Artist Bob Evans talks about the work of Karl Blossfeldt
Plate 58 Art Forms In Nature,
My dithered digital photographic prints have been influenced in an interesting way by the photogravure photographs of Karl Blossfeldt (German 1865-1932). In my career as an artist teacher I have taught Basic Visual Design classes and always showed examples of Blossfelt's photos to my students as examples of images having visual strength. Blossfeldt's work is known primarily from three books of high quality photogravure photographic reproductions published between 1928 and 1942. Very few of his actual photographic prints have ever been exhibited. But his work is widely known and his books are still in print in many lower quality halftone republications including several by Dover books. Because of my strong interest in his work I have been fortunate enough over the years to acquire first edition photogravure copies of all three of those books.
Dithered Fern Frond
When I was preparing to retire from active teaching in the past decade, I was looking for a project to keep me busy in addition to my normal art making activity. Having taught digital photography since the mid 1990s I was skilled in Adobe Photoshop and had always known the power of black and white images when dithered (random black dots of varied size). In looking at Blossfeldt's photogravures, which are made up of random dots created by the photogravure process from rosin dusted onto a metal plate, I thought you could create one bit (i.e. photographs using only black ink dots) images using digital dithering. Dithering is the process that all computer printers use and is a way to generate a range of tones and colors without the use of rigid halftone screens that look very mechanical. Color dithers by putting colored dots on top of each other produce continuous tone smooth looking images. One bit dithers when examined closely show the dots up clearly and give the resulting images a crispness and clarity very much like aquatint etchings. After many experiments with Photoshop and other dithering programs I developed a digital technique that allows me to create the look of photogravure using a standard office monochrome laser printer. The images can be soft or hard depending on the approach one takes and a wide range of tones are possible. Because the laser printer uses metallic oxide pigment the images are completely permanent unlike many colored digital photos that use dyes. Blossfeldt's technique has thus influenced me into wide experimentation of the expressive uses of the dithered random dot in digital photography.