Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

Photographic Art in Gravure and Letterpress: A Comparative Study of Paul Strand and Ansel Adams

Author: Hammond, Anne
Name of conference: IMPACT 5th International Printmaking Conference
Place: Tallinn, Estonia
Date: 18.10.2007
Paper Presented by: Dr Anne Hammond
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From the turn of the twentieth century, photographers have printed their images in ink, generally in books, in order to reach an audience. The artistic photograph had little market value and no place in the museum or the sale room until the mid-1970s. In the early twentieth century, artist photographers like Ansel Adams and Paul Strand, who wanted to make a living without entering the world of photojournalism, tried different means of printing their images in ink, in published books. When their photographic work finally entered the book trade market, Adams ultimately considered letterpress halftone most appropriate to his silver gelatine photographs, but Strand to the end of his life insisted on photogravure for his.

Strand’s photographic aesthetic was formed under the influence of Alfred Stieglitz’s Camera Work, with its fine gravure reproductions, and he supervised the work of a number of gravure printers in Europe to print his La France de Profil (1952), Un Paese (1955), and Tìr a’Mhurain (1962). Adams, who admired Strand above all photographers, began his life as a photographer in the era of the New Objectivity in photography, and in his first books printed by letterpress halftone, Making a Photograph (1935) and Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail (1938), he established criteria of high-definition, brilliance and detail in the shadows for the printing of his own photographs in ink. This paper will show how these two photographers maintained artistic control over the printed product, selecting the reproductive process to match their photographic style, but also found that the particular qualities of the ink-print reciprocally, and counterintuitively, influenced it.