Interview With Charles Cramer

After seven years of studying classical piano, Charles Cramer visited Yosemite National Park. Realizing the similarities between interpreting music and interpreting a negative, he soon became enamored with making prints. He is now recognized as a master printmaker. His prints are available internationally through many galleries

You mention on your website that you had two revelations in your early years. Can you describe those revelations?

I spent my youth as a musician, staying indoors and practising the piano for 6 hours a day.  When I first visited Yosemite at the age of 24, it was a revelation, since I had not really been amongst nature. I realised I wanted to be out of the little practice rooms!   After seeing some of Ansel Adams’ fine prints, I realised also that photography too could be an art form. I became a disciple of the “cult of the fine print”, and wanted to make prints that were as brilliant as those of Adams, who also started life as a pianist. Actually, interpreting either a negative or a musical score, is very similar.

We know that you started with large format film cameras and still photograph with them. You printed also with the dye transfer system.  Can you say a few words about this?

To make prints like Ansel Adams, I needed a 4x5 camera and did almost all 4x5 work for 30 years. During that time I upgraded to a Linhof Master Technika, but, in 2006, a digital camera (Phase One P45) was produced that offered 39 megapixels. After some intensive testing, I decided that this digital camera could make 30x40 inch prints that were very close to what I obtained with 4x5 film. 4x5 still had a very slight edge in resolution, but I felt all the other benefits of digital capture outweighed that. So I made the switch, and have not used my 4x5 since. Also, I have upgraded over the past few years to even more megapixels.

I started making prints in B&W, but soon was interested also in making color prints. Back in the early 80’s, the available processes were not that good, but there was one way to make prints that had a mythical reputation - the dye transfer process. When I started, I didn’t realise what I was getting into - because dye transfer can take over your life. It is so time-consuming and complex that it takes a long time to make a print, but, it offered control over the image that at the time was unmatched. I had a love/hate relationship with ...

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