22 February 2010


22 February 2010

I was working in a commercial photo lab when I was 14 years old, taught well by a man of color that had been doing it all of his life. The darkroom was an unventilated 12x12 room in the service corridor of the Francis Marion Hotel, an edifice long past its prime that smelled of mildew, decay and more subtle, less pleasant things. Of course, Walter’s darkroom reeked of stronger, more obvious smells: things long ago banned in our slow march to safety. I loved Walter and his realm, and was quite honored that he would trust me at the helm alone.

So one could say that analog photography is second nature to me, though I reached a point of complete saturation after so many years imprisoned under the orange lights cranking out the catalog jobs. In those days, reproduction was done from prints, which were rushed, literally steaming, to the last Federal Express branch in NYC that accepted packages for next day delivery.

Enough time has passed to dull the pain of all those lost nights, and in our digital era when an image often never transcends the divide between ethereal and corporeal, a real silver-based black and white print is a joy. And of course, the availability of analog photographic material is soon to end, and nothing is quite as pretty as a real black and white.

Several years ago, my friend Mike Adams gave me an old, uncoated Kodak Ektar 12 inch lens that is f4 (quite fast for such a lens), and it allows one to work with much less light than otherwise necessary for large format.

I am fortunate enough to have acquaintance or commission with some interesting people, and have been shooting a series of black and white portraits, most against an old plaster wall I built from found materials for the purpose. This week I took the plunge and scrubbed everything down for a printing session. Tested all of the paper I had in stock (less was spoiled than I thought) and cranked out some beautiful prints.

My favorite is one of composer, John Adams.

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