the mono print

the mono print

Danny Pope studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art in 1980. His first job was painting giant murals at a hospice in East London. It was here that he learned to print from transparency. He used large Cibachrome prints as reference material to paint from, and taught himself how to print and to produce the guides for himself and for the other artists.

Cibachrome, a positive colour photographic paper allowing direct prints to be made from transparencies, only became commercially available in the 60’s. The new medium slowly developed a strong reputation for colour purity, image clarity, vivid colours and archival permanence. Notoriously hard to handle and requiring great skill and precision, Cibachrome was tough to master, but in the right hands it produced results that no other printing technique could match.

In 1983, after a period as an apprentice at a dye transfer studio, Danny opened his own company, Matchless Prints Ltd in Clerkenwell, London. An early adopter and a fast learner, he quickly developed a deep understanding of hand printing Cibachromes in the dark room at his studio.

Terence Donovan was particularly supportive and, despite Danny’s lack of formal training and the fact he was only 23, encouraged him to go into business for himself. This bold move at such a young age set the tone for one of the most innovative, passionate and unique photographic printers around. Working on large and medium format he was soon taking on Cibachrome work for other luminaries including Norman Parkinson and Brian Griffin.

Danny became a pioneer of Cibachrome printing, and his career quickly took off with the rise of colour photography in magazines at that time. Danny’s client list included some of the most talented and revered names in photography, and he printed many of the iconic images of fashion, art, music, portraiture and advertising during the 80s and 90s. Tim Page once said that “Danny sprinkled his prints with gold dust”.

Being self-taught is inevitably a process of experimentation and exploration using unconventional methods. His passion, commitment to perfection, and innovative techniques, quickly developed an international reputation.

Danny won the first Ilford Printer of the Year Award given to a colour printer in 1993, and since then won several more Ilford Photographic awards, and British Picture Editor’s awards. This in a world where serious photography had been entirely dominated by the black and white print.

Pope has worked as a professional colour photographic printer for over thirty-five years. His passion and reputation has connected him with some of the best known photographic artists of the 20th Century, including Terence Donovan, Corinne Day, Terry O’Neill, David Bailey, David Hiscock and Eve Arnold.

His treasured archive of test prints, gifts, and signed copies from his photographers, illuminates his philosophy, articulating his story without words.

The collection presents an extraordinary insight into his thinking, and that of the photographers he has worked with, unfolding his practice emphatically for anyone who is a student of photography, or who is inspired to create their own work in print.

The archive includes artist proofs and dedicated prints that delve into the intimate yet discreet working relationship between photographer and printer, and the personalities behind the scenes of the photographic printing process.

Unearthed from the plan chests and boxes in his studios, the archive provides an intimate window into the photographic process. An intimate yet discreet window to the working relationship between the photographer and printer, and the personalities involved behind the scenes throughout the photographic printing process. 

At a London show curated by Eddie Otchere, he noted the enormous inspirational vision of the archive. Eddie focussed on Eve Arnold’s prints, as he had had a particularly close relationships with Eve, presenting a series of talks and workshops to accompany the exhibition, designed to give photographers and printers from both analogue and digital backgrounds a forum to share their knowledge, skills and experience.

“ The desire for perfection with the hardest of media to hand print, the Cibachrome, is what formed me as a printer. Working with Linda McCartney and Eve Arnold on their retrospectives, were defining moments in my career” (Danny Pope)

Pope produced the prints for the launch of Arnold’s book ‘in Retrospect’ along with the prints shown at the Barbican in 1993, and then in New York. The exhibition in London ‘Eve Arnold x Danny Pope’ 2013 – not only credited the analogue photographic process, but honours the value of the print as a core component of photography. This is still incredibly relevant today; the final print is significant, whether it is hand or digitally produced.

Pope worked with Linda McCartney on the hand prints for her retrospective of her instinctive and personal documentation of music of the 60s, including the book launch for ‘Sixties’.

It is Pope’s philosophy that the art form of photography is the life of the artist or what they lived through and documented through the camera.

He has an abiding reverence for documentary photography as a whole, and the importance of the print as the embodiment of ’every photograph is a certificate of presence’.  

He has continued to work on book launches and retrospectives from the graffiti artist Elk to Derek Santina, David Bailey, Andrew Catlin, David Hiscock, Gian Paolo Barbieri and Ray Petri, leading him to evolve through analogue into digital mediums.

Pope is one of the rare few who has been able to translate the skills of wet printing to the digital domain, taking digital printing to a new level.

It would seem that the digital era would mark the death knell for the craft of hand printing, or at least banish it to the realms of novelty. But Danny doesn’t see it this way, and has embraced the digital medium while bringing to it some of the unique aspects of an analogue approach. Each new print is started afresh, and may be produced in a different way, with a different emphasis as time changes the context of an image, or the mood of the photographer or printer alters.

His dedication to the artist and photographer has led Pope to the idea that that the embodiment of the vintage print in the analogue form was not just in the fact of the hand controlling the light over paper, nor in papers that are no longer available. It was in fact of their uniqueness – from the contact sheet, to the exhibition print to the polaroid. Each has their own innate hand-held beauty The film was the generic; the source. With this in mind Pope was clear, whether from high resolution non profiled and unadulterated scans that he has created, or from raw digitally shot files, he wanted to reflect that quality of uniqueness.

Pope’s position is that there should be creation of a ‘digital negative’, an original, that allows the print file to be worked on as a hand printer did in a dark room with their hands, to become a proof then a print, individually or for an edition. And that this becomes the ‘mono print’ from the printer’s eye. The vitally simple concept lies in ‘respect of time’, and frame, and ultimately the relationship between the photographic print and time.

Once the final print is created and signed off by the artist, the print file is deleted. Leaving only the ‘digital source negative’ on file, unaltered from it’s original form. The process can be created again into another print, but never identical to the one before.

That is in his opinion the only way to preserve the original unadulterated connection to the original subject, and that innate beauty and uniqueness of the analogue vintage print.

This process restores the provenance, importance and presence of the signed photographic print, protecting the individuality of the moment, and the working relationship between photographer and printer.

In an age where profiles and machine orientated perfection aspire to uniformity and tedious repetition, and every image is expected to be retouched to the point where it is unrecognisable from the subject,

Pope believes as a printer, a print can only be created faithfully by starting from the beginning, creating a unique and beautifully crafted artefact of the photographic process. He uses the highest quality cotton or fibre based archival paper. He has even developed his own ‘spot varnished’ finish to protect and add depth to the image.

His archive is an important historical document; a unique record of the processes, papers and technologies used for some of the iconic images of our time. A record of thirty five years of work from London to Milan, from the 80’s to the 00’s, by a master printer with an impeccable eye.

Illustrating how it has all come full circle, interest in analogue is on the rise, leaving Pope to point out that the ‘grammar of photography’ remains the same. Photography is the print, and everything else is taking pictures.

His captivating mono prints in exhibitions at Paul Smith London, in Milan, in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery London and the Berlin Art Museum, remain a testament to the growing relevance of the print in a digital era. while the rapid rise of photographic prints as a collectable art form, appearing increasingly in the fine art auctions underpins the resurgence of the commercial value of his craft.

Today, Danny Pope is printing in Italy and has also opened a print studio at Holborn Studios London, and continues to work in Italy. Current projects include work with Derrick Santini, Andrew Catlin, Bill Beech and Caroline Tisdall, including work for a series of books.