Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Al Satterwhite - Fields Of Color
Al Satterwhite made his mark with saturated color design. His refusal to be categorized has allowed him to leave it virtually everywhere.
The Next Digital Phenomenon
Satterwhite believes that an important effect of digital technology will be the broadscale emergence of the photographer-printmaker.
In the publication world, a photographer would shoot a chrome and send it off, and someone else would reproduce it. A lab had to separate it or do something with it. This required a couple of days, after which the photographer would look at it and make some corrections, then come back another day and see whether it was right or further corrections had to be made.
“It was kind of voodoo magic if you weren't going to get involved—and I wasn't, because it was simply too time-consuming,” says Satterwhite.
All of that has changed with digital printing technologies.
“Whether I capture the image digitally or scan it from my film, once it's in the digital realm, it's great,” Satterwhite continues. “Now I can scale it, color-correct it, compensate for not having a filter at the shoot that could have made the scene a little bit better. Not only that, but I can take out annoying things like a scrap of paper. A lot of times you might shoot something not having time to have policed the area or noticed there's a beer can on the curb.”
Satterwhite currently has four printers, one dedicated for black-and-white, and is discovering his latest incarnation as a printmaker to be very rewarding—as an artist and as a businessman.
“I never made any prints before,” he says. “I had to pay people to make prints. But now I have the printers and I'm banging away. Make no mistake, it takes a while to get really good at it—there's a definite learning curve and lots of little problems and things you have to master—but now I end up with gorgeous prints. I can make them any size I want, depending on the largest printer I've got. People say you just push a button and out come 20 identical prints, but in practice that's not the case. Photographers being photographers, adjustments are always made. For example, I'll sit down to make a print and I'll make three or four, make adjustments or do curves, and end up with one or two that I like and throw the others away. Three months later, someone wants to buy a print or I want to make another print of the same image—I go back and the process begins again. All I need to do is press the button, but I may try out a new paper, a new ink set or another printer. So you start fiddling around with it again.”
He sees this as akin to traditional methods because if a print was remade in the darkroom, the photographer is likely to have changed, in some subtle way, the concept being sought in the print.
“So they can be the same or you can make variations, but I like the fact that I can make really good prints and hang them on the wall or use them for reproduction.”
Satterwhite has been resolute in investigating various inks, papers and profiles, both personally and through analysts' reports, and he sees the development of digital inks as a particularly noteworthy advance.
“When I first started, some of the inks would fade so fast, I wasn't sure I could make it to the door,” he says.
In the last year, he has seen a huge positive change. Independent tests have documented digital inks that will outlast color prints and even original silver prints. And Satterwhite has done his own testing.
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