Having spent most of the past two or three years sitting in front of a computer honing my skills in Photoshop and learning how to achieve the best possible quality from an inkjet printer I've recently been thinking a lot about the first real love of my artistic endeavours, namely black and white photography and print making. Firstly, I realised just how much I missed the thrill of hearing the click of a traditional camera shutter; then I remembered the anticipation of getting back to the darkroom to process the film but that brought back to me the dislike I have always had of shaking a plastic tank around for up to 30 minutes to develop the film. Never mind , it's a very small price to pay for the joy of making black and white photographs.
With all these thoughts buzzing around in my head I took the early morning train to London last Monday for my monthly week in Hoopers Photographic Gallery. By Thursday morning I found that I had a free day and decided to call Martin Reid of Silverprint to see if he had any spare time on his hands. He had, and so I took the tube ride to Waterlooto see him. I hadn't seen Martin for several years so we had a lot of catching up to do over the obligatory cup of tea. I was treated to a guided tour around the premises of Silverprint, owned by Martin and undoubtedly the best supplier of traditional photographic materials in the UK. Seeing all the film, paper and chemistry stacked high on the shelves made me wish I was back home in my darkroom. However, the real highlight for me was seeing two very old enlargers from the darkroom of the great Bert Hardy. I thought of all the wonderful Hardy images that had been printed on them, The Two Teddy Boys leaning on a lamp post, Bert's images from WWII and who can forget the image of the girl with the skirt blowing in the wind that I believe he took with an old Box Brownie camera. Great images, great memories and great inspiration for anyone.
Later that evening I met up with Martin and two other photographic friends, David Corfield, editor of Black and White Photography Magazine and Peter Hogan, he of Prescysol fame. We had fun and laughed, took the mickey out of each other, talked seriously about all matters relating to traditional photography and finally we all went in different directions to homes and hotels. For me, the whole day was one of memories with old friends, promises that we'd do this again but not wait 10 years for the pleasure, but most importantly, it hardened my resolve to go out there with film in a camera to make some exposures and perhaps even enjoy shaking the pastic tank around for 30 minutes. Thanks for a great day guys and thanks for the inspiration.
13 January 2008
In my first Blog I talked about the beginning of a new era and a vow to expose film on a new project the following morning. However, the following four days brought little else but virtually constant rain and absolutely flat gray light when the rain wasn't pouring down, not the light I need for the project I have committed myself to working on during this coming year. Other work had to be attended too and so, finally today I exposed the first film of 2008. As I busied myself setting up the tripod and all the other things that we photographers do when making photographs, I started to think about exposure and development of the film in relation to how the final prints were going to look. Questions filled my thoughts; how much information did I want to see in the darkest shadow; did I want a high or low contrast print; how much depth of field did I think would suit the subject. Depending on the answers to these questions I would expose and develop the film in different ways. This started me thinking about the importance of exposure and development of the film and resulted in me asking myself more questions. Firstly, which is the most important, exposure or development? Is over exposure and over development preferable to under exposure and development? Is it better to over expose and under develop? Is one as important as the other or can we place more importance on one over the other? The questions that are generated when starting to think this way are quite extensive, sit down and consider it when you next have a couple of hours to spare, it can be quite enlightening.
In the beginning of my photographic journey thirty odd years ago I gave no thought whatsoever to such issues, I simply pointed the meter in the direction of the subject having set the dial at the ISO rating given by the manufacturer and hoped that "it would come out". How often did I think that in those early days? When developing the film I followed the developer manufacturers instructions to the letter and acepted the resulting negatives without question. A few years later, having been given some advice by a more learned photographer friend I started to think about what I was doing and what I wanted to achieve and realised that I could greatly influence myphotographs and ultimately my vision by thinking about, and experimenting with, differing combinations of film exposure and development. Consequently, the thinking and decision making process that I followed this morning became a standard procedure whenever I start to make photographs. Now you may wonder what is my answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this piece. I believe that exposure is more important than development because if I don't have the information on the negative I cannot put it there when printing. However, if I happen to over develop I know that the information will be on the negative and there are methods that I can use as a printer to put that information on the paper. Clearly, this is a very basic description of the process of film exposure and development but keep an eye on the blog for I will explore this very important subject further. Please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any comments about my thoughts. Thank you.
04 January 2008
I watched a film tonight that documented the life of Eric Clapton, from a raw eighteen year old musician with promise, to a mature 60 year old that many claim to be one of the best blues guitarists that ever lived. Clapton's journey through life is littered with all manner of tragedy and self created problems and it is clear that he has lived through incredible suffering. During the interview Clapton was clear that his suffering had played a huge part in his development as a blues guitarist. As he was speaking the words I couldn't help but remember having a similar conversation many years ago with John Blakemore, who I consider to be one of the most influencial photographers in the history of UK photography. John and I were chatting about motivation and inspiration when he started to talk about periods of his life when he had suffered disappointment and even personal tragedy and then went on to produce some of his best work. John went on to say that he firmly believed that suffering, and sometimes depression are key elements that lead to further inspiration and motivation that help to produce ideas and direction in his photography. I wonder how many other musicians, photographers or artists of any kind have been driven by suffering to bring out ideas that lie hidden inside, or even generate a totally new way of thinking. If any of you who take the time to read this have been motivated in this way or have something to say please email me on email@example.com I'd welcome your comments.
31 December 2007
The bells will ring out 2007 in a few hours and, at the same time, will herald the beginning of a new era for my aims and plans for my future photography. For the past two or three years I have sadly neglected what was for many years a determination to pursue my love of making new photographs and finding new subjects and projects. I found myself immersed in the world of earning a living from photography but not actually doing much photography, that is on a personal level. As it was happening I felt quite happy within myself because most of my time was spent travelling and teaching photography which is something I enjoy as much as the photography itself. However, in the past nine to twelve months, I felt that the spark had gone and tried to figure out the reason, and it was not until I spent some time in Toronto with a passionate and abrasive man that I understood why I had lost the spark. The man rather brutally told me that I talked the talk but but had stopped walking the walk and I should get out there and expose some film. I told you he was abrasive! I realised then that I had stopped making photographs for myself and how important that is to any photographer. Thank you Bob Carnie, despite that hard abrasive exterior, inside there is a heart of gold. When we last met in November I promised you that I would start the project we discussed. The first negative will be made on 1st January 2008 and no one will see the results until you have the first print in your hands and no doubt you will be screaming that you could have made a much better print. In your dreams Carnie.
This is the first blog entry in the new addition to my website and my intention is to talk about things photographic and of my experiences as I travel and meet the many people who pass in and out of my life. Thank you for reading this first entry and remember, keep making photographs for it is the life blood of a photographer.