By Andrew McIntyre
The first time I fired up IJC/OPM I was completely bowled over. The sheer precision with which it
controlled inkjet b&w processes using user-editable profiles exceeded anything I had seen before.
Better yet, I was able to grasp the principles involved, produce a batch of high quality gallery prints –
and write up my findings for the British Journal of Photography all within a couple of weeks.
Two years on, I continue to output all of my black & white work through the BowHaus software with
the confidence that it will do full justice to my images. So when a local historian turned up on my
doorstep last Fall with a ply box filled with whole-plate (8½" x 6½") glass negatives dating back to
1880 I felt well-equipped to offer a scan & print service.
Fools rush in! Much as I wanted to be involved with the proposed exhibition of 50 prints I did not
realize what I had let myself in for until 48 hours later when I had time to view some of the plates over
a light box. Those that had not faded beyond recall had either been thrown around and abraded by
careless hands, or had suffered advanced fungal infection. And in an era before exposure meters had
been invented there were inevitable instances of severe over and under exposure.
It was however a case of heart over head and recognizing the sheer quality of the photography and the
historical importance of the images, I agreed to do what I could at a price far below the commercial
rate. The sum available for rescuing them was so paltry that they would undoubtedly have disappeared
for good without a hefty input of voluntary effort.
In the event, I spent an average five hours on each plate. The first challenge was simply to get a good
quality scan – an impossible feat until I managed to by-pass the limitations of the software supplied
with our Epson flat-bed scanner. Vuescan came to the rescue enabling me to scan the plates in two
halves with sufficient overlap to auto-merge them in PhotoShop. The results of this rather bizarre
technique proved surprisingly good, though with hindsight I would have done far better to upgrade to
one of Epson's newer scanners – had I realized they can scan a plate in one shot.
Much of the re-touching in Photoshop was on a scale I have never experienced before. At times I was
selecting material from several different plates to fill in missing detail, but fortunately there was never
any risk of imposing my own interpretation on the originals.
The end result has more than justified the effort. Of the fifty plates I worked on, forty-seven yielded
gallery quality A3+ prints which are now on public display at Resipole Studios in North Argyll. All
were printed on an archival matte paper using IJC/OPM and visitors to the gallery have been full of
praise for the fresh look of the prints and the sheer amount of detail they convey. Few if any are aware
that they are viewing inkjet prints. Indeed conventional "wet" prints of an acceptable standard could
never have been produced from glass negatives in such a dire state.
IJC/OPM has played a major part in all this. Three years ago I would have fought shy of committing
myself to producing a long run of monochrome gallery prints. Bloodied and demoralized by
inexplicable magenta casts, bouts of metamarism and blocked jets caused by misadventures with third party
ink vendors I was ready to throw in the towel. It says much for the efforts of Charles James and
Joe Berndt at BowHaus that I now actually prefer making black and white prints to full colour ones!