From the film's opening frames, Thomas Goupille plunges us into another world and another time: the workshop of the famous Fresson dynasty, master printers of photographs since 1899. The enlarger and the wooden frames from the nineteenth century, the Roberval balance, now only found at antique dealers, kitchen pans, as well as the machine that spreads gelatine on the paper, invented by great-grandfather along with the process: these are still working instruments. But by etching their era and their technical protocols in the printing process, they anchor the Fressons in the field of artistic craftsmanship, in the wake of a family tradition of quality, creativity and unique pieces, in contrast to a contemporary world sucked in by quantity, technological productivity and profit.
This is indeed one career within the field of photography, but let us dare to say it: it merits its own exploration. Its function can vary from the production of a simple print, to a true work of art. The masters sign the fine art print next to the photographer.
To print is to interpret, it is far from mechanical: two printers will produce different results from one same image. A little darker here, a little lighter there, adjust the contrasts…
After Gustave le Gray who, in 1855, had already laid the foundations, those who know anything about printing are aware of its strength as a creative tool.
And what of those who keep the pictorial techniques going, with high “added value”: Carbon printing with the Fresson family, Barrantes’ gum bichromate printing, or even (already “vintage”!) Roland Dufau’ Cibachrome or Diamantino Quintas’ black and white.
These masters of printing assert the subjectivity and asperity of what is human.
Defenders of the “Walter Benjaminian” uniqueness, their prints are, as vinyl is to music, the last defence of the object against its dissolution into the digital “flow”.
Film director Thomas Goupille take you on a journey that will help you see that the best days of “the lab” still are yet to come!
Bernard Plossu isn't usually very forthcoming. Each word reveals the coherence of a reasoned worldview, studded by aesthetic references. DK2R had the opportunity to ask him about printing, and his answers extend this central subject of the photographic act.
Every month, films and articles to inspire your photography
• LES GRANDS MAÎTRES DU TIRAGE - author : Dominique Gaessler ; 1987 ; Contrejour ; French
• CARBON TRANSFER PRINTING: A STEP-BY-STEP MANUAL, FEATURING CONTEMPORARY CARBON PRINTERS AND THEIR CREATIVE PRACTICE - author : Sandy King, Don Nelson and John Lockhart ; 2019 ; Focal Press
• EDGES - author and photographer : Dolorès Marat ; author : Pascal Bonafoux ; 1996 ; Dewi Lewis Publishing
• LEGACIES: INTERVIEWS WITH MASTERS OF PHOTOGRAPHY FROM DARKROOM PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE - author: Janis Bultman ; 2018 ; Quercus Agrifolia Press
• THE PRINT - authors: Ansel Adams and Robert Baker ; 1995 ; Ansel Adams editions
• THE PRINT - Time-Life authors ; 1982 ; Little Brown & Co
• LUCIEN CLERGUE, LES PREMIERS ALBUMS - directed by François Hébel and Christian Lacroix ; 2015 ; exhibition catalogue at the Grand Palais ; Réunion des musées nationaux edition ; in French
• ŒUVRES PHOTOGRAPHIQUES 1968-1992 - artist: Miguel Rio Branco ; 2020 ; Toluca Editions ; Bilingual
• RÉTROSPECTIVE, CARLOS BARRANTES, PHOTOGRAPHE ET TIREUR - 2014 ; Trabucaire editions ; in French
• UN JOUR PARTONS - 2014 ; Mai-Photographies ; in French
Le site Diamantino Labo Photo - French