Work top down with respect to quality.
I try to pick the negative I like the most before I got into the lab. The first work print will show if was right. By the time I have finished the print in the way I imagined it, it sets the standard for the ones following and usually keeps me from printing more than one or two more (in several copies). This way I print what mostly are the keepers.
With landscapes and architecture and other abstract stuff I even skip the contact sheets which I only find neccessary for people to judge expression and posture. But this is just me...
I agree. I walk into my darkroom without any other expectation than to have fun. I have to admit that I got burned out doing production printing for clients. Printing for myself, I have fun and once in a while I have a fortunate mistake and I make a print beautiful that I didn't expect to make. The hours I spend in my darkroom seem only like minutes. Time flies. The final product is something real that I can hold in my hands.
Originally Posted by Thomas Bertilsson
It is similar to taking a drive in the car. Sometimes the reason is I have to go someplace, work, store, doctor appointment. Other times, I am just interested in sight seeing, looking around, going some place to see what it looks like there, never having been there before. So, sometimes I need to, other times just want to, go into the darkroom.
Yep..FUN! For some, the darkroom is a relief valve, but for me, if I am tense, in a bad mood, or down for any reason, I just can't accomplish much. Pressure in life is everywhere and if I have to add the pressure of printing and delivering something worthwhile, my head would just blow up. Deep breath and a big smile = good. In short, get a big fat joint, a couple of bags of pretzels and head into the dark :) NO, I'm just kidding, really. I don't do that... but it doesn't sound so bad. :)
I just started printing again after a 10 year hiatus. Before that, it was 5x7's and 8x10's as re-prints for people who wanted a copy of the photo that we shot for the paper, before that, in 91' for a class. If a camera, lens or enlarger is a tool, then a darkroom is a big tool box. I love to make things, I heart toolboxes...
I look at the darkroom process like I do the manner in which I built some of the components of mine, by hand. Mine is cramped, so it is not a space for endless experiments in toning and lots of elaborate baths. It's a place to walk in with a neg you have been aching to print for years. And while I relish in the personal nature of my input into the medium, I also look at it as business which I also enjoy. I feel good when I see one print that is worth selling, I feel great when I see 10 of the same one from one session.
So I go in with a plan. And that plan can be to not waste more than 3 out of a run of 20 FB prints in trying to fill an edition, to cranking out a few 8 x 10 RC edit proofs of negs I want to get a better feel for. But either way, I just don't mess around much in there and really like the idea of it not taking too much time away from shooting, being outside. So while I love how different it is, and I am not one who needs to use it to escape, it is a very important part of my final vision that I try to consume in modest amounts.
I try to have fun, focus on something specific for a bit (maybe a series), then change it up to challenge myself (ie print a neg that is very challenging that I might have passed over in the series). Stay stimulated/focused yet agile with the goal of having a blast!
If I may share some personal thoughts ...
I look forward to working in the darkroom partly because when I became really interested in photographer in jr. high, I think I must have spent as much or maybe more time in the darkroom.
Now, I look forward to the weekend to get into the darkroom ... it is ... dare I say ... somewhat therapeutic. Yes, sometimes I have something in mind to print, i.e., the first few images from my new Ilford/Harman Titan 4x5 pinhole camera. Unless of course I forgot to put the negatives in my bag and only realise this after I get to the darkroom. No problem, because I can always, always find negs to print as I go through my Work Box.
I think it is important to print for you.
Nevertheless, I do wish I could do more with my fine-art photographic images such as sell prints rather than just exhibit in a few modest venues or publish in magazines. But alas, I am content with the hopeful possibility that someday collectors and galleries might come across my work. In the mean time, the few real "keeper" prints I am able to produce continue to accumulate towards building a) a solid portfolio; b) prints for exhibition & sale; c) hang on my walls; d) give as gifts; e) use in teaching.
Finally, I use to take a plethora of images of my children when they were small ... some of my best work, and one piece even won an award.
My wife was very artistic in her own way and took many of the images and made chronological albums with them, so pictures of one's family are a priceless legacy to one's art and family.
All the best,
I don't go into the darkroom with expectations of getting a good print right away. Sometimes nothing I like gets done. Work prints are pinned on a bulletin board in my den and looked at for a while. A lot of images get tossed in the process. I like my darkroom sessions to be relaxed and flexible. Good music helps me set the mood.
Is this about getting things done? Turning off the TV is a good start. :alien:
Seriously, I think concrete goals are at the core of all achievement and happiness. Unfortunately, I'm not good with goals, at least the quantifiable, verifiable variety.
Keith Carter is one of the hardest working, most disciplined photographers alive today. He prints three or four sessions a week, three hours each. He says this allows him to almost "keep up" with his prolific output.
My main problem is that I have years of negatives that need printing, and I just can't decide which one to start with. Each one of those unfinished negatives lurks in the back of my mind, gnawing at me, telling me I am incapable of finishing, so why bother?
One thing that has helped is to decide on 10x10 prints for my everyday size. Not too big, not too small, not too expensive, nor difficult to store, just right; and if they ever need to be printed bigger, it's because the gallery is saying "we can sell these like crazy in 20x20!" At that point, someone else will probably be printing for me.
People think being a photographer is a lot of fun, and it is, but it's a lot of damned work, too. How you approach the damned work part of it is surely of equal or greater importance than the fun part. As Keith says "there's no excuse, you gotta get the work done."
I have a list of negatives that I need to try to print, and there is usually some other film around that needs attention. I'm always behind schedule, and I don't care very much (age??). I'm not sure what motivates me, but I think it's mostly the challenge and the surprises. What looks easy to print is often very difficult to do well, and what looks difficult often turns out well in only a couple of tries. I don't make contact sheets. For me they are a waste of time and paper and are almost always very misleading. Instead, I've learned to judge negatives, at least pretty well. The fuss of the darkroom is a de-motivater. I need enough enthusiasm to set up, decide on what to do, and mix the solutions. Then I usually break for food, and if I'm not distracted by something else around the house that needs my urgent attention, I get back to the darkroom and can do some interesting work. After a few prints, my back starts to ache, and I may take a break. If I recover, I print some more until I'm either too tired or too sore. Then I have to wash the prints, hang them up to dry, and clean up the mess. It seems like an awful lot of pain for the results, but somehow I enjoy it.