Last commercial wet dark room in France

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by slight, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. slight

    slight Member

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    Wet dark room in Paris...

    Hi all

    I had done some of my best prints with a French printer in Paris, who owns the last commercial wet dark room.

    Guillaume Geneste, that is the name of the printer. He printed for Cartier Bresson after his printer retired; his clients included photographers from Magnum and other artists who work on gelatin silver BW. His darkroom processed the images of a book called D'apres Nature and the book won the Prix Nadar last year.

    Yesterday we did two prints together, one was for my client who ordered a 60cm print of one of my earlier works; the other one consisted of enormous efforts of creative printing. We worked for about two hours for the two prints, with about more than 20 takes to make the right print.

    Here's what he does:

    [​IMG]

    There are two Ilford 500H head mounted on De Verre, one of them is fixed on the wall so as to make big prints. The margeur is Sunders, which cost about 600 euros. There are also two condenser enlarger for printing 8x10 contact sheet.

    [​IMG]

    He really knows what he's doing...first we caculate the actual image size and mark them on a paper.

    [​IMG]

    This negative is very, very think. Under the diffusion enlarger, it required 45 secs of exposure at grade 3. We did some dodge and burn and exposed the corners a lot more so as to have satisfying grain.

    [​IMG]

    After 5 takes it's almost perfect. Tonality is impeccable, but there's some very fine details that didn't work out. So we tried again.

    [​IMG]

    Voila!! The seventh take was totally impeccable! Tonality, fine details, everything's totally to my satisfaction! This print is numerated 01/05. The two big white dots are reflections from the bulbs in the dark room.

    [​IMG]

    It's not finished. We have to wash it 12 times each time 5 minutes in the tub so as to meet the ISO standard of conservation. GG has a lot of orders from galleries, museums; they require the finest making and have personels who examine the hypo left on paper. GG has a family, and his darkroom must support the families of 3 - 4 colleagues. He doesn't want any play that could ruin the reputation of the lab. If you touched the fixer, you are obliged to wash your hand under his surveillance. That's his obsession...

    [​IMG]

    After washing, print is left to dry on a custom made shelf. The spaces between each column is exactly to his requirement, and it's special design allowed him to wrap the big prints and merge them in the tub without touching the print, which could damage the print itself.

    [​IMG]

    Then the print is laminated under this machine so as to make it flat and beautiful.

    I find digital print very ugly, partly because it doesn't have a similar process which will give the print a "brilliant" feeling.

    To make it worse, digital printing paper, even baryta fine art paper has a very nasty feeling to hand, which is hundreds of miles away from the feeling of FB paper.

    But digital does have an advantage: you can experiment the tonality on screen! That's what I do: I first experiment the tonality in my iMac, then have GG to see the look I want, then we print it in the wet dark room.

    This is the digital exemplary I did in my digital darkroom

    [​IMG]

    We did another take on the following picutre:

    [​IMG]

    This one is a bitch to work. I painted all the shadows above the picture by using a stylus in PS. And it took GG a lot of takes to imitate my digital work. Not bad huh, the both of us...I gave him a hard time. But as long as you know what exactly you want, he will do it to the finest detail!

    I had found my digital - wet dark room workflow by exploring through the mist...To me, digital dark room is only good for experimenting with the tonality you want because it will save efforts on trying in wet dark room. You simply change the curvature and there you are. But the best printing only happens in a very well equipped dark room under the master's hands.

    Voila. Hope my work flow will benefit the others. GG's dark room is perhaps the LAST commercial professional lab still working in making art getlatin silver print. Other French labs are either closed, or retreated from the wet dark room process. He now has a lot of orders coming from galleries and museums. But we don't know what will happen to the wet dark room process after he retires...that's very, very sad.

    He taught BW printing in Ecole d'art in Arles and various ecole de beaux art in France. To his utter disappointment, young students aren't interested in the process anymore. There was one time he had to take a train at 6 o clock in the morning to teach in Tour, but students came at 9,10,11 o clock. Young and stupid, they simply thought it is sufficient to memorize all the theories in class and get a good mark in the exam. They don't know what really counts in art any more.

    I took the entrance exam of Ecole de Photographie Nationale in Arles once, and was very disgusted by their system: the exam requires that you critic and write down what you can memorize from the books, and the students thought that they were all thinkers and philosophers. They leave the actual work to the artisan, self-obsessed with their little thoughts and write papers.
    To me, this is totally sad.
     
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  2. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Last Commercial Darkroom: I think not.
     
  3. slight

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    You can print with Negatif Plus, which is the biggest commercial lab in Paris.

    But with Negatif Plus, you never work with the printer - they don't have time for that.

    I stand corrected: GG's lab maybe the last commercial lab specialized in art making. He does not work for mode or ads company. Only art. It is only a small lab consisted of 3 - 4 personels, that's how they survived.

    After Cartier Bresson's printer retired, now it's him who is responsible for printing CB's works.
     
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  4. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    Interesting report from Paris. However, don't know if Bob Carnie will agree, but don't think there has been any darkroom work done for advertising agencies for some time, nor much now for fashion sadly. At least in London.
     
  5. slight

    slight Member

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    My apologies, it seems that the hosting site does not allow citing, that's why the pictures are not showing.

    You can see these pictures at http://www.douban.com/note/169006032/

    Just ignore the discussion in Chinese if you don't speak that language:smile:
     
  6. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    FYI - I am training a young printer. Her goal is to open a fine art printing lab in Barcelona Spain, I will be taking orders with her for Europeon Clients, when I am too old to walk she will take over. She is learning to dodge and burn by hand.

    There are still millions of negative to print by hand, as long as Ilford makes paper.
    Before they stop I will buy a container of silver gelatin paper. I see twenty to thirty years of printing silver gelatin, I may be wearing depends but I still plan to do so.

    What is troublesome about this thread is the naivety of the OP and his/her assertion that the craft which I have been practicing for the last 30 years is dead. I have never been busier with making silver prints. Yes we do allow the photographer in the darkroom with me , we charge more money for this and make them buy the paper, this way I can work under direction, but again not feel slowed down by an inexperienced worker in my darkroom. Time wasted and paper waste becomes the photographers issue and soon they gravitate to allowing me to do the job I have been training my whole adult life to do.


    Mike- yes the commercial work is dead here in Canada as well, due to digital and every photographer becoming a printer, but I have kept my top 20 commercial clients and do all their fine art work. They have an aesthetic or better said an appreciation of what I can produce for them. We moved towards the fine art clients and have another stable of clients who I have worked with and nurtured to create wonderful bodies of work.
    When I think of all the great printers , not being able to survive with this craft it breaks my heart.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I should add Avedon and Penn were doing work for fashion houses.. I kind of like their work and I would consider it art.
     
  8. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    Thanks for posting the photos, always good to see in other printer's darkrooms. But what's picture 4 about? Looks like he's toning in tomato soup!



    Bob, I think The OP was just referring to last darkroom in Paris, but can't believe there's not more. There was this one posted a few months back with very nice video.
    http://www.laboratoire-tirages-argentiques.com/prestation-eng.html
     

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  9. Philippe Grunchec

    Philippe Grunchec Member

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    In Paris, Imaginoir, Demi-Teinte (Jean-Pierre Haie), Fenêtre sur cour (Nathalie Lopparelli), Publimod, Stéphane Cormier and many others are still working in the traditional way...
     
  10. slight

    slight Member

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    Hi. It's only regular fixer. My blackberry 9700 is to blame :smile:
     
  11. slight

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    Sorry if the title offended anyone. I have to admit that I honestly don't know about other fine art printing lab, my ignorance is to be blamed and it is very good to know that there are still other labs operating in Paris.

    It is also very good to know that the other existing printing lab is flooded with orders. Same thing happened here.The market is small but might be enough to support very small professional lab. And I think it's a good thing.

    I edited the title of my thread, again, sorry for any misunderstanding.:smile:
     
  12. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Thank you for your post, printing is taken very seriously in different parts of the world and I like the idea that there are other great workers still making hand prints, and hopefully being financially rewarded for their efforts.


    Mike C - I started my silver lab in 1991 after 15 years apprenticing and learning after school in larger commercial labs. My dream was always to silver print for others but I wanted a good fundamental background in lab business.
    I was glad I went this route, but I have to admit I missed the hey days that a lot of other printers experienced,financially and volume wise. What happened to me was a lot of photographers came to me and asked me to match prints of other printers work , which I refused and basically started in 91 with a whole new crop of emerging artists, that did not have a history, 20 years later I have a nice crop of photographers who believe in my work and are giving me all I can handle.
    My question to you is this, printers like Mike Spry for example who IMO made Anton Corbjins work succeed, and you probably could name many printers in your area who were the driving force in the work of many famous photographers, were they rewarded well enough , specifically now that fibre printing is not a workflow common to the magazines, or did the commercial/fashion photographers dump them like hot potatoes,
    I would hope that Mike Spry and other printers were rewarded by being given the task of making / printing out all the editions of the images that made the careers of many photographers.
    To me this is an interesting question as I get close to 60, I am completely revamping my lab to allow me to print edition work, and I am carefully choosing photographers I like as well willing to have me retire by printing out their collections. I actually see this as the final reward for a printer and I wonder how this played down in your town..
    My gut feeling is that most printers who did not prepare for the digital world were abandoned and to me this is sad.
     
  13. slight

    slight Member

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    Hi Bob:

    It is very interesting to hear your story. I'd like to invite you to share more on this topic - which kind of photographer you prefer, and what is your philosophy of art making, etc.

    I think there's a huge distinction between printers as well - this printer I worked with was not picky of his customer, as long as it's not fashion or advertisement. He strictly restricted his works within the realm of fine art. The photographer he hated are those who do not know what they want; but if you know what you want down to detail, he will do it down to perfection regardless of how the photographer calls their style.

    This suited me very well since I always firstly make a digital exemplary in my own digital dark room, and let him duplicate my work in gelatin silver process. I find this work flow very economic and satisfying. I'm a 29 years old fine art cityscape/ low fi style photographer, I make unconventional and creative images out of regular negative. This means that the printers who stick to their ways won't or can't do my work.

    Bob, do you follow the photographer, or rather guide them? The relation between me and my printer is that I supervise strictly his work, and that he fully understands my requirements. He often stressed to me that he's a pair of hands to hire, not a producer who should guide artist.

    This topic is so interesting...

    BTW, his dark room is also equipped with Imacon X5 and another printer who does all the digital printing. This digital printer's task is to duplicate his works in digital. In short, in their work flow, wet dark room reign over digital dark room. However both type of their work is nearly impeccable, that's how their production D'apres Nature got the Nadar Prize of 2010...
     
  14. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Slight

    I prefer a photographer who has a unique vision or story to tell, who uses material and equipmet to best capture that idea on film or file.
    I work in many genres and am not specific to any one style. I prefer the photographer to show me the style of print they are looking for and I then mimic in the darkroom and if both parties like the result we continue.
    I am as proficient with digital PS now as I am in the darkroom so in my shop I do all the image making.
    I will only work with photographers who leave their ego at home and give me room to work.
    I have not met a photographer yet who knows how to work a darkroom better than myself or other professional printers.
    So I am extremely picky of my clients... I also do not like working on one image from different photographers and call that a day.. I only work full day rates and multiple cohesive images from the client.
    I am very happy to let a client leave my shop for a printer who more suits their needs.
    There is always two parties in a relationship and both should be happy.
    Most of my current clients have been with me for over 10 years.

    I follow the photographers lead, show them some prints and do not allow someone to show me how to print. When I first started my small business I would allow this, but always lead to huge problems
    If that is the case they should print their own work rather than hire me.
    Just to be clear there are many many stlyes and a good printer is like a chamelion who can change to the style.
    I am making digital silver negs on a large Lamda Image setter for pt pt and multiple register alternative work , and in my shop both rule..

    hope this helps.
    Bob

     
  15. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    I think that's a question you would have to ask Mike! All I can say is that it's a bit trickier trying to make a living from printing now than ten or fifteen years ago. Of course, when there was film to process from commercial photographers, (and there used to be so much lovely film to process), it was easier to make a decent living out of a lab in the UK. I think there are now about ten of us in London still printing BW and the majority are one man bands. (I don't mean we go busking, though that could be more profitable.) My printing is now split between the darkroom and the computerr and the computer gets the majority. I would say that my best clients are photographers who were firmly film based but are now working digitally. Otherwise, I get to work in both mediums for the same clients. And they are the ones that didn't drop us like hot potatoes! Would firmly agree the importance of printing in different styles. A printer has be able to print to suit the client's tastes.
     
  16. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    yes, fenêtre sur cour / nathalie l. is still running her traditional darkroom, making beautiful prints the traditional way!

    http://atelierfenetresurcour.com/prestation-eng.html
    has a video of her at work ...