exposure blending and stitching. It was only quite recently that the suite of specialised software for this kind of work evolved to be sophisticated enough for my requirements. Adobe Photoshop alone certainly cannot perform all of the various adjustments I need anywhere near well enough to my liking, though it continues to be an ideal platform for fine-tuning the tonality and colour of photographs in all kinds of ways, hosting various specialist editing plug-ins and preparing the master files.

Perhaps the most vital key to the success of great printing, apart from having beautiful paper and a highly controllable, repeatable printing process capable of exquisite fine detail reproduction and rich colours, is a robust system of digital colour management. Custom printer profiles that perform excellent colour gamut mapping, providing the ideal tradeoff between luminance versus saturation preservation and control of the degree of trade-off desired, are hard to come by. Currently, no off-the-shelf colour management solution is capable of this. I became privy to the right way of thinking about this only more recently, and since then, some inroads have been made through working with Graeme Gill, author of the Argyll Colour Management System, to vastly improve the way gamut mapping is handled by printer profiles with modern software. A lot more still needs to be done. This is the last, great barrier that remains unbreached to getting consistently beautiful prints. Colour reproduction from one medium to another has long been a complex and onerous science that is constantly evolving as we learn more and figure out better ways to mathematically model and express colour.

The chosen medium by which I have allowed the expression of my photography employs aqueous pigment inkjet printing technology on a smooth matte 100% cotton paper of exceptional beauty. My favourite paper is a stunning white without fluorescing dyes in it to achieve such brightness, with a lovely subtle eggshell texture. No surface glare is visible at any angle, and the pigmented inks take after the paper surface’s sensual characteristics to appear as if the ink itself is part of the paper. Such prints require significantly more effort to make than the mere pressing of buttons, and the time it takes going from the raw digital captures of the camera into a fully developed expressive print is invariably hundreds of hours on average, and in some cases, needed a decade of technological progress to realise. These concerted efforts at deftly controlling tonality, colour and detail, combined with the remarkable advances in the digital realm, now allow me to make the kind of prints I truly care about.