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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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A happy long life
Old 06-04-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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A happy long life

I was recently scanning Henry Wilhelm’s web site ( http://www.wilhelm-research.com ) and noticed that in many cases black-and-white inkjet prints had a considerably longer print permanence ratings than color prints from the same printer. Since a lot of my work was for “Time, the colorful newsweekly,” I shot a lot of color. Since it was news, the color image certainly wasn’t used creatively. You just accepted what was there even if a bright blue sky and fluffy clouds made a funeral or a war seem cheery. Later when these pictures were printed for personal use, they got converted to black-and-white. Just because of the permanence issue, I’m now thinking of reprinting the family snapshots that are in color and some of the other pictures presently in color which I would like to see last in black-and-white. I don’t think they will suffer much from the loss of color and may gain a happy long life. Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
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Old 06-04-2018   #2
helenhill
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Your Title "A happy long life"
brought to mind a Fortune Cookie ... brought a Smile to my face

There are some things I will never go back and tweak... even with imperfections, they breathe 'Atmosphere'
and lots that could always be more fine tuned, be it in post processing or printing
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Old 06-04-2018   #3
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Bill,

"Archival Inkjet Printing" still uses a color inkset, and any use of color makes a print vulnerable to fading. Archival I think is a misnomer.

I use Piezography for B&W printing because in K-7 it is seven shades of black, and in Piezography Pro it is basically using 4 shades of black that also allows for control of split toning in the lights, mids and shadows.

Currently I'm using the new High Density Photo Black in my K-7 to create a new K7-HD inkset that adds about a F-stop to the tonal range and makes for a blacker black than I could get on a wet print.

Carbon based inks lack color and do not fade. The Piezography inks I use are all carbon based.

I also print glossy, and with Piezography that means a clear coat is printed. I find that this "Gloss Overcoat" protects the print and allows for a good amount of handling. I can spit on my hand and squeege a print with no ill effect. If you are looking for permenance I would print Piezography glossy.

The inks cost less, but I find that you lay down more ink, and the tone has to come from somewhere. The cost ends up being about the same as Epson OEM inks.

Currently I'm construction a "Workbook" of 12x18 images on 17x22 paper. I already have 44 pages made and I'm using threaded binding posts to secure my spine. I used linen tape to join my pages to the spine, and the pages lay flat. I expect this book will exceed over a hundred pages. The idea is to annotate on the back the file number, my Lightroom settings, gear used and any other imformation that will help organize this archive I created about a disappearing NYC.

Cal
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Old 06-04-2018   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helenhill View Post
Your Title "A happy long life"
brought to mind a Fortune Cookie ... brought a Smile to my face

There are some things I will never go back and tweak... even with imperfections, they breathe 'Atmosphere'
and lots that could always be more fine tuned
Helen,

I figured out why I have been photographing so frantically over the last decade: pretty much it is so when I an forced to leave NYC one day that I have a sense of home to take with me.

Cal
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Old 06-04-2018   #5
Timmyjoe
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May I digress a bit Bill. In your years shooting color for Time, did you ever use Kodak Ektapress negative film? The reason I ask is that in the 1990's and early 2000's I shot a lot of Ektapress (it had an almost magical way of balancing flash/tungsten/daylight that no other color film seemed to possess). As I go back thru those negatives now, they have "turned" and the colors are almost garish. B&W seems to be the only way to print them.

Or did you mostly shoot Kodachrome?

Best,
-Tim
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Old 06-04-2018   #6
Oren Grad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
Bill,

"Archival Inkjet Printing" still uses a color inkset, and any use of color makes a print vulnerable to fading. Archival I think is a misnomer....

Carbon based inks lack color and do not fade. The Piezography inks I use are all carbon based.
Best to study Aardenburg Imaging's test results before concluding that the Cone inks will necessarily give you greater stability than is achieved by the mix of color inks that the printer vendors use for monochrome.

http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com/
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Old 06-04-2018   #7
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I have a wall full of 11x14 framed prints that were printed on an Epson 1200 approx. 15 years ago that look as crisp as they did when they went on display. The 1200 had a black ink only setting and, according to all the Internet experts, the devil himself lived in that setting. Well, those pictures have received close to direct sunlight for a good portion of their display time. They still look fine - for casual display. The Wilhelm reports used to say that even the cheapest of the Epson inks would last a long time when used in monochrome on rag paper.

I absolutely hate how this site kicks me off when I'm halfway through writing.
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Old 06-04-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
Best to study Aardenburg Imaging's test results before concluding that the Cone inks will necessarily give you greater stability than is achieved by the mix of color inks that the printer vendors use for monochrome.

http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com/
Oren,

Thanks for the link. I will look into it.

I based my comments on my art school training. The worst color for fading is red. I was taught that carbon based pigments are really the only permanent color.

I see the term "Archival Pigment Prints" being used (perhaps overused), and they do not distinguish between color and B&W. From my training color prints are not and cannot be as long lasting as B&W prints due to fading. They lack permanence.

Cal
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Old 06-04-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franko View Post
I have a wall full of 11x14 framed prints that were printed on an Epson 1200 approx. 15 years ago that look as crisp as they did when they went on display. The 1200 had a black ink only setting and, according to all the Internet experts, the devil himself lived in that setting. Well, those pictures have received close to direct sunlight for a good portion of their display time.
F,

Good to here. Evidently and likely only carbon inks were used.

Not sure if this applies to other B&W printing where only the carbon blacks are used.

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Old 06-04-2018   #10
Oren Grad
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And not to ignore the question with which our host launched this discussion...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I’m now thinking of reprinting the family snapshots that are in color and some of the other pictures presently in color which I would like to see last in black-and-white. I don’t think they will suffer much from the loss of color and may gain a happy long life. Does anybody have any thoughts on this?
I like this idea. It's something that I've been considering for those of my color family pictures that can stand the conversion to monochrome.
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Old 06-04-2018   #11
Ko.Fe.
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Then I purchased my Eoson c88+ I read about Epson archival paper and about Epson inks archival properties. I was completely satisfied.
And I'm lucky dude, because my wife prefers photos on matte paper.
Oh, I already have some family pictures printed on FB darkroom paper, will continue.
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Old 06-04-2018   #12
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I've tried to convert some color into B&W, it works sometimes and not others. I'm wondering about important files that you have printed on 'true black and white paper.' (MPIX and FROMEX) I've done this a few times and they seem 'archival' but who knows.
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Old 06-04-2018   #13
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I had not heard B&W inkjets had longer, happier lifespans. It's heartening to hear this.

For the last couple of years I've concentrated on digital B&W. I shoot Raw so, of course, everything is color when it goes into the computer but I've been converting to B&W in Lightroom. This got me to thinking about what some of my older digital photos might look like when converted. Sure enough, once I got into it I realized a lot of what I had shot over the years works better in B&W than it did originally in color--not everything, mind you, but an awful lot carries better in B&W.

For the last few months, I've been retracing my steps and reprinting a lot of those shots. Nothing fancy to start with, I'm just printing 6x9 on 8.5x11 but I now have a huge pile of "work prints". Don't know what I'll ever do with them other than show them or gift them to family and friends but it's really nice to know they might be around for whoever cares.
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Old 06-04-2018   #14
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I print on 90-110lb 100% rag drawing or watercolor papers, usually the highest quality papers of that weight in the art world and believe the limiting factor will be the inks. The real "who knows" factor with inks is what quality pigments are used and what are they suspended in? Just because they are priced like liquid gold is no comfort. I trust monochrome but almost never print color for anything I'm keeping.

My experience with specific inkjet papers is that, other than Epson Heavyweight Matt, everything else I have that's over five or six years old has yellow borders, used or blank and that's with careful storage in acid free materials.
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Old 06-04-2018   #15
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Look up the term "Photodegradation".
I'm in the Printing Industry and over the years notice that posters left in store windows over time will fade...when color posters start to fade the Red ink goes first due to their absorption of Blue light rays...
Then on the other hand I've seen posters fade even when left in a dark place but in that case the Blue ink fades first..
Sunlight attacks the pigment in inks...Black & White prints might fade also but you're not seeing a color degrading or color shifting...they just might get a bit lighter...
U.V. inks used in the Printing industry may last longer because of the chemical reaction in drying the ink (UV lamps) in which the ink polymerizes with the paper and actually becomes part of the paper. Paper recyclers don't like UV inks because they can't bleach out the inks in the paper...
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Old 06-04-2018   #16
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Timmyjoe View Post
May I digress a bit Bill. In your years shooting color for Time, did you ever use Kodak Ektapress negative film? The reason I ask is that in the 1990's and early 2000's I shot a lot of Ektapress (it had an almost magical way of balancing flash/tungsten/daylight that no other color film seemed to possess). As I go back thru those negatives now, they have "turned" and the colors are almost garish. B&W seems to be the only way to print them.

Or did you mostly shoot Kodachrome?

Best,
-Tim
We shot transparency film because the positive transparency was easier and faster to edit than negative. I shot Kodachrome when I could. Kodak would pick up the film at the Time-Life building in Manhattan late at night and take ti to their processing plant in Fairlawn, N.J., returning slides to the T-L building the next morning. Often you needed the film speed of High Speed Ektachrome. That and regular Ektachrome were processed in house at the Time-Life lab. Sometimes you couldn't get Kodachrome in some countries once you ran out of what you brought with you. That's how a lot of us were introduced to Fuji films.
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Old 06-04-2018   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post

I see the term "Archival Pigment Prints" being used (perhaps overused), and they do not distinguish between color and B&W. From my training color prints are not and cannot be as long lasting as B&W prints due to fading. They lack permanence.

Cal
Cal - My understanding (actually lifted from Henry Wilhelm's website) is that the 4 black inks in the Epson 3880 are carbon based. This would certainly account for the increased permanence of the b&w prints over the color in his studies.
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Old 06-04-2018   #18
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I might be wrong but I thought Epson mixed the color and black inks when printing B&W. I use an R3000 printer and I know it uses up the color ink cartridges even though I'm only printing B&W images.
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Old 06-04-2018   #19
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You are not wrong.
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Old 06-04-2018   #20
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Epson does mix other colors in with the "K" inks when printing neutral ABW monochrome, because the K inks by themselves aren't inherently neutral. But monochrome prints still use so much less of the other colors than do color prints, that image stability is substantially greater.

IIRC, with Roy Harrington's QuadTone RIP you can set up a monochrome profile for the supported Epson printers that will use *only* the K inks, if you don't mind the particular warmish tone that results.
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Old 06-04-2018   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calzone View Post
I based my comments on my art school training. The worst color for fading is red. I was taught that carbon based pigments are really the only permanent color.

I see the term "Archival Pigment Prints" being used (perhaps overused), and they do not distinguish between color and B&W. From my training color prints are not and cannot be as long lasting as B&W prints due to fading. They lack permanence.
The issue is that the "inks" used by photo inkjet printers have more ingredients than just the color pigments on the one hand or pure carbon on the other. There's sophisticated chemistry and nanoparticle engineering going on to make something that can be squirted through the microscopic channels without clogging, and that will cure properly and not react adversely with the various paper coatings and bases that it will land on. So the general principle "carbon is more stable than color pigments" does not, by itself, tell you which inkset will be more stable in the real world of inkjet photo printing, even if the particular concern is stability of monochrome prints and the comparison is between one inkset that makes some use of color pigments and another that doesn't. If long-term stability is a major concern, there's no substitute for comparative testing of actual ink and paper combinations.

I agree that the term "archival" is way overused, and abused.
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Old 06-05-2018   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Cal - My understanding (actually lifted from Henry Wilhelm's website) is that the 4 black inks in the Epson 3880 are carbon based. This would certainly account for the increased permanence of the b&w prints over the color in his studies.
Bill thanks for the confirmation.

I was not sure if any color was used say in perhaps "splitoning."

If any color inks are use there is a vulnerability to fading. Perhaps "B&W" only does not allow for "splitoning."

Interesting to note that on last night's "Antique Roadshow" they had a Picasso "dry-point" print where an etching plate is engraved dirctly, inked and then printed. This was an early work and displayed some of the anylitic Cubism that would follow. Only about 100 prints were made and it was signed in pencil.

The worth was only about $8K-$10K because of staining and fading. The print dated from about 1909 and showed fading from a previous mat, and there was staining from direct sunlight. This print did a lot of traveling also and had been displayed where it got illuminated by the sun.

If restored by a conservationist the value was estimated to be $40K.

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Old 06-05-2018   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
The issue is that the "inks" used by photo inkjet printers have more ingredients than just the color pigments on the one hand or pure carbon on the other. There's sophisticated chemistry and nanoparticle engineering going on to make something that can be squirted through the microscopic channels without clogging, and that will cure properly and not react adversely with the various paper coatings and bases that it will land on. So the general principle "carbon is more stable than color pigments" does not, by itself, tell you which inkset will be more stable in the real world of inkjet photo printing, even if the particular concern is stability of monochrome prints and the comparison is between one inkset that makes some use of color pigments and another that doesn't. If long-term stability is a major concern, there's no substitute for comparative testing of actual ink and paper combinations.

I agree that the term "archival" is way overused, and abused.
Oren,

You bring up a strong point that there is a lot of chemistry also going on and that paper and ink combinations makes everything very-very complicated.

Ink alone is only one consideration.

Cal
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Old 06-05-2018   #24
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I've never seen a straight B&W dupe from transparency films such as Kodachrome, Ektachrome, and Fujichrome that looked right.
But that doesn't mean it can't be done.
I imagine heavy retouching and tonal manipulation would be required to give them 'normal' B&W film tonality, or to make them look like straight color documentary photos once they have suffered fading.
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