What's in a word?

While I was cleaning and moving furniture around this morning, what should I find but a returned order.  Returns are rare, and I can remember each one, and even without opening the package when I saw the name, it all flashed back to me.

It began with a telephone conversation from an office manager in Idaho.  This  was back in the day  when I had just begun selling inkjets with the Epson 4800 on silver rag .  The manager questioned me repeatedly on whether I was selling photographs or posters.  I assured her that these were inkjet prints of a very high quality.  She remained doubtful.  I told her I would send her the prints and if she didn’t like them, then I would gladly pay her return shipping charges.

And sure enough, she called to tell me that she had received the prints and that they looked like posters.  I paid for the return and when it came back put the mailer behind the file cabinet without opening it.

So this morning I open the package to find two beautiful prints in perfect condition that I have probably sold a hundred or more times since then with the same setup – well I switched to the 7800 but still the same effect.  So that was 2005.  Here we are in 2010, and I can’t remember the last time someone complained that I was selling posters, or inkjets.

Photographers back then couldn’t figure out what in the world to call the prints.  The most popular idea was to call them Giclée prints.  My own tactic was to call them prints, but to be honest with anyone that wanted to know how they were produced.

In the collectors world, I suspect that the photograph still rules, although it’s even more complicated than before since you can expose the paper to LEDs and push them through the chemicals by machine, and that is certainly a photograph.

It’s really the same partly true maxim, it’s not the camera it’s the photographer.  I say partly true because the camera sets limits on what you can and can’t capture.  But assuming that the photographer has the right camera for their type of work, then the maxim does hold true.  And it is the same thing with printers.  In fact, creating an expressive inkjet print is technically more complex (yes, that’s my actual opinion) than producing an expressive darkroom print.   More complex in that there are many more factors determining the output.  Maybe that’s an issue for another day.

Back to the point.  Nowadays the two prints I just looked at are ready to go out to another customer who will not question how they were made but will ask what is the best frame for them.   And the days of having to dissemble about how they were made are over.

Well anyway, my drying system is all set and I have a few days to do 25 large prints for two clients.  It’s funny – I ended up putting my file cabinet in a closet.  That removed the first jumping point for the cat to reach the loft.  Poor guy.  But there’s a little bit more room now to walk around, and I’m ready to hit the print button (well actually the nozzle check button).


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

8 thoughts on “What's in a word?”

  1. Dave, I was just talking with another photographer about your work, and was looking at my print, “Skating Rink, Central Park.” I was thinking that maybe I should buy some more Beckerman art, and here you have a couple of perfect prints returned some time ago. What did Idaho not like? Which ones?


  2. Considering the quality of some prints today you should keep the returned prints to show clients how long they can last without being framed.
    My drying technique is the dining room table and making sure that the cat has a lot of food so he stays away.

  3. Brent – that’s funny because one was Skating Rink (8 x 12) and the other was Poets Walk Winter (both of which I’ve sold tons of). It was just in her head. If I had told her they were photographs she would have loved them. In those days, the word Inkjet was like a curse.

  4. Craig. The cat is really a big factor for me. I’m dealing with 25 prints on 24 x 30 inch paper. So they each need to be in something that’s covered so cat hair doesn’t drop onto them while they’re wet.

    My solution is large thin boxes with smooth chipboard on the bottom so they don’t touch the cardboard, one box per print.

    After two days they can be stacked with acid-free liner paper between them.

  5. Well I’m glad you haven’t done your
    back in after moving all that furniture.

    Shame that Buddy had to give up his
    penthouse tho!

    On the camera front I wonder if you
    may well be wise anyway to hold off
    making a purchase.

    There will probably be a raft of EVIL
    cameras coming out now in the wake of
    the Panasonic, Olympus, and Samsung

    People tell me the electronic viewfinders
    are coming along nicely, and you can
    now even focus old MF lenses stopped
    down and see the DOF with them.

    The bodies are smaller too, of course.

    Were canon to put the D-7 sensor in
    an EVIL body it might be an attractive
    package for you?


  6. It’s funny you should bring this up, Dave, as there’s a discussion right now at dpreview about this, the overall sentiment being that ‘giclee’ truly means nothing these days except ‘pretentious’ to anyone who knows what it really is.


    Seriously, in the USA nobody calls them gicleee. Call them “Archival Pigment Prints,” which is what you’ll see in any gallery these days.

    On another topic, you might like to check out this photojournalist’s blog:


    All his work for the last year has been with the 5D2; he switched to Canon after his D3 and lenses were stolen. The following post has him testing out his then-new camera with images (linking through to some high-ISO 12-14 megabyte-sized jpegs) he shot right after taking home his Canon. You might find it worth peeking at.


  7. Elliot – you know that light painting thing goes back to the early days – and is something I did on film years ago. (On beckdiefenbach’s site. Going to sleep now but will definitely read his post on the Canon.

    I’m just reading and reading and what will be interesting will be when things slow down, which I guess they will eventually – to see if the urge for the new equipment comes back 🙂 It usually does.

    p.s. Once again – I have to tell you that that NovaBackup is just a fantastic program. I really should write a post on that program at some point because it is just so well thought out.



  8. Ignoring the light painting, I liked a lot of the other images on his blog. The out-of-the-box 5D2 test-shots he took at ISO 2000 and up look quite good.

    I’m glad you like NovaBackup. A friend with a PC bought the drive but never tried the software, so I’ll tell him to take a look at it. For my Mac I use a cloning backup program called SuperDuper which got a rare 5-star review from Macworld magazine and which I prefer even though Apple’s free versioning backup software also works well.

    If you’re happy with the OWC drive, I’d suggest you consider (a) putting all files on it, (b) getting a larger 2nd drive to clone it (and your main drive), and (c) getting a cheap ‘small’ drive to hold the swap-files for Photoshop and Lightroom. Doing (a) and (b) will make for cleaner organization and backup (and make it a simple matter to quickly move to another computer for whatever reason) and doing (c) will give you a noticable speedup by reducing drive fragmentation.

    I’ve got six external drives — three of them backup drives for drives I use for files and apps (1 for my internal drive, two to back up 2 external drives), and one a little 160Gb USB drive which acts as a swap drive for my Adobe apps.

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