Cotton rag papers, also referred to as fine-art papers, consist of acid-free and lignin-free cotton fibers. These papers, which include protective coatings for resistance to pollutants, offer the greatest lightfastness. "Most of the fine-art papers are cotton rag-based, and they're buffered, meaning that they have been treated so that they're acid-free or neutral," explains Steinhardt. "This is important because all paper tends to have some acidity as it's being manufactured. It also removes lignin, which is one of those inherent things that can lead a paper to start to yellow."
Beyond issues of longevity, the way an image is reproduced on a particular paper is a big consideration. The whiteness, texture and color-reproductive qualities of a substrate make a huge difference in the final look of an image. So, it's important to consider what you want to express with each of your photographs. There's no one best paper. Evaluating color and tonality, as well as the light resistance of your prints, will round out your assessment of any photograph.
Pete Turner's Prints
Master photographer Pete Turner has been considering these elements while producing prints for a retrospective exhibition of his photographs scheduled to open at the George Eastman House Photographic Museum in Rochester, New York. For him, the choice of paper was important.
"I was tempted at one point to go with a matte-type surface," Turner says. "But I'm a photographer, and I really wanted to make photographs that look like photographs. I'm using Epson's Premium Luster paper because I think it's the closet thing to silver-halide photographic paper." Turner takes great care in handling his 17x22- and 24x36-inch prints from the moment they're produced from his Epson Stylus Pro 4800 and 7800 printers.
"You only handle prints from the opposite corners because you don't want to ding them," he says. "What we tend to do is, once the photographs are out of the printer, we put them on foam-core boards. Anytime we're moving them, we're sliding them from one board to another, and we never pick them up unless it's from opposite corners. By sliding your prints, you avoid nicking or dinging them."