Many things separate the most notable fine-art photographers--such as George Tice, Brett Weston and the late Ansel Adams--from all the rest.
One basic difference is the printing paper that most name photographers use. It's called Oriental Seagull, and it has captured 80% of the fine-art market and runs third overall behind Kodak and Ilford.
"The reason people buy our paper is for the high silver content," said Carmen Pacella, whose Santa Ana-based company imports the paper. The paper produces a rich black tone that combines with a very white base.
"Weston, Tice, Bruce Barnbaum, Henry Gilpin and John Sexton use our product," Pacella said. "And Adams used the paper for the last 10 years of his life."
Pacella, 40, is vice president and co-owner of Oriental Photo Distributing Co., which was founded in 1978.
"We felt there was a need to get Oriental Seagull paper into the hands of many photographers," he said. "It was only available by mail order at the time. Our intention was to take the product and put it into every local camera store and every major catalogue and supply house. It took us 10 years to do it, but that's what we did. It is now available in 1,500 retailers in the country."
The paper, which costs about the same as the other two major brands, is made by Oriental Photo Industrial Co. in Japan. Pacella says the Japanese company, which has been in business since 1919, originated by making sensitized photo glass plates. The firm made the first color and black-and-white film and paper in Japan. Oriental Seagull paper came along in the early 1960s.
Noted Pacella: "Seagull in Japanese culture means purity."
Pacella's company also distributes archival print and film washers, storage boxes, magnifying glasses and photochemicals. Its target audience is printmakers, and the company plans to distribute a new variable-contrast resin-coated paper later this month.
Pacella suggests that a photographer consider a print's final destination when selecting paper. For example, if the print is to be mounted archivally, then he recommends the New Seagull G paper because of its high silver content, double weight and excellent surface for spotting, retouching and toning.
If the photographer is using the print for press photography or graphic arts, he recommends a resin-coated paper (New Seagull RP Resin Protected) because it is easy to use in the darkroom. Resin-coated paper can be printed and processed quickly because the resin protects the paper. The paper can be fixed and washed quickly, and it should last 10 or 15 years. It is not recommended for fine-art photography because it is not archival.
Print contest--Oriental Photo is sponsoring a photography contest for both amateurs and professionals. The deadline for the black-and-white print contest is June 30. Entrants in the amateur category must submit 8-by-10-inch prints. The professional category will consider prints up to 16 by 20 inches. The top prize at the regional level is $500. Entry forms are available at Oriental Photo Distributing, 3701 W. Moore Ave., Santa Ana.