Grain photogravure is a 19th century process used to transfer a photographic image onto a copper plate using photosensitive gelatin. It is considered the most beautiful way to print photographic images.
Photogravure has played an essential role in the discovering of photography, to which its history remains closely linked. It was Niepce who, around 1826, laid the foundations of photomechanical processes by discovering the photosensitive properties of bitumen of Judea making the first photomechanical reproduction, engraving the Cardinal of Amboise on a tin plate.
For almost 50 years, the process was improved by Talbot, Nègre and other great photography pioneers. It was in 1879 that the Viennese printer Karl Klic, taking over the work of Talbot, Poitevin, Swan and Nègre, came up with the process photogravure to produce an image with subtle grayscales from engraved matrices.
Photographers such as Peter Henry Emerson, Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn or Edward Curtis, seduced by the qualities of this method, chose this as their preferred method to realize most their prints.
At the same time, this magnificent know-how was put at the service of traditional art by finally allowing a faithful reproduction of the pieces – drawings, paintings and sculptures.
Since the end of the Second World War, photogravure has been performed by only a few workshops in the world, whilst remaining in the eyes of photographers the finest process for transcribing their images.
\”It is an art of craft, both ancestral and constantly reinvented.
It is also the art of an attentive, mysterious and sensual dialogue
between photogravure and matter.\”
Catherine Rigollet. Fanny Boucher, quand l’art du geste sublime l’image.
L’Agora des Arts, janvier 2014
The incomparable plastic qualities of photogravure come from the ability of this unstructured process to subtly translate the shades of gray of the original plate through an extremely fine grain. It also confers unequalled deep blacks, due to the thickness of the ink, offering a sense of touch to the prints.
The artist prolongs, emphasizes his creative gesture. If the pure rag paper on which the photogravure prints may vary in in weight or shade, it is also possible to opt for glued Japanese papers, enhancing the image of a background shade. Pigment inks offer a wide choice of ambiances and imagery.
There are more than eight different intaglio blacks multiplied by an infinity of colors capable of adding tint. Photogravure, while faithfully reproducing the cliché, remains a process of interpretation. The results allow the artist to see his work under a new light.
A rare and symbolic process in the history of photography and its major actors, photogravure gives work another dimension. The choice to use this technique is never insignificant and reinforces the image’s message and the artist\\\\’s approach.
Thanks to its components, it is the most stable photographic image reproduction process in comparison with silver techniques. The image is printed on pure rag paper with neutral PH and the inks made from natural pigments and oil, thus giving photogravure one of its key assets: durability.