Friday, September 11, 2015

Jeff Frey Discusses Giclée Reproduction and How Art Prints Are Created at CPL Imaging

Jeff Frey and some of the work of CPL Imaging.
I first wrote about photographer Jeff Frey in 2009. Quite a few of the region's photographers have had experience working for and learning from Jeff before they launched a business of their own.

Here's my personal favorite story regarding what kind of photographer Jeff is: Burlington Northern Railroad has something like 28 locations around the continent, one of them being here in the Twin Ports. Each year, their annual report would include photos from each location, produced by a photographer in reasonable geographic proximity. Jeff always did the photo from our location here. Then one year, after several years of shooting something from the Superior branch, one of the execs at BN said, "How come the photo from Superior is always the best photo in the book? Why don't we just have this guy do them all this year?" Which they did.

Brian examines a Chee reproduction to ensure it meets quality standards.
In addition his business as a commercial photographer, Frey also co-owned a service business called Custom Photo Lab. One of the industries profoundly transformed by the digital revolution was photography and at a certain point in time Frey's Custom Photo Lab became reconfigured as CPL Imaging. The one common thread from dark room days to the digital was the commitment to having the best equipment and highest standards.

Many of the regions top artists bring their work to CPL Imaging to be scanned and reproduced as art print. I thought it might be worthwhile to learn more about the process and share it here.

EN: For over 30 years Jeff Frey Photography has been a staple of the Northland. Besides commercial photography what other services did you provide?
Jeff Frey: Until 9 years ago we offered a complete custom photo lab that served commercial accounts and the discerning public. We offered film developing, custom (photographic) printing, and copy work. Remember "title slides" and multi-projector slide shows? We did that work, too. Since then, we moved the business from East to West on Superior Street and became a digital-only imaging service.

EN: What is the Giclée process?
JF: The process begins with a faithful digital copy of the original art. On our Certificates of Authenticity we define a Giclée print made from that digital file as follows:
Giclée (pronounced Jee Clay), is derived from the French word meaning, “to spray”. This applies to the spraying of ink as in inkjet printing. If an inkjet print is a faithful reproduction printed with stable, pigmented ink on a specially coated archival medium, it is worthy of the giclée name. The archival nature of this reproduction makes it a work of art that can be passed on for generations.

EN: When did your company get involved with doing Giclée reproductions?
JF: For decades our part of the art reproduction process was to expertly copy the original art onto 4x5 or 8x10 transparency film. That film was then scanned at the printer who made color separations for their lithographic process. Eventually, digital technology (and $30,000.00) allowed us to upgrade to a high end scanner in place of the 4x5 sheet film.

Back then, though, we were still capturing the digital copy for outside printing companies. It was still several years until Epson introduced a large-format inkjet printer that used pigment ink and could print on a variety of archival "art" papers. We purchased one and began offering giclee prints.

Over the years, we upgraded our scanner twice and our printers a few times. Epson has brought us from the original 4-color printer to the current machines that use a 10-color inkjet printing process. (We have 5 of them in operation.)

Internationally renowned watercolorist Cheng-Khee Chee.
EN: What are its advantages? Why do artists seek it out?
JF: Besides the superior reproduction quality and longevity, another key to artists is that once their original is scanned, they can order their prints on demand -- as few an one at a time. Most print orders are fulfilled within a day or two.

EN: How many artists do you currently serve?
JF: We scan art and make prints for hundreds of artists - mostly from Minnesota and Wisconsin. We archive their ready-to-print digital images on CDs. We currently have just under 5,000 scans of art on file.

EN: Your website has a Restoration tab. What’s that about and who uses these kinds of services?
JF: We use the same scanning device or digital camera to digitize old photographs, maps, damaged art, etc. Once the image is digital, we can "repair" it using Photoshop. Lots of people with old family photos enjoy the results from this service.

EN: You mentioned earlier that you can provide certificates of authenticity with your work. Why is this important?
JF: The art-buying public pays a premium for a Giclée print. The certificate offers the assurance that buyer is receiving the full value -- a print that is a true reproduction that will hold its color for generations.

EN: You must have a highly skilled staff to keep all these artists coming back.
JF: Yes, the CPL crew is well respected by the art community. Steve (Tigg) Tiggemann, Brian Leonard, and Brad Gille are "as good as it gets" at what they do.

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Here's the link:

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