Sponsored by Duggal Visual Solutions
Were you to stroll into Manhattan’s Elga Wimmer PCC gallery on a Thursday evening in early September, you would’ve seen photographer Mitchel Gray’s 30 x 40-inch portraits of professional athletes and Olympians captured in-studio, in the throws of their sport.
Gray’s large-scale print series, titled “Bodies in Action,” features sportsmen and women—who are at the top of their game in fencing, football, archery, water polo and other sports—pictured alone, or in competition with digitally cloned versions of themselves.
The portraits are epic not only in the way they capture each athlete’s movements, but also because they evoke the underlying drama that can arise during competition. This is the kind of art Duggal Visual Solutions founder Baldev Duggal loved to champion.
After Duggal’s passing in June of 2016, Gray’s “Bodies in Action” exhibit not only became a tribute to Baldev—who The New York Times described as “the patriarch of the film-processing industry”— it was an example of his love and devotion to technological innovation.
That focus on technology is immediately evident in the display of Gray’s images, some of which are printed—not on canvas or paper, but on a thin sheet of metal with every spectrum of skin tone, sweat particles and body hair fully refined for the viewer.
WORKING THE TECHNOLOGY
Printing an entire spectrum of color on metal took a few years to perfect. But Duggal Visual Solutions made the innovative prints happen for Gray’s narrative using the company’s two-part heat-transfer process, called Vibrachrome.
“I did a few test prints when we were negotiating with different houses,” Gray says. “I have a history of printing with Duggal, and the conversation with them turned to the option of printing on paper with a metallic finish, or actually printing on metal with Vibrachrome.”
Vibrachrome is one of the innovations that keeps Duggal Visual Solutions in highest esteem in the photo industry. Technically speaking, the process is “enhanced dye-sublimation to metal,” but in layman’s terms, Vibrachrome is the best way to transfer ink to metal using heat—and have it look flawless.
Using the technology of two different complementary machines, it works like this: First, a machine slowly produces a 1440 dpi print onto a specially coated paper; then, the second machine heats the print to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and transfers it onto the metal sheet. As the water in the ink evaporates, the ink changes from a solid to gaseous state, creating a permanent and smooth coating. In other words, it’s science.
With Gray’s tactile-feeling images of athletes, it was imperative to keep every highlight and retain the same detail he would’ve had on paper with a high dpi print. To Gray’s delight, the results exceeded his expectations. “[The photos] stand up spectacularly at 30 by 40 inches, and they just get better the bigger they get,” Gray says. “The metal canvas is smooth, thin and provides a different look. The process is beautiful—as long as the people [printing the image] know how to do it, and obviously Duggal does.”
The way Duggal has perfected its Vibrachrome process directly aligns with the company’s ethos: that great companies can only thrive when they evolve. After all, where would Apple be without the evolution of the iPhone? Or Netflix, had it never begun offering original content? In that same vein, Duggal understands that staying competitive in the photography industry means constantly offering new tools that let artists evolve their craft.
THE NEXT INNOVATION
The latest in the company’s cadre of products is dimensional printing, which lets customers experiment with a rare visual realm: 3D. Only an hour of thought can conjure up a thousand creative ideas in the three-dimensional space. Consider a photograph of a green leaf in a rainforest with tiny water droplets printed three-dimensionally, bubbling up as the viewer gets closer to the image, or a portrait of a man whose hand appears to be reaching out of the print and toward the viewer, beckoning him or her forward.
This three-dimensional effect is perfected by Duggal’s capabilities using a true flatbed UV-inkjet printer that can output 206 square meters per hour at mammoth sizes. While other printers only use one printing head, Duggal’s has two, making it ideal for fast-turnarounds of large-scale banners, posters and signage—the kind of imagery that can be seen from 30 feet away.
In truth, 3D is only one aspect of this powerful printer’s capabilities; the versatile machine can easily conquer exhibit displays and architectural graphics as well. It even excels at lenticular printing, letting artists create an illusion of depth and the most realistic perspective in their work.
The best part about Duggal’s dimensional printing is its precision and fast productivity. Made for high-speed, heavy bulk print orders, the printer’s Print & Prepare technology allows for loading new media while it’s still working on a previous job.
For photographers, dimensional printing and Vibrachrome technologies are only two of the many ways that Duggal is uniquely equipped to make art stand out and be noticed in a saturated market. From Baldev Duggal’s independent, photo-printing storefront in the late 1960s, to the now-30,000 square-foot space in the Flatiron District, and several production facilities in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, all of Duggal Visual Solutions’ growth and success points back to one devotion: technological evolution. For Duggal, the drive is about pushing the dial of technology and producing new products that elevate photographers’ work to its highest potential.
Explore Duggal’s variety of services—including Vibrachrome and 3D printing—and learn more about the endless possibilities they offer your work at duggal.com or by calling (212) 242-7000.