The Hasselblad Flextight X5 Scanner for Quality
Beauty exists in any given moment. How to reveal that beauty, and how to unveil the poetry of everyday life is the concern of renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz.
Beginning his career as a street photographer in the early 1960s, he has since amassed a huge backlog of photos.
Today, with the help of technology from HP and Hasselblad, Meyerowitz is able to explore and display the vibrancy of his earliest work. “In recent years, the ability to scan these old originals from the ‘60s and print them with the kind of authority and beauty and clarity they had when I made them has given them a new life,” says Meyerowitz. In a way, the resources of the Hasselblad Flextight X5 scanner and the HP Z3100 Series printers have allowed this work to come out into the world. So for that I’m incredibly grateful.”
Finding and rescuing the invisible moment Meyerowitz says that he sort of came into photography in 1962. His initial interest and fascination was with the immediacy of events the way things happened and then disappeared forever.
In the mid-1970s, as he continued to photograph people on the street, striving to capture what he calls the invisible moment,” he switched from 35mm to a larger format camera. It amplified the powers of description that the medium could afford me, and it amplified my own curiosity about how to describe the world I lived in.”
Flash forward to 1991, the year he decided to transfer his entire personal archive to a digital format that would allow him to access all his photos. “I have tens of thousands of pictures, rolls of film and sheets of film. And although I knew where everything was, it was always a pain in the neck to get up on a ladder, climb into the top of the loft, get the box out and find the picture. So I thought, ‘Hey, I can make a database and put all this stuff here.’
Although scanning technology was primitive by today’s standards, Meyerowitz recalls being wowed by the results. “You would put in either one slide at a time or take a strip maybe of five and make an 18-megabyte scan.”
He generated photos with a Fujix printer, and was similarly impressed. “It used a ribbon of three colors and produced really beautiful little prints. I actually made the very first museum show of digital prints ever done, at the Art Institute of Chicago back in the ‘90s. I printed out a 50-print show, and nobody could believe that it was digital prints.”
Meyerowitz meets Hasselblad Flextight X5:
Love at first scan An enormous step forward came three years ago with the introduction of the HP Designjet 130 printer. "The first print that came off the 130 was, for me, a revelation because I saw that all these years I wasn’t getting the full fidelity of the negative," says Meyerowitz.
Meyerowitz’s work process further evolved when, in preparation for a major exhibition at Jeu de paume in Paris, he was introduced to the Hasselblad Flextight X5 scanner. “ We had one of those jolts that suddenly makes you realize that even though you thought you had a really good scanner, it had by comparison so many flaws and workflow difficulties that once we had the Hasselblad Flextight X5 we thought we had landed in photographers’ heaven.” The difference? According to Meyerowitz, “It’s clean. It’s almost dust free. It has incredible software for us to make a file.” The scanned image can be opened on any computer and—using the Hasselblad software—can be manipulated “eloquently.”
For the Paris exhibition, Meyerowitz and his team merged the Hasselblad Flextight X5 scanner with the HP Designjet Z3100 printer, which features the latest HP inkjet technology. In the past, if he wanted to put together an exhibition of this importance and scope, he would have to send the original negatives to the lab. “It would take weeks of my time going back and forth to the lab—unproductive time sitting on the subway or driving in the car or waiting in the lab—and all that is finished now,” he says. “We make the scan here. We tweak it in PhotoShop. We make a quick test-print on the Z-series. We make an adjustment. We color-correct under the lights and, boom, it’s done. I don’t have to leave the studio.”
The real test for Meyerowitz’s Designjet/Hasselblad Flextight X5 system came when an exhibition of his Ground Zero prints arrived at its destination, the Museum der Arte Moderne in Salzburg, damaged and unfit for public display. With the opening of the show just days away, there was no time to panic. Meyerowitz and his team spun into action. They calculated file sizes and the time it would take to print them. “We literally left the studio at night with five or six prints in the queue, came back in the morning, and there they were: all rolled up, waiting, cut and sitting in rolls in the basket,” recalls Meyerowitz. Using the Z3100 we printed out the entire exhibition in less than three days and shipped it over to them.
I just feel like it would have been impossible if I had to go to the lab. We could not have done that show.” Currently underway is a 400-image retrospective book of Meyerowitz’s work. Every photo is scanned at his studio. The resulting file is shipped to the publisher with a reference print generated by the Z3100. “As a pre-press tool, this has turned out to be an extraordinary help. It gives them incredible color-corrected images. Even though it’s an RGB image and they’re printing CMYK, we do a conversion to CMYK for them. So I feel as if quality starts here and goes out into the world in a way that it couldn’t before.”
In addition to HP’s 12-ink system of pigmented inks, Meyerowitz appreciates consistency from print to print thanks to the embedded spectrophotometer and the HP calibration technologies built into the HP Color Center software. HP Vivera Pigment Inks, with their 200 years permanence*, also offer some solid benefits on the business side. In the not-too-distant past, there was great resistance to collecting and showing color photographs. Meyerowitz recalls, “Back in the ‘70s when I first started showing them, everyone said, ‘Oh, but they’re going to fade and why should I buy it. I’ll spend $300 on a print and it’s going to be gone in a few years.’ And museums felt the same way.” Now collectors, galleries and museums are all willing to take photos into their collections. Every time he signs a print, he writes on the back, “HP archival pigment print” because more institutions and more collectors are willing to pay $10,000 to $20,000 more for a print that is made with HP materials. “It gives collectors a great sense of security,” says Meyerowitz. He’s a big fan of HP Professional Satin paper. The Designjet Z3100 also prints on other fine-art papers, canvases and a variety of photo papers.