I came across this article while researching the existence and possibility of printing on one of my favorite bromide photographic printing papers, Luminos Pastel Antique Ivory. I have a few prints left that I made in my darkroom and I cherish them as the last analog work I did. I also used this paper to hand print 150+ little prints from my travels that I signed and then gave as wedding favors on our wedding day. This paper has inspired my photographic vision to this day. It’s wonderful feeling matte finish and antique ivory base impressed me the first time I saw an image develop in the tray and felt the photograph in my hands when it was dry.
The image above is a straight scan of my neg on the left and my darkroom interpretation on the right. In my mind, it’s the way my image was meant to be seen and the way I saw the image the day I photographed the scene. I am so grateful for the insight that traditional photographic (and sensitometry-I’ll talk about that in another post) practices have given my vision to this day.
One thing that most photographers today miss out on is that ‘magic’ of watching an image come to life from a blank piece of paper right in front of them and then the feeling of the paper itself. It is something not to be forgotten. I think too many of today’s digital photographers only get as far as that instant gratification on screen and then never get to the printing part which is so critical to the craft. Seeing a photographic print was one of the main reasons I was pulled into photography in the first place. I still have all my darkroom equipment and think about setting it up again one day. I also have a 24×36″ contact printer I built that I would love to start using for alternative process photographic prints.
For now, I am such an advocate of printing my work. I am still able to choose beautiful papers for printing and this is an important part of my creative process. One of my favorite giclee or digital pigment ink papers is Hahnamuhle Bamboo Fine Art paper. I also continue to shoot film. Not as much as I would like. The new films are incredible and the technology has advanced so much that they produce some of the most amazing color depth and feeling that digital cannot reproduce. When I see a highly sharpened image (obviously made digitally) compared to a film image it reminds me of the difference between watching a soap opera vs watching a movie like Lawrence of Arabia. I think this is why I tend to “break down” my digitally captured photographs today which gives my work such a unique look.
Many of my favorite artists today, including Joni Sternbach, Vivian Maier and Jonathan Canlas used or are still using chemically processed photographic techniques. There is no digital substitute for the process you engage in while creating images in the traditional way.
Be sure to check out the great resource Artsy has on the work of Vivian Maier.