No compromises in quality: FineArt inkjet papers from sustainable raw materials. Image: Hahnemühle
Sustainability is also a theme in premium image printing. The upcoming photokina presents the trends: unique fine art inkjet paper from unusual, sustainable raw materials like hemp, bamboo and agave as alternatives to paper made of wood pulp. "Green" paper need not mean a loss of quality, as is shown, for example, by the Natural Line papers from the Hahnemühle company, which are celebrating their German premiere at photokina in 2020.
Paper of hemp, bamboo and agave require no optical brighteners. They convince with their respective special surface feel and optics and are thus exceptionally well-suited for artist papers, as they have been produced by Hahnemühle since 1584.
Newly discovered classic: Hemp
The manufacture of paper was inconceivable for centuries without hemp. Paper was already produced from hemp in China in 140 BC and spread from there around the world. From 75 to 90 percent of paper used worldwide was produced from hemp until 1883. Due to the manufacture of paper from wood pulp, which was discovered and perfected in the 19th century, hemp paper disappeared from the market, because it could not be produced at such a large scale as its competitor.
This is still today one of the major disadvantages of hemp, given the still high worldwide consumption of paper at present: in comparison with easy-to-maintain beech forests, which only need to be replanted every 80 to 100 years, hemp fields require more space and must be replanted annually. The wholesale cultivation of hemp is also not permitted, which means that the effort and the yield involved are (still) entirely out of proportion from an economic perspective.
Hemp, Agave & Bamboo are ecologically sensible alternatives in paper production. Image: Hahnemühle
In ecological and quality terms, however, hemp is a good alternative for the manufacture of paper: it grows quickly and nearly everywhere without special requirements in terms of soil or climate. Instead of exhausting soil, hemp improves soil quality and requires no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Every part of the plant can be used – seeds, leaves and stems. Hemp also binds carbon emissions to a high degree. Due to its extremely robust fibres, hemp is especially predestined for durable paper.
The Gutenberg bible and the American Declaration of Independence were already written on hemp paper and can still be admired as originals today in museums. Hemp paper has a light white natural tone and, due to the light white hemp fibres, requires no optical brighteners. The slightly textured surface lends the paper a pleasant, velvety soft surface feel.
Bamboo & Agave - Other paper alternatives
Bamboo paper is a natural white colour and has a warm tone with a soft, slight felt texture. Bamboo is one of the quickest growing plants in the world and, with growth of up to one metre per day, even in exhausted soils. It grows 20 to 30 times faster than wood and can be harvested every five years without damaging the plant. In addition to this, it requires less water than other crops and no fertilisers or pesticides. Other positive effects: bamboo sheds leaves throughout the year. The result is natural compost, which transforms degraded soils into acreage.
Thanks to a strong root system, bamboo prevents soil erosion. By binding CO2, especially in the first years of growth, bamboo reduces greenhouse gases even more than wood. The biggest disadvantage so far: bamboo is only cultivated in China and involves long transport routes – a burden for the CO2 balance.
The sisal fibres acquired from the agave have a light white natural tone. The slightly rough surface texture lends motifs a special depth effect. The agave is also an undemanding plant that grows in the dry areas of the world. It requires around four years until harvesting. In this growth phase, other plants like corn or beans can be cultivated between the agave plants. Cultivation thus counters the prevalence of monocultures and improves the soil quality through the humification of harvest residue.
Like hemp, the agave plant also requires no fertilisers or pesticides, as well as less water than crop plants. The leaves of the agave can be harvested several times a year over a period of up to 15 years. Here, the obstacle once again lies in long transport routes from the dry growing regions in the rest of the world.
Paper and printing service providers at photokina 2020
Which paper is right for which photo product also depends upon many factors and is ultimately also a matter of taste. Important to consider, not only for fine art prints, are the requirements of the printing profile, depending upon the selected paper, in order to achieve the best printing results possible.
Besides Hahnemühle, many more paper manufacturers and printing service providers will be exhibiting at photokina 2020 and are happy to advise you about the variety of options available for printing images.