Essential Equipment

If you’re in the middle of inking plates for printing, how do you move a clean sheet of moistened paper to the inked plate on the press without leaving fingerprints?

I’ve been taking the Alternative Photographic Processes class at the Academy of Art, from Maureen Delaney,  in San Francisco this semester – in pursuit (part time) of my BFA in photography. My final project is a small essay printed in polymer gravure.

As I was moving an inked plate to my Takach Floor Etching Press, I forgot “How do I move the moistened Ruscombe Mills Margaux paper to the press without fouling the paper with ink from my hands?”

The answer is enormously trivial, but profoundly useful. Folded in half playing cards. I learned this (forgot, then remembered) in the workshop with Jon Goodman on copper plate photogravure. Near the two presses were folded Bicycle playing cards. You grab two with your inked hands, lift the plastic sheet keeping the paper moist, slide a card into the stack to grab a single sheet, and lift and grab with other card and move to the press.

The plastic coated cards do not get wet from the paper. They are very thin and tough. When you fold them in half, they retain a springiness that make them like BBQ tongs when you grab the paper.

Sometimes solutions to a problem in photography are cheap and simple. And in retrospect, obvious.

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