New Darkroom Enlarging Paper and Why I’m in the Dark
Yes, this photographer is going back in the darkroom. Many dismantled their wet process space and sold the equipment. I didn’t so my Zone VI enlarger, Aristo head, long sink and Jobo ATL 1500 film developer are in place.
I am making editions of prints limited to six, starting with a few of my images from Paris in the 1950’s. I want a paper that was a warm tone to reflect the feeling of this time. The photographs were taken on the streets between 1956 and 1958, when I was a Signal Corps photographer stationed in the City of Light. Many of the photos were published in my book The First Time I Saw Paris
The paper I chose is made in Czechoslovakia. It is called Fomatone warm tone classic MG 131 and is available from B&H in NYC and Freestyle Photo from LA.
It has a cream base and a warm tint. This is increased by using selenium toner 1-18 for no more than two minutes, to my eye. It gives the feeling of age and a softer impression than a cold paper (which I am also testing). I air dry the paper and need to put it in a dry mounting press to flatten it.
I think this paper will also do well with my Vermont scenics taken on cloudy days.
Why am I making darkroom prints when I have two Epson’s? I am searching for a look not so perfect, that has a feel of being hand made rather than turned out by a machine. Also I believe some collectors consider prints made by the photographer more valuable. i certainly am charging more for them. And I think they are a good investment for me or my children. My first prints will be made on 11×14 paper.
I am making darkroom prints of a few selected prints up to 16×20 inches. Most of my photographs will be Giclee, a fancy word for ink jet prints.
I think it’s all about process. Digital printing is wonderful and innovative but it lacks the struggle that comes with darkroom work. I hate to say that it’s too easy, but that’s really the bottom line. Digital has democratized photography and allowed everyone to join the craft. It also represents an efficient way of moving quickly from an artistic vision to a completed work. And software tools like Photoshop offer a great alternative to the tedium of basic darkroom tasks like burning, dodging, and contrast control. But digital comes with a price. Now everyone has a camera and everyone is a photographer. At the risk of sounding like a snob, photography is a two-part process that involves shooting and printing. Ansel Adams compared it to music by arguing that the negative was the “score” which had to be composed in the field and performed in the darkroom. Too many of today’s “photographers” are simply composers with little or no performance (printing) skills. Why print something yourself when you can send a digital file to an online shop where it can be printed on canvas and gallery-wrapped. I wish I had a dime for every canvas gallery wrap hanging in local art galleries. So I’m with you. I’m dusting off my 4×5 Saunders LPL and turning on the safelights. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the stop bath.