with sid kaplan @ 25cpw
last week i went to sid kaplan's exhibition here in new york. sid showed me how to get to the next level for printing black and white in the late 80's. the show is called "the last of a vanishing breed", which is true in a way. sid, and most people at the opening, is about 75 years old now. it feels good to see a master printer show his own work. chuck kelton is also showing his work now. they give me the inspiration to keep going, to keep shooting, to keep printing. and trust me, it's not easy to show your own work when everyone knows you as a printer. a photographer who prints their own work well is admirable, but a photographer who prints for others belittles their own images. i don't know why, but that's the way it is. sometimes i show my work, sometimes i bring it up with people i print for, but there is a great disconnect between the two. the good part is that i have many prints of my own work, and i always try to do something special when i print for myself, if only to break from my darkroom routine.
in any case, this week al wertheimer is coming out with a taschen book about elvis. al is now 83 by the way. i enjoy looking at a book that brings me back to my darkroom experience with the images, with the negatives, with the photographer. al is a great storyteller, and the book is oversized, with 300 of them with an original silver gelatin print inside! the first time i made prints to be inserted in a limited edition was for susan lipper and her book “grapevine”, but i think it was 50 prints then. then, i made 700 sepia toned prints for paige deponte “gaïa”, a book to raise funds to save the rainforests. and others. mitch epstein also has a new book “new york arbor”. same here, each page has a madeleine moment in it for me. for mitch's book, i made 20x24 “ prints that were later scanned by steidl for reproduction, and i made a lot of them 30x40 and 54x68, still fresh in my memory -as i said before, i'm really proud of those prints- i even went to look for some of these tree in real life in new york.
otherwise i'm doing more prints for elizabeth heyert. the last time i talked about it (dec.2012) i thought i'd be printing from a retouched LVT neg, but i ended up printing from the original and making a part of the image disappear for one of the shots. i had done a 16x20, then a 30x40. my next challenge is to print it 50x60. a very different problem because at that size i don't have an easel to move, or a 30x40 magnetic table. once secured to the wall, the paper doesn't move, it can't. and i have a mask over it anyway in order to get a white border. so i have to move the neg to manipulate the portion of the image that needs work. very tricky when working on a small area of a large print. it takes preparation, patience, and a great deal of concentration. so if i really apply myself i'll get it. i hope i'll also get a little bit of luck to make things easier.
to go back to the mask for large prints: it's like printing through a window mat, a passe-partout if you will, and it gives really sharp edges to the print, as opposed to masking the negative. the mechanics of putting a mat exactly -and i do mean exactly- where it needs to be once you've placed the paper is not as easy as it sounds. first of all, it's obviously done in the dark and on a ladder, with magnet guides, rulers, tape, more magnets -the paper has to be really, really flat for focus reasons- and other things. my heart always skips a beat when i finally push the expose button. what if i missed my mark by 1/8 of an inch and i can see the edge of the negative? well, got to turn it off, take it down and shred the paper. that happened to me a couple of times. now i do it slowly and carefully, and when i turn on the enlarger light for the exposure, my eyes travel quickly around the frame to make sure. and 2 or 3 seconds later i can start on my dodging. it's a good season in new york to dry large pieces of fiber paper, it's just the right amount of humidity in the air, no emulsion will crack at least until october...