It may be just a JOB, but I still love it...it reminds me of an intern we had at work several years ago. The student just did not *get it*. They kept whining about "when do I get to do something fun?". Unreal--it's a job, get used to it, kid (like I'm some old-timer myself, ha!).
Originally Posted by markbb
One thing that happened to me recently, has been a pleasant surprise. One part of my job is to produce prints for museum exhibits around our state, through our system. I usually have to work with a mix of old copy negs, original negatives and newer copy negs. The old stuff, runs the gamut of being produced as far back as 100 yrs ago. These are pretty hit & miss. Some are great, some are okay, and some are horrible. I always try to make them look the best as I can, as reasonably possible. I feel like I've actually become a better printer, from having to make so many prints from lousy negatives.
My favorite negatives to work with, are the originals that come out of the newspaper and commercial studio archives. I particularly like the 4x5 negs from the 30s-50s, and the smaller formats of the 60s. It's like a time machine almost--I have printed Civil Rights sit-ins, protests, even some pretty awful things like cross burnings, and all sorts of ugly stuff. But it's just amazing to work with the originals.
When it comes to copy work--some people take a different approach and just crank stuff out. I always tried (try) to make the best copy negs I can, and that lead me to approach it like the zone system almost--and I got into filtering, cross polarization, and using batch development to tweak the contrast & extract detail out of these old images--I got into ortho copy films and all sorts of arcane stuff now in the scheme of things...
I started documenting (reformatting) a photo collection back in the late 90s for a book project. Years passed, and the project came & went and the negs sat largely unused in a file. There were hundreds of them, btw.Then last year, the museum planned a small exhibit around these photos and we quietly put it together at the beginning of this year. It was a pretty humble beginning for the exhibit, and we thought they were neat photos, that had been used off & on for 50 yrs or so in textbooks and the like, but they're relatively obscure photos. I really didn't expect the level of interest from the outside though--some of the people I work with, did--they felt very strongly about the images, whereas I had been copying them for years, and it had gotten to the point, where I really wanted to move on to another project. I did the printing though, and painstakingly toned each print (16x20s) and we assembled this exhibit.
It opened a month or two ago, and the public support for it, has been just astounding--surprising to me almost. I have had photographers in town, tell me how great the prints look and how they can't believe that we managed to get such detail out of the originals. To me--my work is usually in the background, and nobody really cares about what goes on in exhibit production really. This has been a real compliment for me, personally, because I know that copywork is often derided. I think this is why it comes as a surprise to many people, that you can make a good print off a copy neg--because a lot of people don't take the time & effort in the first place.
So---it's like I was trying to explain to our intern (who we almost failed by the way, and the school that sent him, didn't send another intern for about 5 years also). It may be *boring* to you--but it's important in the scheme of things, especially in an institution as old as these, where whatever you produce will live on past your life even. I want people to see my negatives, whether originals or copies--50, 75 yrs from now and look forward to working with them, from the point of view of CRAFT. Not be something that you have to work to make a so-so print out of.
so, yes--it's a job. sometimes it's boring. sometimes you have to just do it. But I try to approach it as a craft and take pride in it. Sometimes, when you least expect it (as in this exhibit I mention), people notice.
since I'm talkin' work--my opinions only/not my employers.