I’ve recently reread Nick Dvoracek’s book The Pinhole of Nature, and whilst doing so I made a few notes of particular passages that caught my eye.
“… it is rather incongruous to make a negative by the most primitive method possible, and then, use such hightech methods to make the positive”Nick Dvoracek The Pinhole of Nature
Now, this resonates quite strongly with me. Not least because it links back to some of the conversations I had last weekend. I do find it amusing (do I mean odd?) that I sometimes spend hours creating negatives or glass plates, only to copy them with a digital camera and import them into Photoshop to finish off. I typically only print from the negatives in my makeshift darkroom during the Winter months when shorter days and unpredictable weather are more likely to see me indoors.
I’ve commented before on the irony of going to the expense, and at times the trouble, to create images using so-called traditional methods only to then digitise them in order to share them with others. Modes of communication have changed and you are more likely to share images and even ideas with fellow enthusiasts via social media these days than in person.
Now, I could use an inkjet printer to make prints of these digitally finished images but that would mean buying a printer and I could never get cast-free black and white prints when I did own a printer. Or I could have prints professionally made, something I’ve done from time to time when I’ve wanted something to hang on the wall.
But who would see them? Who for that matter sees my darkroom prints when I do manage to wrestle one out of my study cum darkroom?
I’ve decided , and your mileage may vary, that it doesn’t matter if I’m the only one who sees my prints because I’m the only person for whom I make prints. I’m certainly not yet competent enough to think about actually making darkroom prints for other people. Which segues nicely into another Dvoracek quote:
“I’m not sure if I could have come up with this good a print with traditional darkroom methods, and it would have taken me forever, wouldn’t be easily repeatable, and driven me crazy. I’ve never romanticized darkroom work.”Nick Dvoracek The Pinhole of Nature
Now, ain’t that the truth!
Dvoracek was talking about using software and a printer to create digital prints of his pinhole images. He makes a great point. So long as the source file isn’t amended then in general the printer can churn out as many identical prints as you need. But, do we need to reproduce exact copies? If we are not selling prints then I’d argue it is not a necessity. And if we are selling prints isn’t the unique selling point of a darkroom print that it is a one-off?
At the end of the day we come back to a question I’ve posed before. Who are you making photographs for? The answer to that is key in determining if any of this actually matters in the final analysis.