Skala Shamanka at dusk, Olkhon, Lake Baikal, Siberia, August 13, 1995. Selenium toned silver gelatin print from 8×10 negative.
That very creamy base white is actually a stain from selenium toning, rendered when the print is fixed, washed without a hypo clearing bath, and toned. My photography class this semester has spent most of the time delving deep into the nuances of printing with silver gelatin, which includes understanding what it means to ‘make’ a negative. Together, we have learned about that exquisite dance between seeing, framing, exposing, developing, contrast, luminosity, surface, image and ultimately (a nod to Thomas Joshua Cooper) vision. We have spent almost three weeks printing just one negative, working with myriad combinations of exposure-to-developer-to-toning work flows. We have slowed down. We have learned to look, with care and kindness. And this class has filled me with hope. On Sunday night, we met for our final critique session, looking at just one print by each person. The session ran for almost five hours, and while exhausting, it did not seem forced. One reason for the ease with which we moved from print to print may be summed up by Paul Caponigro’s contemplation of what he called the ‘voice’ of the print, “where mind and imagination might combine with the world of feeling to bring a new object into being. It is here also that overtones from the symbolic language of the medieval alchemist might be apprehended. … In the same way that I come to see my exposed and developed negatives as a shaped terrain…there is also a deeper cutting and impressing within the psychological landscape. Inner correspondences to the outer shapes and physical events provide me with a magical bridge to link the seemingly separate places and spaces of man and earth. A living and fluid ecology ensues. …the voice of the print wishes entrance to the migrations of ideas and materials.”
So, I thank all who took this class. I have learned a lot and have had my love of printing with silver gelatin revived.
The quote is from Paul Caponigro, The Voice of the Print, Muse Press, 1994