Sunday, October 28, 2012

no machine to make these

it feels as if i'm on a break from making prints for mitch epstein. it's been well over a year since the first 8x10 negatives have been processed, and now i can relax. if i may write a few words about printing for mitch epstein: it started with processing his 8x10 film, which i love because i can control what kind of negative to print from. great so far, but to make them as 54x68 inches! a huge challenge at first, but a real pleasure once i found a way to do it. i can safely say that they are among the best prints i've made in a long time, in the classic sense of silver gelatin black and white printing. for those who don't know, there is no machine to make these, each print is done by hand, one at a time. anyway, not this week. although, i spent my summer -well, 2 days a week- printing a 20x24 portfolio -well, 6 portfolios really- version of the body of work, and this week i had to replace a print that's missing somehow. i printed a mitch epstein tree this week after all. 20x24 almost feels too small for these images full of details. after my darkroom workout of exposing prints 54x68, a 20x24 seems really small, a postage stamp. to make a mural print -fiber base paper comes in rolls 56 inches wide- you really have to do a dance in front of the lens to dodge and burn. the exposure is minutes long, sometimes minutes more to burn certain areas, arms up, holding cards and hands and other devices, moving along the shapes to the rhythm of -in mitch's case, leonard cohen- with the clock ticking backward. i can't miss a step or the print is bad. i miss a step and i have to start from the beginning. so i don't because i don't like to do things twice. for zoe leonard's prints i tend to listen to radiohead or cat power. but that's another story. anyway, all this to say i'm proud of these prints.
also, this week i'm printing 2 50x60 inch prints for max snow, high key prints from thiner than i'd like negatives -but there's a trick for everything- and match two different images. again, i had done workprints to understand what to do, and the first image turned out better than i expected. max was happy, and just a couple of black spots from pinholes and dust -unfortunatly common on 8x10 film- to bleach. then selenium tone and it's ready for mounting. to mount large fiber prints is a dangerous affair for the printer, things can go wrong, so i always make an extra print, just in case.
and yesterday, latoya frazier came in to see a series of 20x24 prints, the same that were just shown at the whitney, which i just made a few months ago. nothing new here, i had kept a set of extras -a bit light- to make sure the prints stay consistant. i always keep some kind of work print, or extra, to help me in the future. on mural prints i keep notes, but it's just a starting point, the emulsion changes, as does the chemistry, the humidity etc. too humid in the summer, too dry in the winter. it's a mess. and photographers and collectors look at a 50 by something toned fiber print with a loupe, or at least from 3 inches away. any mark on the print and it's a reject. then it gets mounted, any mark and it's a redo. then it gets framed, any mark and it's a redo. as a printer i trust the finishers to have the same standards i have, and the shows can go on.
i have a few images to print for zoe leonard, and if you've seen her pictures of the sun, i know you already look at light in a different way. i know i do.

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