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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Inspiration, design and homogeneity.

Among the many sources that I actively court, to inspire my photography, are museums and art related books (and sometimes magazines). Not always does it directly relate to photography, but it usually has a photo (or a few) related to the arts. It might be use of colours in a painting, sketch -the design of a page, or something like a magazine describing the playthings of the rich.

All usually feed off some part of the brain that gets simulated by images, and hopefully inspire my own (original) burst of creativity.

Among these habits is habit of visiting Book Fairs (especially if steep discounts are around! ;)) and on visiting one such fair recently, I was quite stumped by a few books – on art and photography. The three books that caught my attention, and still stay in the mind were:

  1.  A study on Renoir’s images/paintings.
  2.  National Geographic Magazine’s best portraits over a 100 years or so.
  3.  Opulence and ornaments of Indian Maharajahs and Rajas.

Each inspired me for varying reasons but a common thread was homogeneity – the lack of it, especially. What I got to see was that a over most of the 20th century pretty much every locale, region or country had a different costume or dress – and they were colourful and distinct. In contrast with our modern times where one would probably hop from many different continents but almost invariably encounter the same type of clothing if not necessarily the style.
Another important thing that I got to see was that even when the photography was indeed Black and White, the clothing, costumes and jewelry of the peoples  were not monochrome – they were multi-hued.

This individuality wasn’t only joyful to be seen, but it was breathtaking to be experiencing it, captured by photographers working with a very new medium. In an era of mass-manufactured “homogeneity” and conformity, it was refreshing to see it wasn’t  always the case – that it was hardly the case for most of the last century – let alone the many ones gone by.

I think that is one of our duties primarily as photographers. To document – sometimes immediacy of the medium now with digital photography and social media blurs us to the fact that we are actually documenting our race, our species. A 100 years ago when Graham Bell encouraged his son-in-law (to-be) to explore further areas and cultures with the National Geographic he might not have envisioned it living on as a magazine that served to document the exploration(re-exploration) of old and new cultures and their existence. While much of the world is explored, there are still 7 billion people around and much of what we do needs documentation.

A quick snap and update to facebook sometimes is the wrong way to go about it. A little thought about how the image might play a year down the line, or even ten years might give us just that pause and help us assess that image a little better.