Friday, September 13, 2013

There's Dead and There's Mostly Dead

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My Dad gave me my first camera when I was 12 or 13 years old. It was a Yashica Penta J. I'm pretty sure it fell off a truck before landing in my Dad's hands and, soon thereafter, in mine. (But that's another story.) At the time, I doubt my Dad could ever imagine how he had changed my life and that photography would become such a big part of it. (At the time, I sure as hell had no idea either.)

The Yashica Penta J is a 35mm, all-manual, SLR manufactured between 1962 and 1964. It came with a 50mm f/2 lens mounted via an M42 screw mount. It also included a small, clip-on, light meter.  I was immediately smitten!

But there was one small problem: How was I going to pay for film, processing, and prints? At first, my Dad gladly funded those things. But the more pictures I snapped, and I began snapping a lot of them, the less enthusiastic he was about  reaching into his pocket to cover those costs.  Soon, I found a solution.

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I was in junior high school -- I guess they call it middle school these days -- and the school offered graphic arts classes as an elective. Better yet, the school's graphic arts classroom had a darkroom. I was set! Now, all I had to do was make money for film, which wasn't too expensive. I set myself to learning the art of the darkroom. That's yours truly, camera-right in the photo on the right, in George Washington Junior High School's graphic arts classroom.

In high school and on into college, I continued taking graphic arts classes. My first stint at college, in fact, was as a graphic arts major. I had no serious interest in becoming a graphic artist but the high school and college I attended each had darkrooms accessible to those taking graphic arts classes. So, I continued snapping pictures and taking care of the developing and print-making myself.  And it didn't cost me anything!

Years later, I began shooting head shots for Hollywood hopefuls and others. The first thing I did was put together a darkroom in a small shed on the property I lived at. The shed had running water and a line to the city sewer. All that time as a graphic arts student payed off. I already had some fairly well-developed skills in a darkroom.

I'm only sharing this stuff because my understanding of what it takes to get a good print in the darkroom allows me, in some ways, to better appreciate the following article. You may or may not have ever spent time in a darkroom but, even if you haven't, I think you'll still appreciate the article linked at the bottom of the page and find it very interesting.

Some people act as if the art of wet print-making is dead. But as the Princess Bride's "Miracle Max" says, "There's dead and there's mostly dead."

Click here to see the article: Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom

1 comment:

Rick Horowitz said...

Excellent article.

For years I've tired of talking to new photographers who have never seen the inside of a darkroom, slamming anyone who uses programs like Photoshop or Lightroom to "process" images.

"I just focus on getting my shots right, straight out of the camera," they say, as if anyone who uses software to process an image is somehow inferior.

As I often pointed out, there were lots of photographers who photographed the same locations, from the same point of view, as Ansel Adams. What separated his work from theirs was the darkroom.

This article just highlights that.

Thanks for putting it up!