Bringing Darkroom Awareness to the Digital Age

May 20, 1956 one month before my 16th birthday

One month from my 16th birthday, I created this 1956 version of a “selfie.” Easy to do when you’re photographing into a mirror.  The alternative was to use a self-timer. In either case, it was difficult to line up with a rangefinder camera that resisted getting two edges of the mirror’s frame straight. So what to do? Easy enough – just wait! In our era of Photoshop. I simply lined it up.

My point? Even then, the darkroom translated handily to the digital age.  I had long ago appreciated what you’ll see on a histogram: the range of tones from whitest white to blackest black.  Arranged properly, this gives you not only a range of tones but a happy medium, so you have readable mid-tones and a pleasing contrast as well. The effect then is snappy, what we used to try to achieve in creating a print. So now I have both vintage prints, the ones I created close to the time I developed my negatives, as well as pigmented ink jet contemporary prints.

These are just as archival but with today’s technology. It lets me tweak my images into a pinpointed perfection not possible in the early days.

Ah, it’s a great time to be digitizing my archives!

 

You can see this image and more, in my See-Saw book, previewing on Amazon

http://a.co/4TpEK1a

Delightful Instants

Capturing a Moment in Time

Delightful Instants

In an era of flashbulbs and press cameras, I was exploring what available light had to offer. It presented the world as we saw it, without the harsh effect of a single flash. Both techniques froze a moment that goes by in a blur.

Photographing peak action stopped the movement at its height.  It allowed slow shutter speeds in an era of slow films. And it preserved a feeling forever.

 

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Moving On

I learned more about the process, more about the marketing, more about the human condition. I gravitated to photojournalism, happy with candid photography…

B42-10 Father&Family&Liberty Bell5X8

 

…and grateful to people willing to share their lives for my magazine assignments:

College Educated Cops in April 1971 Pageant Magazine

College-educated police, from the April 1971 issue of Pageant magazine.

Photojournalism sharpened skills that applied as I tried out other phases of photography, following the twists and turns of a rapidly changing profession.  Reacting to my own decisive moments, I sought emotional content whenever it might appear, meaningful composition as a frame, and the feel and shape of the situation.

M93-28.tif

I remember wishing that I had had a mentor back then, someone experienced, with an overview to help guide me.  Instead I created a composite, picking up bits and pieces from so many people I met.

Now I have become one of those who nurture.  I have stories to tell, I have realized, after participating in panel discussions, lectures, gallery talks, any events where people gather around.  I’ve come to recognize that, wow! I’ve learned something. And I learn even more as I explain to, and consult with, others.

I hope that collectors and curators might want to join in, to share insights with anyone wanting to improve their photography.

 

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The Circus Comes to Town

The circus would roll into Alliance, Ohio every spring.

___Entrance to Old-Time Circus---Use this 5x8__prime w white ©
In 1957, it was the traditional circus.
Elephants provided pulling power
for trucks stuck in the mud,
 31A-3 Circus Elephants Pull Truck_Prime w © white 5x8
and townsfolk were eager for entertainment once all was in place.
I was a witness, a budding photojournalist knowing none of my subjects,
eager to hone my skills.
I was using a Leica IIIF, with distance and exposure pre-set, so that my reflexes could take over. No time to think, only to spontaneously react.
 This was the practice I needed.
Have you ever sought out events where you could photograph this way?