Wet dark room in Paris...
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.
Last edited by slight; 08-27-2011 at 12:27 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Last Commercial Darkroom: I think not.
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.
Last edited by slight; 08-27-2011 at 09:42 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
Originally Posted by slight
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
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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.
I should add Avedon and Penn were doing work for fashion houses.. I kind of like their work and I would consider it art.
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.
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...
Hi. It's only regular fixer. My blackberry 9700 is to blame
Originally Posted by Mike Crawford