Sponsored by Duggal Visual Solutions
The early 1960s were a chaotic time in American history: The Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 left the country deeply unsettled. Despite the unrest, it created an environment rich with photographic opportunities. And it was also a time that a young immigrant from Jalandhar, India, decided to start his fledgling printing business—Duggal Color—in New York City.
Always enthralled with American culture, Baldev Duggal came to the United States in 1957 with only $200 in his pocket. He had a knack for inventing things and a passion for photography. In the States, he worked odd jobs until coming upon a print production company looking for free help in exchange for office space. Duggal took the offer and began developing film in his bathtub, using the office space to advertise his processing services.
Photographers became Duggal’s clients, and because of his high-quality prints—not to mention the swelling of both the magazine publishing and advertising industries—there was endless demand for film production.
While Duggal Color hummed along, the turning point was Duggal’s own forward-thinking invention in the early 1970s: an automated dip-and-dunk machine for film processing, removing the need for hand-developing. What remains a universally used technology in film processing was the catalyst for what ultimately became the innovative business-meets-art powerhouse that is Duggal Visual Solutions. The new ethos of the business was cutting-edge technology that was faster and less expensive than its competitors.
Since then, Duggal Visual Solutions has grown in several iterations, currently taking up a 30,000 square-foot space in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, with several additional production facilities in Brooklyn. As of 2013, that includes Duggal Greenhouse, a sustainable event space in Brooklyn’s Navy Yards, which—among other things—hosted the Democratic debates in April 2016, proving that the company’s services extend far beyond print production.
Throughout its constant evolution of space and services, Duggal Visual Solutions has kept a core focus on innovative technology that keeps it on top of the industries it serves. In the late 1980s, it was the first brand to introduce RGB drum scanning and electronic retouching for photographers. Today, the company stays on the forefront of technological advances by offering services that include 3D printing, large-format graphic mural printing, prototype packaging and TV color correction.
Most recently, Duggal added another cutting-edge visual solution to their roster: HD C-Prints®. At 610 dpi, HD C-Prints® are printed at more than twice the resolution of standard photography prints. For artist-photographers like Spencer Tunick—who is best known for his large-scale, fine art photography of nudes en masse—the HD C-Print® quality is paramount. His prints typically run 30 x 37.5 inches or 48 x 60 inches in size, and often feature hundreds or thousands of subjects. “I’m working with people’s bodies and faces at long distances, and I know the viewer pays attention to detail, so for me, the extra sharpness is needed,” Tunick says. “Many labs in New York don’t even run inkjet at 300 dpi, and if you request it, it usually comes at a higher charge. I still shoot with film and drum scan the negative, and Duggal’s high-definition printer equals that of film printing through a large negative.”
Tunick switched to Duggal Visual Solutions in 1998 because the company was willing to negotiate its prices based on his needs, while still providing high-quality products and service. Because Tunick gifts each of his subjects a limited edition, 8x10-inch print in exchange for posing in his group portraits, he needed a rate that would make sense without sacrificing quality. As his compositions filled with more participants, he found that other Manhattan and Brooklyn printers couldn’t work with his budget. “I couldn’t afford to do my multi-person works and gift everyone a photograph who participated,” Tunick says. “Duggal gave me a great price. I suddenly had a project with the Musée d'art contemporain in Montreal where 2,500 people posed. It was important to have a lab that understood my practice and could give me a good price so I could extend that low price point to the museum.”
Though printing remains a key component of Duggal Visual Solutions’ business, the company is equally serious about its focus on the latest technologies in mounting and framing. The company works closely with artists to create unique mounts and frames that complement their work and add a level of gravitas. Tunick, for example, uses the company’s custom mounting services when he wants sealed plexiglass mounts, putting the emphasis on a print without any distraction. On the other end of the spectrum, New York City artist Kirsty Reeves prefers a more distinctive approach for framing and mounting her monochromatic, 30 x 30-inch photographic portraits. “Duggal mounted or framed each print in a unique fashion,” Reeves explains. “[From] the unusual combination of a float-mounted print within a shadow-box, to museum-board walls, to frames constructed from hand-finished hardwoods, [each made] specifically for my prints.”In addition to unique framing and mounting techniques, Duggal also accommodates artists who produce large-scale images. Photographer Drew Tal, for instance, enjoys Duggal’s impressive large-scale lightboxes and SEG (silicone edge graphic) frames. This past March, Duggal produced several large-scale lightboxes and SEG frames for Tal’s work to be exhibited at the 2016 Global Shop convention—where the company also garnered the show’s top awards: “Best of Competition” and “Best in Booth Design.”
Of the SEG frames, Tal says: “The results [were] stunning; I found the quality, colors, saturation, sharpness and clarity to be noticeably striking.” In addition, and of equal importance, to this was the reaction Tal received from his audience. “The enthusiastic and favorable reaction of the convention attendees and industry specialists confirmed to me that lightboxes and SEG frames are technologies I should continue to explore for my next gallery or museum exhibitions,” he explains.
Duggal’s dedication to technology allows artist-innovators to work with a wide variety of cutting-edge tools and techniques in order to precisely express their unique creative visions. With acrylic bespoke fabrication, for example, artists can create dimensional pieces and intricate 3D forms. If neon is on the docket, all a client needs to ask for is Duggal’s flexible laser/fiber optic strands, which bend, curve and wrap objects, simulating neon. And of course, there’s 3D Lenticular printing, which provides a holographic effect, giving a static image movement and depth.As recently as May 2016, Duggal introduced its newest innovation, Vibrachrome—a long-awaited and incredibly exciting solution for any artist who’s dreamt of durable metal printing. Using a heat transfer process via two cutting-edge, dye-sublimation machines, the Vibrachrome process results in a permanent, continuous tone print.
While the company motto—“Vision to Visuals”— is embodied with every new product, the resulting “wow, that’s so cool!” moment from the viewer is the true indication that Duggal’s products and services continue to remain at the forefront of visual technological advancements. As technology advances, so do the expectations of image makers and their audiences, and Duggal Visual Solution’s support of and respect for artists’ forward-thinking visions has turned Duggal’s once small, store-front printing business into the multifunctional, innovative outlet for creativity that it is today.