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: 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. He really knows what he's doing...first we caculate the actual image size and mark them on a paper. 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. 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. 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. 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... 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. 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 We did another take on the following picutre: 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.