For every serious photographer, there is at least one photograph that, it is hoped, would be treasured by the grandchildren.
This may be a fanciful concept in our throw-away, or should I say, recycle society, but some of us continue to hope. With that in mind, it helps to know how to at least achieve the physical part of the process.
The history of truly archival photographic prints starts with the Iris printers used by Graham Nash (yes, the rock star) and others. They were expensive to use, buy and maintain. He had four of them and said it took a man full time to keep three of them running.
They did, however, produce beautiful, essentially permanent, prints. It was for them that the term, giclee was coined. It is derived from the French word for squirt.
Nash tells the story of making an Iris print for Jamie Wyeth that ended up in a gallery show, because the original painting was late for the opening due to shipping problems. No one detected the switch even after the original was displayed and the print went to the person for whom it was made as a gift.
Nash also said privately that the Iris expense was to become unnecessary because new pigmented ink printers would be reliable, affordable and produce hard-to-imagine quality. That was more than a dozen years ago, and now you and I can produce prints at home that are rated to last at least a couple of hundred years and look beautiful. These are now generally called giclee. This process is commonly used by artists to provide a less costly way for clients to purchase their work.
There are many other image printing processes. Dye-based ink printers are very popular, inexpensive, produce good color, and produce prints that last about five years when kept out of sunlight. Posters are most often printed with lithography for volume and cost. Various mergings of wet processing with digital are available from labs everywhere.
For me the giclee process is my favorite, by far. I use it every week or so and have since Nash recommended it to me. When matted archivally, I prefer simply white eight-ply museum board, and, framed in black wood or metal, the images can live in any room décor.
I hope my grandchildren will agree.