Fresson Printing Process

Fresson Printing Process

Fashion Uma Patou Dress, 1986  ©  Sheila Metzner

Fashion Uma Patou Dress, 1986 © Sheila Metzner

By Paloma Broussal Lanusse


With the rise of digital photography and editing softwares like Photoshop, we seem to prioritize aesthetics of perfection and beauty without blemish. Fresson printing brings us back to a more authentic aesthetic, making mood and character a priority for the few photographers who get the chance to have their work printed by the Fresson printing workshop. 

Since Théodore-Henri Fresson invented this unique craft of printing in 1899, it has been passed down in the family for four generations. The process was initially used for monochromatic prints, and later on was used to make the first direct color carbon print. Still to this day, the Fresson family keeps some elements of the process a secret but make sure it stays alive. Located in the outskirts of Paris, their workshop is the only one in the world to produce such prints. It is distinguished in the world of photography for giving art works a long lasting, beautiful print that they deserve. We can only hope that the family will pass down their secret to someone as passionate and dedicated as them so that we can continue to be awestruck in front of new photographs.

Fendi Campidoglio, 1986  ©  Sheila Metzner

Fendi Campidoglio, 1986 © Sheila Metzner

The fascinating thing about this printing process is how unruly it is, and how the results often depend on chance. The printing is influenced by many factors like the weather and conditions it is being manipulated in. Actually, not only does it rely on chance, there is not one singular formula applied to it everytime. This means that they react, find solutions, and decide how the colors need to be modified, instantaneously. Although this is a challenge, it also means that it leaves them a lot of space to experiment. 

In the name of tradition, the Fresson family takes their craft very seriously. They give each detail its due attention, make sure everything is impeccable and put the time and effort needed into it; taking roughly six hours per print, making only about two thousand prints a year. The small scale of their production and their reputation gives them the opportunity to work with exceptional photographers. 

Textual and moody, you recognize a Fresson print when you see one. They have this particular quality to them that allows you to feel texture with your eyes. They tend to give colors a fretted, blended appearance that recall the characteristics of pastel drawings. Subtle color pallets, profound hues, and the visual effect of layered images are indicators that this printing method was used. Fresson prints make photographs look poetic, as if the weight of time had passed over and carved the grain of the paper.

EGYPT The Pyramids, 1996  ©  Sheila Metzner

EGYPT The Pyramids, 1996 © Sheila Metzner

Picturing Extinction

Picturing Extinction

Triggered!: Roger Ballen

Triggered!: Roger Ballen