Old and In The Way, Part 3 ~

Boy, talk about some old skills. Most old photo dogs like me spent a great deal of time honing our printing skills in the darkrooms of yore, the Thomas safelight buzzing, hypo fumes wafting into our noses (and hearts and lungs, presumably), and water running, running, running, all day long. Good times. I miss 'em. And that was all state-of-the-art for the time: modern techniques, chemical processes, even the optics and electronics of enlargers and cold-light heads. But what I got really excited about were the ways of making photographs from the earlier, non-silver era of our medium.
I worked a lot in Gum Dichromate; the image above is a portrait I took of my daughter Sara in 1988. I made the negative in my 8 x 10 Burke & James camera, and the printing process involved laying down an emulsion of gum arabic mixed with watercolor pigment on good quality watercolor paper. The emulsion was made light-sensitive by the addition of potassium dichromate, and the negative was contact-printed directly upon it, being exposed to strong ultraviolet light, and then "processed" under gently running water. It was a long, meticulous process getting a good image, sometimes requiring building up many layers over and over. Beer drinking was often involved.

I was thinking a lot about that recently, and my musings lead me to pen a few notes about it here. I've always tried to explore the artistic limits of the craft of photography, every bit as much now as I did 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe even more so. Some say that now you can achieve these results with the pouch of a button, but that's far from the truth. We have infinitely more avenues to push ourselves, to seek and express that creative voice, then we've ever had before.

Someone once complimented the great cellist Pablo Casals on his exquisite music; he was then in his 80's, and responded that, yes, he felt he was starting to get the hang of it.

I'm having the time of my life as a photographer. I have quite a ways to go yet, but yes, I think I'll eventually get the hang of it, too.