Photogravure Printmaking

Ink on Paper

 

Printmaking began crossing paths with photography soon after photography’s invention and the mediums eventually merged. Polymer photo-etching combines photography with intaglio printmaking.

A polymer photogravure print is a photographic image produced from an engraving plate. The process is rarely used today due to the costs involved, but it produces prints which have a subtlety of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph. In essence, the production of a photogravure consists of three steps: taking the picture; producing a printing plate of the image; and printing the image on paper.

It is not for beginners, and definitely not a cheap or easy method to printmaking. Making photogravure plates in this manner requires an investment of time and money, but allows you to create beautifully satisfying, archival, polymer photogravure prints.

I do this because, first and foremost it is more archival than standard photography digital or otherwise, it is less toxic than the chemicals used in copper gravure, it allows us to employ many creative and traditional printmaking techniques that straight photography doesn't, such as a la poupee and chine colle and importantly it offers a wider range of papers to use. Monochrome photogravures produce photographic intaglio prints of of extraordinary quality.

This slow but meditative art of making etchings has changed my approach to photographing my surroundings. At times the process can be frustrating and sometimes variable, but always satisfying to create from plate to print. I never quite know if it will be a success until I finally ink the plate and pull it through the press and then breathe a deep sigh of relief. 

The resulting print becomes an impression of an image, rather than an exact representation, each print being quite unique. The actual printing is archival and permanent which takes on a warmth and beauty that is not present in any other photographic process. Each print is hand pulled onto heavy grade archival Somerset or Fabriano Fine Art paper, which produces beautiful intaglio prints that present incredible depth and perspective. The thrill of lifting a print from the plate never ceases to excite!


I wanted to captured the incredible detail and almost science fiction shape and pattern of a sea jelly washed up on the shores of Porth Kidney Sands in West Cornwall. I applied pale blue chine colle to the centre. One of a series work in progress.