I’ve spent several days in my darkroom this week, processing film and printing photographs for several upcoming books
I work primarily with black and white film. I have had a darkroom – the same one – for four decades. It’s a fine darkroom, with white walls, custom-made for me by a friend who was both a photographer and a carpenter. It contains two 4x5 enlargers, a professional print washer, and the usual film processing equipment. The area outside the darkroom contains a mounting area and print drying rack.
I’ve learned to create fine negatives and prints in this room using the best film, papers, equipment and advice that I could find. Photographic films and papers have changed significantly; many of my early prints were done with papers that I wish I had now. However, there are new papers and films available that are still of high quality, but different from the earlier ones. Vintage prints – the prints a photographer makes soon after creating the image – are usually considered by collectors to be more desirable than prints produced later by the photographer or by other printers. However, most photographers see more in their films and contact sheets years after they were created and thus create prints later in their lives that they did not choose to print (or did not have time to print) earlier in their careers.
I love film, particularly black and white as well as Kodachrome (no longer available), but I also use some digital photographs in blogs and in presentations. This morning I used my iPhone to make this photograph in our kitchen, in the one minute and thirty seconds that the microwave oven took to reheat my second cup of coffee.
This image is very different from the black and white photographs I’ve been working on this week. Different, not better or worse.
The most profound difference resulting from digital technology in photography is that one can make an image – or scan an existing analogue image – and send it almost immediately to people throughout the world. They can respond to that photograph or ignore it. Technology has allowed us to publish our own photographs, essays and books, and share them with others at virtually no cost.
I’m pleased to share this image with you, and I’m looking forward to going back into the darkroom later today to work with other images. I’ll share some of them with you later.