The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution has recently acquired the original Iris 3047 printer that started the fine art digital printmaking revolution.
Director Brent Glass, Graham Nash, Steve Boutler, curator Shannon Perich and Mac Holbert pose with the newly donated IRIS printer on Aug. 12.
Photo by Hugh Talman ©2005
In a ceremony at the National Museum of American History, Graham Nash and partner, R. Mac Holbert, on behalf of Nash Editions, donated an IRIS printer to the museum’s photographic history collection, an early example of how new technology was adapted by Nash Editions to produce not only fine art prints, but a new business model.
The museum also received an Apple II fx computer, a 1989 IRIS print of David Crosby (the first print created at Nash Editions) from a negative created by Nash in 1969 as well as eight B&W images from a digitally produced portfolio by Horace Bristol, one of the original Time/LIFE photographers.
Nash Editions, founded by Nash and Holbert in 1989, was born when Tokyo’s Parco Gallery approached Nash about exhibiting 35 of his personal photos in groups of 50 34-by-46 inch prints. Although the IRIS printer was designed as a color-proofing device for commercial printing, Nash decided to experiment with the printer in order to produce the 1,750 large-scale photos. Located in Manhattan Beach, Calif. the company focuses on digital imaging and printing and is recognized as the world’s first fine art digital printmaking studio.
Douglas Kirkland, Richard Ehrlich, Peter Ralston and Joshua Greene of Milton H. Greene Archives, Inc, clients of Nash Editions, are also donating various prints produced by the IRIS printer.
Nash Editions purchased the IRIS 3047 in 1989 from IRIS Graphics in Bedford, Mass., and used it until December 31, 2004. By the 1990s, IRIS printers were capable of accommodating various grades of inks, cloth and paper. The printers use ink-jet technology and can produce a range of works, including posters, textiles and fine art photography.
“The IRIS printer will stand as a symbol of change within the world of professional digital photography,” said the museum’s director, Brent D. Glass. “Nash Editions’ contributions as well as an earlier acquisition from photographer John Paul Caponigro, are excellent examples of where art, science and technology meet to produce wonderful objects and influence a whole medium,” he added.
Nash, one of the founding members of the rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, sold a collection of more than 2,000 prints in 1990 and used much of the proceeds to create Nash Editions. Under the creative eye of long time friend R. Mac Holbert, a team of artists and technicians spent a year of research and development before Nash Editions opened to the public in July of 1991. In addition to digital imaging and collecting, Nash has been a serious photographer since the age of 11. In 1994, Steidl published a collection of Nash’s photographs entitled “Eye to Eye: Photographs by Graham Nash.”
The photographic history collection, begun by the Smithsonian in 1896, is the first collection of photography in a U.S. museum and holds 12,000 pieces of photographic equipment and 200,000 images that capture the history, art, and science of photography. Nineteenth-century photography is especially well represented and includes paper photographs as well as equipment and studio sets. The history of amateur photography and photojournalism are also preserved in the collection along with cameras used by Eadweard Muybridge and the work of 20th-century masters such as Richard Avedon and Edward Weston.
The collection began to focus on digital photography following the events of Sept. 11 when many of the initial images were captured and transmitted by digital technology. In addition to Nash Editions’ contribution, the museum has acquired John Paul Caponigro’s collection that shows one photographer’s move from conventional photography to digital, including his equipment, software and printers. The digital photo history collection also includes the first consumer color digital camera (for under $1,000) that connected to a computer, the Apple Quick Take 100; photographs of Shanksville, Pa. that were transmitted by cell phone and a digital camera used by a Pentagon employee on Sept. 11.
The National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. Collections are displayed in exhibitions that interpret the American experience from Colonial times to the present. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site at http://americanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000.