a note about changes in photography:
For almost thirty years, I have printed my black and white photographs on Agfa Portriga Rapid paper. A few years ago it ceased being manufactured, much to my dismay. Since then I have not found a photographic paper that gives the deep rich blacks and warm highlights of Portriga Rapid paper. Much of photography is becoming digital, and it has been increasingly harder to find black and white or color paper, film, chemicals, or even film cameras.
I have been experimenting with printing digital versions of my photographs and find that I can make a good looking fine art digital print. The digital versions of my photographs are printed with a grainier look, which is merely an artistic preference and an artifact of the equipment I use. There are techniques available in which one can print a digital image that is only visibly distinguishable from a photograph under near-microscopic scrutiny.
One printing technique isn't necessarily better; they are just different ways to present the same image. While photographs are silver salts (or other elements such as platinum or iron) in an emulsion on paper that have been exposed to light and chemically processed, digital prints are ink or dye on paper. The grain or dot patterns, the surface characteristics, and the tactile feel are different, but the image subject, composition, and ideas are the same.
An archival quality digital print and a well-processed, archival quality photograph could both last more than 100 years before fading, although, in general, an archival digital print has much greater longevity than an archival photograph.
Most of these images are printed on 11"x14" Agfa Portriga Rapid paper (image sizes slightly smaller). My newer photographs, from the early 2000s on, are taken on film but the archival versions are printed digitally, with MIS archival inks on Somerset Satin paper. The sheets of paper are approximately 14"x22" (image sizes range from about 10" to 12" by 15" to 20").
I have also been turning to 150+ year old alternative photographic printing processes. Although one has to mix the emulsions and coat the paper, the chemicals are still available and any kind of paper that can soak in water can be used, and the prints are archival.
Below is an example of a photograph that was scanned and printed digitally, with a bit more grain added:
(click on images for larger vesions)
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