I have just returned from a trip to the Salisbury where I took the opportunity to visit Stonehenge again after an absence of many years. The place was just as magical as ever. I felt that pinhole would be the ideal medium to make an image as a long paper negative exposure would allow the other people (hundreds) to gently vanish into a ghostly disappearance. Curiously, the crowds did not diminish the wonderful reverence of the site. Here is a first draft of a photo I think captures something of Stonehenge with its timeless slowness and calm.

Photography.Book.Now symposium

I attended the Blurb symposium last Friday and I have to admit it was not quite what I was expecting. Advertised with the words “You’ll hear working photographers talk about their books, hear industry practitioners discuss how to curate and design books, and learn how to market a successful book.” I did expect something with a slightly more practical, craft-focused angle. Instead we were privileged to hear some very eminent publishers (notably Dewi Lewis and Chris Boot) talk about the state of the photo book world and gain some insights into how they approach the market and manage their own activities. Curiously, none of the speakers was a Blurb user and all of them spoke from the perspective of a “traditional” publisher. It was fascinating to discover that many books run to only 1500 copies and that one which sells 3000 is more or less a bestseller! It is also expected that in pursuing this route, a publisher is likely to require the unknown photographer to inject substantial amounts of their own cash into the £10,000 – £15,000 average cost of publication.

In comparison, the £25- £50 (or thereabout) per copy for creating and publishing one’s own Blurb edition seems positively risk-free. The advantage of the standard publishing method is, of course, that the publisher has a head start in marketing and already has routes into the distribution network of the book trade. Nevertheless, given the stunning quality of the Blurb editions on display last Friday, the self-publishing option is very, very attractive, especially as the print quality problems which have marred its potential until now appear to have been largely dealt with. My first book is shaping up now and I am now getting quite excited about the possibilities that these new technologies present.

Intaglio printing

A few months ago I met David Noble of Noble Fine Art at Focus on Imaging. Impressed by the beauty of the work he produces – which stood out among the often nonsensical gadgetry on offer around – and by his obvious enthusiasm for his craft I opted to commission him to produce a photogravure of one of my photos. After much internal debate, I chose the selected image, mailed it over to him and sat back with bated breath. I decided to leave as much of the creative decision making to him as possible from this point on to see what the potential of the medium might be in the hands of a master.

Several weeks later when I carefully opened the large flat package which had arrived I was greeted by the sight of two enormous pieces of gorgeous mould-made paper, each bearing a copy of the image in a different hue of ink. My initial reaction was to feel that the photogravures were slightly heavy, over-printed even. However, as I tend to do with my own prints, I put them away and have revisited them periodically over the last few weeks. My decision to let David print without interference from me was a good one! I thrill to see both of these prints now. They have a tonality and presence beyond anything I have seen photographically apart from platinum-palladium prints. There is also an evocative, gorgeous smell of ink and holding one in the hand is a true sensory experience! I have posted below the rather poor copies of the two prints along with the digital original for comparison. It is just possible to see the impression made by the plate in the paper of the two etched versions.

My experiment in all this was to discover if it was feasible to make a good, enlarged intaglio print from a pinhole photograph. The original photo was made on 4×5 HP5+ printed to 8×10 and then scanned as a tif to the final size for the making of the plate. The final photogravure measures 11"x14". The whole enterprise has been eye-opening and extremely encouraging and is definitely an avenue I intend to pursue.

Red tint photogravure
Red ink on warm-tone paper

Brown tint photogravure
Brown ink on neutral paper

Original image