Recently the Autotype gravure tissue that was popular with printers using the copperplate method was discontinued – this is a company that’s been in business since the 1800s. So now we have a situation, according to Dick Sullivan at Bostick and Sullivan, where the 500 ateliers around the world who are making gravures, and who rely on this tissue, have to immediately find a replacement.

Dick has been making tissue for the carbon transfer process mechanically for the past few years and naturally he would be the guy these printers would turn to in a situation like this. And they have. So now Dick’s under a lot of pressure to formulate and manufacture a gravure tissue quickly. Very quickly. Many of these ateliers are professional, commercial businesses and rely on a high quality product like this for their survival.

Now, I’m sure that Dick will come up with a replacement product and we hope that until he does, there will be as few casualties from all this as possible. And, of course, polymer plates will one day go the same way as the Autochrome tissue, perhaps sooner than we’d like and they certainly won’t be around for over 100 years like Autochrome. But here’s a situation where isn’t it advantageous to be ahead of the game and be using new technology, instead of being the purist, the traditionalist, relying on products that have essentially been around in the same guise for over a hundred years? I’m certainly not implying that there’s no place for those who wish to strictly follow traditional working methods – I used to be one of those people and you have to admire their dedication – but as a commercial printer in the 1980s I learnt to never entirely rely on one or two particular products because they can, and will, disappear just as quickly as they arrive. This normally occurs after you’re one third of the way through printing an exhibition for a client who just loves the new paper…

But in the last decade I’ve come to love the freedom that new technologies have empowered me with, especially when adapting and merging these technologies. I’m determined not to be in the same situation Frederick Evans found himself in when he gave up photography because the platinum paper he loved so much became unavailable.