the printing

Ithaque defends an ethic of photographic printing which is largely inspired by the work done in 1982 by the Association for the Defense and Promotion of Original Photography (APO) in order to protect the art of printing, an art inseparably linked to the practice of photography with a specific know-how.

You will find below the definitions of this know-how and the associated rules, in this reference text written by the founding members of the APO (several gallery owners, including Agathe Gaillard and Françoise Paviot, as well as Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr):

What is a photography ?

Today it is generally an image on industrial photographic paper (with bromide or silver chlorobromide) or artisanal (photographic firms having abandoned the manufacture of positive non silver emulsions such as carbon, platinum, palladium paper, etc., photographers find old formulas to emulsify themselves their papers).

Many words are used in the vocabulary to design multiple image photography: photograph, print, proof, impression, positive, enlargement, contact, multiple image that opposes the single image, usually a direct positive (obtained without the matrix of the negative) as were the daguerreotype, the ferrotype, the ambrotype, and as is the polaroid today (However there are certain types of black and white polaroids to recoverable negative). We can still point out some photographs obtained without negative: photograms (Man Ray, Schad, etc ) and chemigrams (Sudre, Cordier).

For color photography, there are several printing processes, which have variable conservation expectations: RC printing (resin coated), Cibachrome, dye-transfer, Fresson carbon printing. There are also color settings of black and white photographs, either by chemistry (turns and oxidation) or by manual application of dyes.

What is a negative ?

After shooting, the unreleased image becomes “negative” during the development. The size of the negative is related to the size of the camera: we speak, for example, of 24×36 mm (the Americans say 35 mm), 6×6 (cm), 4×5 (inches, i.e. 10×12.5 cm), 13×18 (cm), 20×25 (cm), etc.

The support of the negative can be paper (calotype, waxed paper, etc) a glass plate, or like today a flexible film (cellulose triacetate or polyester). On the negative, the shadows of the subject are reflected by light values and the highlights by dark areas: it is said that the “gray scale” is reversed, or negative. As long as there is no print, the negative remains only an intention.

What is a print ?

The printing is the operation which will make it possible to obtain from the negative, one or more positives by inverting the gray scale (of the negative) to find the values of the subject. The word printing refers to both the result and the operation which, nowadays, is generally done in the laboratory with the help of an enlarger. A print is not always an enlargement. It can be a reduction. It can also be made by contact (the negative is kept in contact with the sensitive paper).

In the case of the contacts, the negative and the positive have the same size. A distinction must be made between :

  • The contacts which generate an exposure test, generally according to medium or large format negatives (e.g. Sudek, Weston )
  • Contact sheets of negatives of all formats (for the sole use of the photographer) as a reference for an archiving system and as a tool for the first reading of photographs. The negative can be compared to a music score because the work of the printer is that of a performer, the author of the negative being then considered as the composer.

A reading proof is a decoding; a final print is a successful, even masterful interpretation (Americans call it a “master-print”). An image composer is not always a print virtuoso. On the other hand, there are (very) good performers who will never be great composers. A photograph can be completely modified by the print (certain values can be accentuated or lightened on the whole image or partially). This is much more delicate than the simple adjustment, in contrast and density, of a television set.

Do not confuse :



  • Reading proof: a print often without finesse that allows photographers to specify the choice already made on the contacts, between one image and another, to study a possible cropping and to anticipate the highlighting of the grays of the final print.
  • Press print: intended as its name indicates to the printed page and which, because of the technical modalities of photo-engraving, is generally grayer, i.e. less contrasted than a final exhibition print. Today, photographers deliberately provide press prints with precarious conservation to protect themselves against theft or the risk of confusion with exposure prints.
  • Definitive print, or original photograph: it has no destination other than its existence as a print. It is controlled and recognized by the photographer who has decided on the format and framing of the image, whether he has made the printing or not. An original print must always be signed when its author is alive.
What is a vintage print ?

The period print, also known as “vintage”, is contemporary to the shooting. It should not be confused with a reading proof, which was once a period print, and which in most cases remains only a draft. The period print is not always a definitive period print.

What is an original print ?

In most cases it is a subsequent print made from the original negative long after the shooting, by the photographer himself or under his control. Sometimes there is no vintage print: when the definitive vintage print has disappeared (destroyed or lost) or when the photographer rediscovers many years later an image he never printed. There may therefore be different prints of the same image depending on the period of the print or the different interpreters. It is desirable that the name of the printer and the date of its execution be indicated on the back of the print.

What is a duplicate ?

The duplicate or reproduction is obtained from a re-photographed photographic print. Its matrix is not the original shooting negative that has been lost or deteriorated. Some photographs necessarily go through a duplicate: the original photograph being recomposed (superimposition, collages, pencil interventions, etc.) the second negative becomes the final negative. This process is in this case, a necessary element of the creation.

What is a reprint ?

It is an original print executed after the death of the author by the owner of the negatives. It is always an interpretation, out of the photographer’s control, and its quality depends on the talent of the printer.

The limitation of prints

There are three cases:

• Some photographers do not number, limit or simply make prints on demand, reserving the right to interrupt their production whenever they wish.

• Other photographers do not limit, but number their prints, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc., as they wish.

• Others decide on the maximum number of prints that will be made: the most frequent are 15, 25 or 50) and number them 1/25, 2/25, etc., which does not mean that all the planned prints will be made, it is only a maximum quantity.

It is important to know that a negative is fragile and that the printing of a photograph is currently done in an artisanal way when it comes to beautiful prints: the printing is done manually, piece by piece: we can say that each print is unique.

The APO’s mission is to promote compliance with the rules that protect the integrity of the photography market, and therefore photographers and collectors.

These rules were logically born out of the very nature of photography.

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