These days I am often asked why I still work with traditional silver halide films and photographic papers, rather than the latest and greatest digital innovations. I believe I am asked this question so often because many photographers have decided to change their working methods to incorporate digital capture and digital printing, or are using a hybrid approach of exposing and scanning film and then printing digitally. For me, the answer to this question is simple. I love the alchemy of the classical silver halide photographic process, and still today find it to be magic… even after 40 years.
I think each photographer should use whatever equipment or approach they find works best for them. I frequently say that photographs reveal not only that which is in front of the camera − the subject, but also that which is behind the camera− the photographer. For me, making photographs involves more than simply finding a subject and making an exposure, but also includes the processing of the negative, as well as the challenges and excitement of print making in the darkroom. The ultimate destination of this journey is the final expressive print.
I vividly remember the first time I saw a print emerge in the developer. It was Christmas night 1969, and my friend Mark had received an enlarger as a gift that morning. He invited me over to see how it worked. We had borrowed a strand of Christmas lights off of the tree and arranged it so it had only red bulbs. I will never forget the magic that trans- pired, watching that image appear in that small developing tray on a wobbly folding table in his bedroom. I’m not sure how many tens of thousands of images I’ve watched develop under the dim glow of safelights since that time, but I still find it an exciting and intoxicating process. I like the tactile aspect of touching the print in the processing chemicals. I enjoy the anticipation of waiting for the fixing process to complete, so that I can turn on the white light to see if the print meets my expectations. If the print does indeed meet−or exceed− my expectation, it is a thrilling experience for me. For some reason I do not feel the same emotional connection to the digital printmaking process.