I am usually a serial consumer of photography, unusually during the summer period I really struggled to enjoy any other photography other than making sense of my own. Even books I have long found as go-to inspiration did not seem to suit my current sensibility. This carried through into the printing stage. Once I had access to the darkrooms in university after the summer break I developed and went through the images I had shot. Narrowing these down I started to print them in the darkroom, something I had intended to do since starting the course here at UWE but had never found the time needed. I instantly understood the merits of this process. Defined by limitations you are focused on making the images work independently of each other, and as time moves on how they are informed by and inform the images around them.
I had got a quarter of the way through printing my images from summer when I headed to Southend-on-sea for an opening at the Francesca Maffeo Gallery. Already interested in the idea of representation I had been invited by a friend to go to Tim Richmond’s opening of Love Bites. Tim has been hand-printing his exhibition prints in a small darkroom in his home for a while and offers workshops in this process so I felt it would also be good to assess these prints and the pros and cons of working this way. Speaking to Tim about his work I could see the same searching in him as I had experienced and though I didn’t love his work at this stage I definitely took a lot from it.
At Photo Meet earlier in the year I was supposed to see Francesca Genovese (Director of the gallery) for a portfolio review which we briefly talked about and she asked me in the day after for a chat and to see my work. I took in both works in prints form along with the small selection of my new work printed out to show the direction I was moving in. Francesca definitely understood the work, mentioning the synergy between the two bodies of work and the idea of moving forward with the school work. At this point I had hand prints of only the newer pictures, and digital prints of the older work. I could see as I spoke to them that what I needed to do was to start afresh with the old pictures. To spend a few weeks in the darkroom printing everything again. The very niggle that had bothered me about the work before was one rooted in its aesthetics, and I could potentially find the answer for this by spending time with the images, working on them in a new way. Francesca agreed with this and wanted to see the work all together as a whole including all three subject matters. Tim was also here for some of this review and though didn’t give much away pointed out images that did not sit as well for him and those that did. After Tim left, Francesca offered her future help and seriously suggested I get in touch with a man called Rodrigo Orrantia who she believed would be very interested in my work, specifically with my interest in craft and careful thought around bookmaking.
I spent the next few weeks putting together a larger edit of work prints including a lot of the older pictures (though I am still yet to go through and print all of these). To begin with the prints were alright but not great.
After the second session of printing they were much better and more in line with how I would like the images to look.
This had made me think about my process in advance of dissemination. I feel much more content working on the images in the darkroom, the time spent also helps me to have consideration in advance about the thoughts behind the work, any potential sequence or pairings, and even general aesthetic decisions about the output of the work, be it single print, portfolio box, or book. I have also now managed to re-create the results through scanning digitally and producing the files that way, meaning I can work files off the aesthetic decisions made in the darkroom to produce high res files for other methods of digital printing.