Sunday, November 25, 2012

thank you

well, it's thanksgiving, time to say thank you. thank you to a few people who have helped me over the years as a printer. first of all, i have to remember that kim and alberto caputo took me to the next level in the lab world. the trust kim and alberto offered gave me confidence, lexington labs was a legend to me already, they helped me navigate the business side of things, they introduced me to everyone they dealt with. this was the one time someone trusted me with my skills, i'm really glad i took the opportunity. they led me through the first year of operations, through the hundreds of clients i needed to know how to print for. they made me understand the reality of photo printing as a career. i miss kim but i'm still in touch with alberto, and now i realize how the photo lab business takes a toll on one's well-being: it's like the (old) post-office, it keeps coming in... that's how it was then, and i can't thank them enough for letting me be a part of that particular history.
and a few teachers from the school of visual arts, especially abby robinson, curtice taylor, will faller, and last but not least sid kaplan. each one reinforced my passion, showed me new ways of looking i only knew the limits of. they each challenged me in ways that benefit me to this day - and i graduated in 1990! they criticized and praised me. they made me want to stay overnight many times to print b&w, color, cibachromes, platinum, whatever. and timothy druckrey for making me want to know the complicated history of photography. he would tell stories of photographers, curators, patrons, publishers, i just wanted to be part of what was next. thank you.
and, thank you to charlie griffin who always had the right attitude about fine-art printing.
we had a short week at griffin editions. simple. monday mitch epstein. tuesday vik muñiz and mauro restife. wednesday cindy sherman. that means 30x40 warm paper selenium toned, 20x30 matte selenium, 20x24 matte sepia and 30x40 glossy neutral. negatives 8x10, 6x7 and 35mm. as i was saying before, i do feel a bit schizophrenic in some occasions, like an actor playing a different character everyday. at the same time i have the privilege to print images i like. that wasn't always the case, but i don't judge what i print. i have to know what it's about, but i don't judge. i always give it my best, whatever the subject matter. i never forget that the print comes second, the image has to be seen first. if you see my print before the image it doesn't work. the print -in my view- has to support the image, help the subject come to life.
i like photographers who use depth of field as a tool.  my work leads me to look at contact sheets, know the pictures before and after the select, i can see the focus changing frame after frame.  to be able to see that is great for a printer, it gives you sort of a mood. a contact sheet puts me in the photographer's skin, i start to see how they see. some i know very well this way because i get to see the contacts even before they do sometimes. i discuss the different shots, give my opinion, listen to theirs along with a story of that day. it's a great process. going through dozens of stephen shame's black panthers' contacts before printing the book and the show was at the least educating, but certainly fascinating. most of the time i love the selects, and a couple times i wish he had chosen the next frame.  the image usually grows on me as i print it anyway.
that is why i never stop printing my own images. i often do a few prints of my own work to keep me on my toes. i also shoot on a regular basis to remember what it's like to be behind the camera. when i shoot i know what the print will look like, i shoot accordingly in order to print later. i always guess the light, i haven't used a light meter in a long time, that also helps me in the darkroom. i don't use a densitometer either. it takes a lot of paying attention but i have a visual memory, i remember the intensity of the light. and i know my enlargers pretty well, i've used the same two ilford multigrade 4x5's for at least ten years, and the dursts 8x10 for about that long too. before that the omega cold head, to print on graded paper, as well as different single light source enlargers to match prints made in the 30's or 40's. each tool has its pros and cons, now at griffin editions we even make laser exposed fibers prints directly from the light-jet. the tools keep changing but the fiber base silver gelatin print remains, probably more prized today than ever before. and that's a good thing. and i should give a thank you to the people at ilford who have always been very helpful through the transitions photo paper and film went through. thank you.

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