While I was visiting my daughter I brought her a portfolio of prints. The prints were of nudes I had done when she was a model for me. Some people are squeamish about hearing of family members being nude models for relatives no matter the relationship. She was an adult and was not forced or pressured into creating the nudes. Her ballet background and willowy body type was conducive to what I was looking for and she added much with her own creative insights and ideas to make the images. The fact she was a family member was secondary to the partnership of creating art.
So back to the portfolio. I had been keeping it for her until she was situated after some personal family matters were resolved and she was settled into her new apartment. She was very excited to see the prints again and set the box on the table and opening it, started viewing the prints one at a time.
I looked over her shoulder as she went through each one and I was struck by the beauty of each image, the wonderful tonalities and glow of the silver prints. It has been some time since I have printed my negatives for various reasons. My darkroom had to be taken down as I have had relatives visiting and the bathroom used to house my darkroom was needed for the convenience of family. And I have been busy printing my digital images so it has not been like I have been idle from working on prints. But my time in the darkroom had been very limited.
But viewing those silver prints of my daughter reminded me why I love silver prints and what I have been missing. I believe I have posted previously on the wonderful solitude and sense of calm working in the darkroom has been to me over the years. I looked forward to time in the darkroom as a means of not just completing the image I had started when the shutter was tripped, but to letting the peace and solitude of the darkroom continue to provide the final piece to making the print true to what I had initially visualized.
The lightroom has been an easier and less time consuming way to complete many of the projects I had undertaken with the digital images for those projects. And while easier from the standpoint of not going into the darkroom, mixing chemicals, test prints, printing and washing, mounting the final print (actually more involved than these few listed steps), I have found I have not been as satisfied. And by satisfied I’m not referring to the images, but the sense of serenity at having completed the image.
I was reading about another photographer who has spent much of his time with the digital side of things and decided to jump back into the analog or film side of photography again. While he was very enthusiastic about what he was doing and had accomplished he returned to digital because the film process took too long, it was too time consuming.
That comment started me thinking about the time spent in creating art. I look at the art in the world that has been created and it is not a speedy process. At times it is very time consuming. If an artist thinks it takes too long to create a photograph, how about a painting, or a sculpture, or any other art form that requires a true investment in time to render the final physical work. Perhaps we as photographers have been spoiled by the instant feedback the digital camera gives us and actually causes us to just post images digitally as opposed to creating a final print that really reflects our true intent and vision. Time in the darkroom forces me to really decide which images are worthy of the time to complete a silver print. And which images are ones that are just for me as opposed to those I want to share with at wider audience.
And in making these observations about the silver process, I am not to trying to say the archival pigment prints have not been beautiful, but for me personally, they still seem to lack the luminescence of the silver print. And again that is not to say that cannot be achieved, I’m sure I still lack much in the way of getting the subtle tonalities available in the digital print.
As with the need to slow down and sink into the tempo of the subject and identify and refine what attracted me to make the image, I feel the darkroom presents the same opportunity to then complete the final image by providing a similar tempo at the time the film is exposed.