Many years ago, I prepared some black and white
photos for a time capsule to be opened in 100 years. I had
to fix them archivally using two baths of hypo and washing
them for a longer length of time than usual.
However, I never remember purchasing a photograph,
a silk screen, a batik, or a print either from a store, a
gallery, or from a booth at a fair and asking how light stable
it was or whether it was created with dye or pigment inks
(if inks were used). Yet this has been a big topic of controversy
in the computer arena.
Some key words in this controversy are:
acid free paper
dye based inks
pigment based inks
archival inks vs non-archival inks
specific paper-ink combinations
longevity of different types of paper,
While there are custom printers such as Glicée
and Iris printers, many people want to be able to print from
their studio or from their home. Epson has filled this market
with printers from the dye based 870/1270/1280 models to the
pigment or shall I say non-dye based inks of the 2000P and
2200. These models were all geared toward the home market.
The dye based models boasted a longevity with matte paper
under good conditions of about 20 years. The 2000P boasted
well over 100 with certain papers and the 2200 boasts less
but has a wider color gamut. This information is only necessary
to set the stage.
Aside from these native manufacturer inks, there
are third party archival inks, both dye and pigment for the
Epson printers (as well as for some other printers) that can
be used on different substrates and will give different longevities
as well as different color gamuts. Archival black inks in
shades of grey are also available for the printing of black
and white prints. This column will ignore the artistic attributes
of the inks and focus on the question of permanence and how
important it really is or how it really should be.
I have worked with a number of media through
the years and have belonged to many art leagues where artists
used many types of media including pen and ink, and no one
ever questioned the longevity of the piece of art work. Why
then has it become so controversial in the graphic fine arts
field? I have prints that have been upon my wall for over
eight years now that have been printed on paper that was not
archival with inks that were not archival and they have not
faded. Why? Because like any art print I have not subjected
them to direct sunlight and I have put them under glass or
Plexiglas. In other word, I have treated them as I would any
other piece of art work that I own.
Right now I am in the process of experimenting
using different papers and coating them with different substrates.
No matter what ink I use, I cannot tell how it will react
to the different substrate in time. If I were putting together
a multimedia collage using photos, glue, magazine pictures,
etc., no one would question me. Does that mean I should not
do this using the computer? In any other medium I wouldn't
even think of this question, but the longevity of graphic
prints has become an area of controversy.