Saturday, July 12, 2008

Light In The Darkroom

I spent all day standing alongside the printer at the custom black and white lab I use, one of the last in existence in Sydney. I watched as he began to print the first of a dozen monochrome images I will show at the end of the month. It's slow, somewhat tedious work that demands close attention to exposure values, grain and 'soak time' to achieve exhibition-quality prints. Still, there's something satisfying about producing images using the now anachronistic chemical process. Photographs hand-printed onto fibre-based paper are still noticeably more refined than digital prints: the image emerges from within the paper, creating distinctive textures that are somehow more substantial than mere differences of light and shadow.
The custom printer is an artisan. The best imbue something of themselves in every print. The photographer might capture a particular instance – Cartier-Bresson called it "the decisive moment" – but the skilled printer draws out the deeper resonance of that instance.

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