What Is a Giclée? or How Do You Do It?

What Is a Giclée? or How Do You Do It?

tree_WEBThe image below left is an older analog darkroom print. The one on the right is a digital print processed in Silver Effects. If anything the antique toned digital print is more attractive to me than the other one. Mind you many years exist between them, and I would now be better in the darkroom if I still had one.

What to say? The eternal problem – what does one call the process of digital printing? I recall a comely young woman in a gallery in Barcelona telling me that the process by which the artist made their images was a very well kept secret-(it was ink jet on p3palms04WEBaper made to resemble canvas.) We had a lot of fun making up secrets for our work over lunch. I have a few photos going up next week and in making labels I faced this quandary. I have friends-both painters and photographers- who refer to their digital creations as giclée prints. This term was made up in the 1990s by Jack Duganne who thought it sounded more artsy than digital print, or inkjet print. Those latter terms were thought to be too technical and non-artistic than this elegant French word sounded. Looking up the meaning all I could find was that it was the past participle of gicler – to squirt. Thus a giclée print is a squirted print. That is a very accurate term for the process of having tiny print heads squirting equally tiny droplets of ink onto the paper. This word however is a common slang word for other acts of squirting, especially that practiced by coming of age French jeunes hommes. I recall that in medical school there was a group who pronounced centimeter as sahn-ti-mee-tur trying to put a sort of nasal accent on the first syllable. I asked a trusted professor about this and he told me, “Oh, ignore them, they are just trying to show off. There’s no such word, they’re making fools of themselves.”

There is such a word as giclée though, it has been give a definition and it works to resolve the dilemma. There is an interesting discussion of digital printing, the early story of Nash editions, and the creation of this word and meaning written by Harald Johnson well known printer, teacher, and writer. You can read it if you  Click Here.

I am a somewhat shy person. I labelled my prints as Digital Image/Archival Inkjet Print. I did this because that is in fact what they were.

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