In my practice of all kinds of photography, problems arise that you don’t always expect. I’m used to humidity issues with antique and historic processes like gum bichromate and platinum. Of course, any light-sensitive material has to be treated with respect or you’ll ruin it. But digital photography was billed as a sort of end-all solution to everything that plagued wet darkroom photography. You just insert the paper in the printer, hit ‘print’ and a couple minutes later, out comes your perfect print, all in room light, no odor, no chemistry, no fuss.
Well… it turns out humidity (something unavoidable in Washington DC for 2/3 of the year) which is a big plus for antique and historic processes and a non-issue for silver-gelatin and RA-4 wet color printing, is a major enemy for inkjet printing. I had a box of Brilliant Museum SilverGloss White paper which I had been using to print my big exhibition prints. It turns out that over time, the paper had swollen from what I can only assume was moisture absorption and would not go through my printer without head strikes and smeared ink in the corners of the prints. I was trying to finish up a print job for a sale I made of four prints, and I ruined the remaining sheets of Brilliant I had. I was in a bad jam because Brilliant was Calumet’s house brand, and Calumet is no longer a serious player in the US (two remaining stores in Chicago, and an absolutely worthless single-page web page saying “call us for what you want!”). Ordering from Calumet UK, who does carry it, is a really bad idea as the shipping cost would probably equal the cost of a box of paper, AND in the UK and the rest of Europe, their paper sizes are all based on the A notation instead of inches.
I loved the paper, but it is effectively no longer available here. So off to B&H Photo I went (virtually) and found the new Harman by Hahnemuhle Gloss Art Fibre paper. It’s virtually identical in weight (a gorgeous 300gsm heavy-weight fiber paper) and paper brightness. Another upside- a 30 sheet box is cheaper than a 25 sheet box of Brilliant! After having made two prints on it this morning, I can rest happy that I can keep printing my existing series of prints with it without any loss of quality. I’m also glad I can support a major player in the analog market (Ilford/Harman) with my digital purchases.