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Digital negatives for alternative printing processes: a new approach

I’m huge fan of the hand-crafted print, and spent a lot of the 90s making digital negatives on imagesetters, as well as studying various 19th century printing processes. It was 1992, I was slinging images in Photoshop 1, cranking out imagesetter negs after hours at my local service bureau and taking them into wet photographic darkrooms to pursue that unique, and ever-satisfying handmade print. A few years later, I interned at Dan Burkholder’s studio and helped put together the first book on creating digital negatives for contact printing processes – a process that he deserves sole credit for pioneering. We were geeks, leaping tall technical hurdles with incredibly complicated workarounds that, surprisingly, made great looking final prints. It was so stochastic, man.

the first photogravure from a digital positive, 1994
the first copperplate photogravure from a digital positive, 1994 © SM

Bostick and Sullivan moved to Santa Fe and their alt printmaking supply business sky-rocketed, as has the alt-process printmaking niche. Thank goodness. IMO, Dan, Melody (Bostick) and Dick (Sullivan) deserve the lions share of credit for the alt-process resurgence we’ve seen over the last two decades.

But digital negs for alternative printmaking processes don’t make good prints by themselves – you’ve got to jack with them. For twenty years we’ve created convoluted methods of making Photoshop curves (more…)