|Me at 15, Physics Department Darkroom, |
|Stickle Ghyll, Cumbria|
I have always made my own prints and see it as being a seamless section of the whole process. I have also enjoyed learning all the various skills involved and having the maximum control over my work. I also enjoy the alchemy involved, whether it's the chemical or digital kind. However, for all kinds of reasons many well-known photographers have depended on printers for their work and there is no doubt that a good printer is priceless. An understanding of the photographer's work is vital and a sympathy with their style.
|Part of my darkroom chemical shelf|
All technicians have their idiosyncrasies but all the good ones I have worked with are fastidious about orderly working methods and consistency. I worked with one who managed to run a very large set of excellent facilities in a university with over 300 students studying photography. How he and his small team did it I don't know. The demands were enormous but everything ran well and chemistry etc. never ran out and equipment always worked.
How different from an earlier experience when I worked as a guest lecturer in a small regional college. The technician there was the most incompetent buffoon that I have ever come across. Everything was constant chaos. Broken and missing equipment, darkrooms in disarray and the chemistry a mess. The students were desperate one afternoon for film developer. There was a queue waiting to process film and he had failed to keep stocks up. He winked at me and said, "watch my secret quick method of mixing developer". He took a 5L plastic bottle and placed it in the sink of a tiny chemical room with no extractor fan. He put a funnel made out of a sheet of stiff A4 paper in the neck of the jug.
|Another part of my darkroom chemical shelf|
You may think that someone like this had no future. You would be wrong. He is now the chief technician in charge of the photographic department of a major police force. The mind boggles.