Darkroom, prints, wet prints. What it is?

Today I will be printing my first prints, and by those, I dont really mean I haven’t printed my photos before, I have. I have had mural sized prints (24 x 36″) from both my film and digital based images. I have also printed contact prints before from my large format negatives.

However, what has since changed is that my analogue workflow has gone full wet. What’s that? Well, that means, that I have reverted to what has been the conventional workflow since say nearly a 100 years – the silver gelatin print, as printed from a negative – and, via enlarging. The enlarging process is probably around since 80 years or so.

So what is the process, what will I be doing? I will be taking a negative, projecting it onto a light-sensitive paper for a specific period of time and then developing that paper in paper-developing chemicals to obtain a photographic print! Sounds easy enough, you say? Any schmuck could do it, you say? Well, yes and no. Yes, every one can ride a bike, or a car, but it takes a Schumacher to drive an F1 car or a Rossi to ride a superbike as he does. The challenge is to be the Rossi/Schumacher of printing.

Printing, from my reading of books, of articles, websites, and even learning from videos looks quite a bit like a mix of art and science. There is the science bit in the process, and there is the art bit in choosing and developing the process. Like with cooking – one discovers what taste one has and adds sugar, spice and salt to suit it. Similarly with printing, you discover what is your taste of the visual – do you like it stark, contrasty? Maybe pastel black and white, with smoothest tonality? Do you perhaps prefer only the middle of the image in focus?
Each of that is a choice, a choice you consciously make, and something that you determine with experience – not that gleaned from surfing the web with articles like these, but that gleaned from your own methods and processes in the printing of the image.

So far, my own printing has involved contact prints, while I looked around for an enlarger. Now, it has grown to include the enlarger and an enlarged print. This Deepavali, the challenge is being undertaken to print enlarged negatives – whether 35mm, 120 format or even the 4×5 format. I shall keep you abreast of the challenges I face.

My next post on these will include information, tips and how tos. This post was merely an introduction.

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