Wednesday, 26 April 2017

What we think is photography

.... is only the first step.

I wonder how many photographic journeys never actually reach an end.

A photographic print.

OK, I'm old. I can still remember how the chemicals smelled when I printed monochrome in my bathroom here, timing exposure by the immersion heater clock ticking, how my hands would smell too after getting careless fingers in the open baths.

Chemicals for colour printing didn't smell the same, warmer & softer - less biting, but were probably more toxic. I can't remember the smell of CIBAchrome chemicals at all, since this was the first printing method I learned in the mid 80's, and only ever printed 3 or 4 images at home.

This isn't about nostalgia.

I just ordered a bunch of prints, and the 12x8s arrived today. A photograph isn't real *for me* until it's been printed and I can hold it in my hand, move it between light sources of frame it and hang it on the wall. It's at this point you discover that the image that looks quite good on a backlit screen is a bit dull, or contains unbalanced blocks of light or dark, or perhaps isn't half as good as I thought it was.

Dark prints are especially difficult to get right. There's no transmitted light to bring out subtle details from shadows, so all those dark areas just block up and go dull. Strongly saturated single colours can just go 'off' a bit, making rape/canola a mustard colour instead of luminous yellow, reds turn pink & lose detail, greens go nuclear-fallout. This time the 2 mono images I had printed came back very dull & lacklustre, without any sparkle at all, and little sense of depth or texture.

There were a few images I was happy to mount & hang, replacing the prints from last year with something brighter, more exciting, more fun and a reminder of the summer to come. There's also some 16x8 panoramic canvasses on their way - I hope at least 2 of them are strong enough to use.