In the past five years, many digital reprographic specialists, that at one time, offered Digital Photographic Printing, have migrated to direct to substrate printing, using Flatbed printers. Consequently, there has been a decline, in use, in studios, of Durst Lambda & Oce Light Jet, Imaging enlargers. This, coupled with the decimation of traditional Photographic laboratories, has resulted in many companies, like Kodak filing for Chapter 11.
With worldwide sales of digital cameras and camera phones being measured in hundreds of millions, you would think that demand for supreme quality, Medium to Large Format Digital Photographic printing would be unprecedented. Sadly, the opposite is true.
Very few amateur photographers are aware of wonderful photographic papers such as Fuji Pearl, Deep Matte or Crystal. Many professional photographs have never seen Endura Metallic, the incredible, metallic paper from Kodak.
The tragedy is that these papers and the scientific marvels that image onto them, like the Durst Lambda and Oce Light jet, may become as rare in a studio as an E6 Processor. There is a distinct possibility that Endura Metallic may suffer the same fate as that other iconic Kodak paper, Kodachrome and be withdrawn from the market altogether. Many of the greatest photographs of the 20th century were printed on Kodachrome. For many years, my old company had a contract with one of the worlds’ greatest photographic libraries to digitally enhance Kodachromes.
Photography was invented in the 19th century but it was in the 20th century that it gained acceptance, as an art form in it’s own right. The world was staggered, in 2006, when Edward Steichen’s, 1906 masterpiece, ‘Moonlight The Pond’ was sold at auction for $2.9m. The record was broken barely 5 years later when Andreas Gorky’s Rhein II, realized $4.3m at auction.
With photographic prints, reaching the pinnacle of the art world, the scientific achievements in laser technology, the range of world class substrates, resulting in true masterpieces, I for one, am dumb founded, in the decline of laser imaging, in commercial graphics.
For over 10 years, I was CEO of one of the UK pioneers in digital photographic printing. My company had two Durst Lambda Laser imagers and they still, today, produce images for Turner prizewinners, award winning photographers, major galleries, museums and worldwide retailers. Long may it continue?
I don’t know how long the Durst Lambda or Oce Light Jet can survive in today’s ‘profit at all costs’ commercial graphics market. All I can say, to all artists, photographers, illustrators and imaging professionals is, enjoy it while you can. It will be a long time, before a direct media print sells for nearly $5,000,000.
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the digital circus.