To Giclee or Not To Giclee

…How about not Giclee (pronounced zhee-clay) and instead, archival pigment ink print… or more simply, pigment ink print. Sure they do not roll off the tongue in the same way as the French Giclee does, but it is an honest and transparent way of identifying the process.

Any internet search for the word Giclee will tell you that Jack Duganne appropriated the term in 1991 to classify digital prints made on inkjet printers. At the time words like inkjet and digital prints had negative connotations and Mr. Duganne thought that a better word may elevate them to high art and appeal more to gallerists. So he adapted the french word “gicler” meaning “to squirt, spurt, or spray” or as a noun “giclee.” At the time it may have been a good move on Mr. Duganne’s part and I am not going to argue that he was right or wrong, but 21 years later I think it is time to reassess his neologism.

One major problem with his word choice is that “giclee” in french is also slang for male ejaculation, which is enough of a reason to completely remove the word from any kind of photographic printing process and save photographers all over the world from the potential embarrassment. Another reason to move on to using “pigment ink print” (or some variation there of) is that inkjet printing does not have the same negative connotations as it did in 1991. Pigment ink prints are now available with a color gamut and subtlety that surpasses either Iris prints or c-prints while also offering the best lightfastness and overall archival stability. Museums and fine art galleries do not label these prints as giclees but as inkjet prints or pigment ink prints because they accept the digital technology and are not ashamed to make it transparent. We no longer need an inappropriate neologism of a french word to elevate inkjet printing in the eyes for the art world; It can now stand on its own as a beautiful printing process deserving of a place in the history of photography.

By: Patrick Allen

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