Sacabo’s early portfolios are toned silver gelatin prints. Later and current works are photopolymer gravures printed on handmade Japanese tissue and chine-colléd on to velvet rag paper. All images are printed by the artist.
Sacabo’s transition from silver to gravure began as photography moved from chemical to digital. Her silver gelatin papers of choice were repeatedly discontinued. “From the moment I made my first gravure,” Sacabo explains, “I realized I’ve been trying to do this for thirty years in the darkroom … jumping through every hoop I can think of to come up with this effect. This is what I’ve been looking for. And there’s no way they can make it obsolete.”
First developed in the 1830s, photogravure is a printmaking process whereby light sensitive chemicals are used to etch a photographic image onto a copper plate. The plate is then inked and pressed on to paper to produce an image.
Photopolymer gravures, a modern adaptation of the 19th century process, use UV light and water instead of chemicals to create the plate, which is then inked and pressed in the traditional way. There are many steps in creating the final print, all crucial to Sacabo’s manifestation of the image.
John Stevenson wrote:
“An exquisite form of image making, the hand-made photogravure is the aristocrat of the rarest, arcane photographic processes. Early masters, Steiglitz, Steichen, Strand, all considered photogravures to be the most sensitive means of aesthetic expression. But it is a method so fine and difficult that it has ever since teetered on the edge of extinction in the modern world. In her mastery of gravure, with her eye and heart now extended to her hand, virtually no other important photographer today shows such a constellation of qualities.”