Making Prints: then and now (part 1)
Making Prints: then and now
Posted: March 14, 2010
31 years ago, when I was 27, I started the Campos Photography Center. My motivation was doing what I like to do. I love facilitating, problem solving, building, maintaining, fixing, and improving infrastructure. My goal was to design a system that would give image makers the tools and support to make prints just like they imagined. Today I have the same desire. It just feels a little clearer in my mind.
I love process.
In getting from here to there, some think of going from point A to point B, letís do it, the direct line, as quickly as possible, as cheap as possible.
I like to think that from here to there is more like point A to point Z: there is a whole alphabet in the middle, and, even more, an infinite way to mix and rearrange that middle, so that even though we all end up at Z, the ways to get there can be so immensely different and pleasurable.
In 1979 the basic process of making a print involved the following steps:
a. click the shutter & expose the film
b. process the film
c. make proof prints
d. evaluate results
e. make a print
In 2010 the basic process of making a print involves the following steps:
a. click the shutter, evaluate results immediately and reshoot as necessary
b. enhance the image, as desired
c. make a print
Back then, each of these steps presented issues. The time from clicking the shutter to evaluating the results involved a time delay, which was at best a trip to the lab, plus a couple of hour wait. More typically, the delay was a couple of days. The option to reshoot was only a possibility in controlled studio situations. In most real life situations, the moment, place and time were long gone by the time you could evaluate your results. It was very difficult to enhance the film and/or the print, and you had very limited options.
I saw each of these issues as an opportunity to improve the process for the photographer and build a business for myself and my team. Focusing on the issues that we could directly influence everyday, we made excellent film processing the cornerstone of our lab. We developed fast and economical methods to make proof prints to evaluate the image and we taught customers to do it for themselves.
We also knew that if clicking the shutter and exposing the film was not done properly by the photographer every other step down the line would be compromised. We concentrated on creating a learning environment in our lab where photographers could teach each other the basics and, as their knowledge increased, they could work together learning new techniques to advance.
We paid attention to teaching the basics and encouraged peer to peer learning for advanced evaluation. We explored basic and advanced ways to print exactly the image you imagined. We found that doing less is just as important as doing more. The key was in understanding what you wanted and using our tools and skills to execute your wishes properly. The greatest challenge was developing a vocabulary that we both clearly understood.
We used basic techniques for print enhancements, like cropping, borders, dodging and burning, that greatly improved the image. We learned the power of enlarging an image past the point of self imposed artificial limitations. And we knew that the process was not complete until the print was ready for display and hanging on the wall.
We enjoyed the process of developing our craft and moving towards mastery. And we greatly enjoyed being able to add value to our community of artists.
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