Giulio Limongelli. The “Digingranditore”, from light to light

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Mercoledì, 10 Febbraio 2016 Scritto da Giorgio Rossi

The negative is placed in the enlarger. The light is turned on and passes through the film. Then through the lens. At this point, the light hits the silver salt sensitized paper. When the paper is developed, the transition is opposite. What was black in the negative becomes white and what was transparent becomes black. Finally we have a positive, a photographic print. All the infinite gradations in between, what was black in the negative and what was transparent, will stand out and be visible only if the print is execute with due skills. This is the one and only way to perform fine art printing, since Ansel Adams’ times. Prints produced this way will last hundreds of years, and we have concrete evidence to affirm it. The positive to negative step and the following one, the negative to positive, always takes place by chemical reaction to the light. There is no other way to obtain a true photography, from shooting to printing. This is the one and only true photography, writing with light. The negative to positive step, and vice versa, is a conceptually and historically important point, without it there would not have been minted coins or printed books. The craftsman photographer is the one who has the art and the ability to follow the entire process from beginning to the end. This is true for analogic, for black and white film photography.

So, what has changed within the digital photography world? Conceptually, the change is insignificant: the sensor has replaced the film, but it is still photography, we are still writing with light. There are also many advantages within the digital photography, because it allows the user to manage the entire process, from capture to printing. The photographer goes back to craftsmanship, where he is the real - more or less - author of his work, from the beginning to the end. The problem is the last link in the chain: printing. The strength of the entire chain is as strong as its weakest link, ‘cause it’s the one that can break the process before it is completed. Generally speaking,  printing from digital camera is often performed with digital inkjet printers, meaning spray of fine ink on paper. This type of print that can be similar in some ways to letterpress, since no longer it takes place in a chemical way, by reaction to light of a sensitized surface. Okay, you say, but what does it changes? It's just a technicality, a philosophical concept!
So, for those who appreciate the differences, the answer to the above question is: everything. It radically changes everything. The magic of those B/W which we were accustomed to in analog, it all disappears.

Perhaps an ink-jet printing is more incisive in the final result, but the soft, endless, tonal changes, the intense black, the subtle nuances to pure white, that, you can only achieve with the paper silver salts. Otherwise that result is unattainable. What can be achieved with a home printer, even if of good quality, is way distant by a photo printed with chemical from negative. “Sure, but there is also the giclee (an exotic and refined term) fine art print!" Someone may exclaim. Yes there is. But what does giclee guarantees? It ensures a sheet of paper free from acid with excellent quality inks, a procedure which should be followed with care, nothing else. 7 carbon pigment ink cartridges guarantee 7 of gray density. If we have, for example, 50 cartridges of gray, the result would be less than the soft and infinite range of gray that can be obtained with a silver salts print. If it were only this difference it would be enough. But there's more to it.

Just consider the concept of “fine art printing”, where a certain standard of high artistic level must be guaranteed, not even considering “unicity”, that trait which confers the real value to a work of art. Every work of art is a unique piece. Also the lithographs are, and, as a matter of fact, all lithographs are numbered. They are not all the same. Each one is different. What happens with ink-jet printing? You can put in the paper container a full ream of good paper and you can load large tank of ink and print until paper and inks are out. Then you'll get a tons of prints, all completely identical. The collectible value is zero.

Is there a solution or are we to accept that the B/W digital print will never get the quality of a silver salt print obtained by projecting light through a negative, using the traditional method of chemical releases? Here comes the intuition of a 30 years craftsman, an expert photographer, Giulio Limongelli. Giulio brought closure to the circle, he fixed the weak link of the chain. He’s developed a process that can be really called photography, or writing with the light, from the shooting to the final product. Within digital photography. Here is what happened.

Limongelli changes an enlarger in order to project the light that passes through a digital negative, illuminated by a device. He builds a total new device named “Digingranditore” (it comes from the fusion of the words “digital” and “ingranditore”, enlarger in english language) an apparatus that is able to print digital files on silver salt paper impressed by light - that comes trough an enlarger - with traditional masks as we have always done in the darkroom, then developed in bowl with traditional chemicals. Seemingly simple. But is here where that craftsmanship and the experience that Giulio gained through endless work and meticulous care, came into place. To obtain a suitable digital negative is not an easy trick, since it is not enough to reverse the digital positive with one click in Photoshop. After obtaining a perfect negative, as the analog ones, you must know how to print it to the state of the art. Pierre Gassmann, Henri Cartier Bresson’s trusted printer, talking about the negative and the print that he drew, liked to say: “My eye sees everything, therefore everything must be seen”.

And that's what Giulio Limongelli makes, printing from light to light, authentic single copy photography. Finally the circle is close, the weak link of the chain is made strong, the process is not broken, anymore! Not everybody is able to appreciate the difference, but to the trained eye of those acquainted with the analog printing on paper with silver salts, the difference will stand out, right in front of them. As a matter of fact, among Giulio’s clients one might find photographers like Giovanni Gastel and Settimio Benedusi, Max Angeloni, many other professional photographers, galleries and historical archives, that call him to print b/w works for exhibition or collectors.