New book reveals strong mother-daughter bond

Innovative digital printing process used to print black-and-white photos

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Cover image from O'Neil's book, MOTHER DAUGHTER: Posing as Ourselves.

Elaine O’Neil calls the images with her daughter the “daily ritualizing of connection.” For five years, O’Neil and Julia Hess met each day to take a portrait together in front of their living room window. The
ritual began when Hess was 10 and ended on her 16th birthday.

“As a mother, I hoped to find ways to continue the connection that had thus far marked my relationship with Julia,” says O’Neil, photography professor in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. “Through various projects, pictures together had become an important part of how we understood ourselves and each other. As a photographer, creating a project centering around connection was the obvious way to foster the empowering sense of self in Julia that I sought.”

These portraits are in O’Neil’s new book, MOTHER DAUGHTER: Posing as Ourselves. Of the 1,800 images, 110 made the final cut.

“They had to be interesting photographs, interesting moments,” says O’Neil. “Often I had to select powerful images where Julia and I didn’t look good.”

O’Neil and Hess write narratives about their experience. Contributing writers Deborah Willis, Perri Klass and her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, share their insights on the family photographs and the mother-daughter connection.

Published by RIT’s Cary Graphic Arts Press, the book is a collaborative project involving RIT’s Printing Applications Laboratory, School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and the School of Print Media. RIT’s HP Indigo 5500 Digital Press was used to print the book on a new premium uncoated paper from Mohawk Fine Papers Inc., using a custom-mixed inkset of one black and three grays. It’s revolutionary to use
a digital press to make quadtone reproductions of black-and-white photographs.

“I believe this book will cause a lot of excitement in the graphic arts industry,” says David Pankow, curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. “Because of our facilities and RIT faculty researchers Nitin Sampat and Franz Sigg, we have found a way to interpret Elaine’s vision using innovative capture technology, custom test targets and state-of-the-art digital printing.”

William Garno, director of PAL, and Jeremy Vanslette, manager of Digital Printing Operations, coordinated the production process. HP and Mohawk Fine Papers Inc. are the book’s corporate sponsors. Polaroid donated the film for the project.

O’Neil and Hess will host a book signing at the opening reception of O’Neil’s photo exhibition 5-7 p.m. Sept. 17 in RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences Gallery. The exhibit runs through Oct. 2.