no darkroom, no problem. thousands of miles away from new york, sun and heat all around, and what did i pack along with my cameras? paper. photo paper to make lumen prints. i can't help it. i need to make prints as much as i need to take pictures. a lumen print is done under glass with the sun, as much sun as possible, and not just for the light but for the heat as well. i look at the lumen print as the sophisticated cousin of the photogram. casting shadows under the light of an enlarger is fun, don't get me wrong, my son used to make them while waiting for me to be done at the lab. man ray used to make great ones, pushing shadows to all kinds of shades of grays. rayograms to him were poems, stories told with the imprints of objects. simple and brillant at the same time. much later, adam fuss took the practice to a new level. he used to order rolls of silver gelatin paper from me back when i had lexington labs. and the ones he made of different fabrics and textures on color paper i think are mesmorizing. and my friend nigel scott, who is very demanding and precise on the silver prints i make for him, then on kentmere papers, now on ilford emulsion with a hahnemuhle base. i love his images, he makes contact prints, cyanotypes of plants and flowers mostly, on silk. you'd have to see an original to understand the beauty. but we are still talking about shadows and light, sort of like printing from negative. shadow and hightlights. a lumen print introduces dyes from the flowers and plants, and i can get color out of my black and white paper. in the alternative printing world where a silver print is considered almost too easy to make -and i'm talking about the basic process now- in a world of experimentation that keeps certain traditions alive, i feel the lumen print has its rightful place. the pigments from the plants mix with the silver and start making all sorts of colors. and to someone like me who enjoys looking at a negative, that's exactly what it looks like: a color negative made on black and white paper from different leaves and petals. a lot of C, M and Y but not much K, appear so clearly that when i squint i can see the full RGB spectrum. it is a thing of beauty so delicate i can stare at it for long stretches of time. and that's what i've been doing this week. high noon is my prefered time of the day: ninety degree angle from the sun rays and so hot it can burn a mango leaf in under a half-hour. droplets of water move from the plant to the glass, and the rest transfers deep into the layers of the emulsion. the colors i get depend on the type of plant, emulsion, exposure and time of day. it is a simple concept but not as predictable as you'd think. anyway, that's what i do when i'm in brazil and need to satisfy my need to print. i'll be back in my (very)darkroom printing negatives soon enough, so i'm really enjoying doing this right now.
happy new year!