Giclée is the term coined by the Scitex Corp. given to prints made on its ‘Iris’ printer.
‘Iris’ printer projects future of photography, by Frank Van Riper
The Iris printer, which is to a desktop laser printer as a Leica is to a pinhole camera, represents the future of photography.
This mammoth and miraculous machine was developed by Iris Graphics of Bedford, Mass., a division of the Israeli firm Scitex Corp., which helped pioneer computer manipulation of photographic and other images.
The Iris printer’s biggest draw is its ability to create stunningly detailed reproductions of artwork on archival rag-content paper, using rich archival inks.
But that is only part of it. Artists who wish to use the computer as a creative tool also can scan in various elements of a design, manipulate and change them, then press a button (well, maybe a few buttons) and let Iris perform its magic from a computer-generated negative. Irises are not cheap – they go for something like $125,000 apiece – and prints from them can cost several hundred dollars each. But the process has hit the art and photography world by storm, with good reason.
To painters and college artists, like Mokha Laget, who’s exhibits at Washington’s Franz Bader Gallery, the Iris allows production of multiple images from originals.
Far more detailed and long lasting than conventionally made prints or posters, the Iris prints stand alone as a new art form – while also giving the artist the ability to make and sell multiples. (In Laget’s case, her prints often are legitimately sold as one-of-a-kind images because she sometimes will hand-apply gold leaf to them.)
To photographers like Washington’s Kay Chernush, the Iris’ ability to translate a photographic image onto the fine art paper presents “a whole new set of tools” for the artist.
“I feel the kind of excitement like when I first picked up the camera,” Chernush said. The new process simply “takes you places where film and cameras can’t.”
Despite my aversion to computer manipulation of photographs, I admire the Iris for its phenomenal ability to render a straight photographic image. To be sure, there is still work to be done. So far, ink manufacturers haven’t come up with materials for black-and-white reproduction, and print costs remain high.
Still, Washington gallery owner David Adamson predicts that the technology is advancing so fast that within a couple of years affordable Iris prints may be available at camera shops in sizes up to 16″ X 20″.