Photogravure ( or Héliogravure) is a photographic image produced from an engraving plate-an expensive and rarely used process today. Through the transfer of etching ink from an etched copperplate to special dampened paper run through an etching press, this process creates an image that registers an extraordinary variety of tones. This unique tonal range comes from photogravure’s variable depth of etch–the shadows are etched many times deeper than the highlights unlike the halftone processes that merely vary dot size. The prints produced via this process have the subtle tones of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph, making them extraordinarily collectible items.
Heliogravure or Photogravure, is the oldest procedure for reproducing photographic images. It was first invented in the early 19th century by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, of France, and later perfected by Talbot, Niepce de Saint-Victor, Baldus and Klic. The process involves two distinct steps. First, in a complex photochemical procedure that creates the intaglio surface, the photographic image is fixed and etched upon a specially prepared copper plate. The finished plate is then placed on a hand-turned press, and the image is printed onto dampened etching paper using special inks.