Collaborative Print Studio Project:
In 2007 I worked with the artist Neeta Madahar (represented by Purdy Hicks Gallery, London) on a two month long project that comprised of practices relating to photography, performance and printmaking. The collaborative project proposed by artists Neeta Madahar and Jo Lansley brought together their practices in photography and performance, the latter was led by Lansley and the photographic documentry component was undertaken by Madahar. The development of a print edition with the two artists discussed a number of image generation possibilities before deciding to focus on a recent project that they had undertaken that would be exhibited in Paris later that year. To begin the project Madahar brought a selection of 5 x 4 colour negatives to the studio that were to be used to begin the digital print project. From the selection, two negatives were chosen to be digitally recorded and enlarged to Madahar’s specifications for the final printed image. The project required two main production phases that included joining the separately photographed images and colour retouching the combined image.
Discussions concerning the marriage of the two digital images towards the creation of a single work examined the possibility of digitally merging the photographic images. The desired outcome was to produce a seamless photographic image rather than a print which had the appearance of a collaged photographic space.
A series of digital collage combinations were discussed and tested prior to printing the file. The initial discussions developed through e-mail correspondence and sketched instructions from Madahar regarding the methods for combining the digital files for a seamless photographic appearance. For an example of this discussion and sketch process see the following image and e-mail copy.
From the provisional tests, Madahar felt that the space presented in the image appeared contrived, this was partly due to the fact that the presentation method had not been considered when taking the photographs. After a number of variations were tested, Madahar decided that the separate images may be better presented as a diptych. Madahar referred to the panel works of David Hilliard as an alternative method for combining the separately recorded images.
The combining strategy meant that the images were printed separately although the adjustment methods for the printed proofs were considered collectively. This meant that the two prints had to look as if they were from the same timeframe, so that the quality of light and tonal information appeared consistent.
To begin matching the tonal information between the two files, a number of colour adjustments were made to large areas of the images before the full-scale proof was produced. The proceeding adjustments made in response to Madahar’s assessment of the full-scale proofing gradually became smaller as the process was refined to specific locations of the image. The refinements to the smaller areas were proofed in strip sections to be compared with the previously full-scale printed image.
Madahar was only present in the studio on three occasions throughout the duration of the project, so in order to manage the studio time effectively, the proofed sections were printed ready for Madahar’s inspection on each visit. To manage the large number of printed proofs, each printed strip was labelled with information documenting the date, print parameters and Photoshop™ adjustment methods.
Recorded with traditional Photography formats, the digital rendering of Scape enables the work to traverse the fields of photography, painting and printmaking. The increase in scale of the 5 x 4 photographic image draws parallels with the scale of paintings, whilst the magnification of the colour negatives’ grain adds a painterly appearance to the surface of the photographic image. Together with the soft, matt-printed surface, the photographic image reflects printmaking’s interests in surface quality and the physicality of ink on paper.
The photographic recordings of the tableaux environments together with the image adjustments for the Scape image share similarities with digital retouching methods used in the fashion-advertising industry, for example tonal and colour adjustments used to enhance the appearance of an image. The two retouching methods only begin to differ in relation to the production and parameters of the printed artefact. Within a fashion context, retouching is often confined to a screen-based image and determined by the parameters of mass production printing for magazines and advertising displays.
Within a fine art print context, the retouching methods are intrinsically linked to the physicality of the image surface and the digital rendering of the image as a limited edition fine art print. The production process is also susceptible to the varying changes that are brought about through the artist’s decision making process.