Join Konrad Eek for an in-depth discussion in this video Why bother printing?, part of Black-and-White Darkroom Printing Techniques.
- It's been over 40 years since the first time I went into a darkroom to make a black and white enlargement. I was a photographer for the student paper in my high school, and I had a friend whose mom had a darkroom, and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the process. It was something that I was able to learn the fundamentals fairly quickly, and I was documenting what was going on in my world, the world of my friends, everything is about your friends when you're in high school, and to see those moments translated into these tangible documents of the life I was living was really exciting for me.
It was an opportunity to engage with my fellow students, but also an opportunity to translate some of what we were living into something we could hold onto in a permanent way. And I still, whenever I get into a darkroom, when I stick that print into the developer for the first time, and watch as the chemistry takes its action and makes that image emerge on the paper, I never tire of it. It always brings me back. I do almost everything I do digitally now, there's not much room in the professional world of commercial photography for black and white printing, but the darkroom always draws me back.
You can see as the image starts to form, the little glow under the safelight, and the anticipation of what it's gonna look like when you get to really see the details for the first time. Safelight shows some things but it hides others. The chemical process is just one of many things you can vary in this craftsman approach to creating art. I always feel a little detached from the photographs I do digitally because I'm just looking at light emitted from a screen, and I don't have any hands-on tangible artifact that I've been involved in creating.
There's so many aspects of the traditional process that I think are really important. Ways to alter the results you get, and the overall knowledge of chemistry and physics that's required to get to a good result. I think it's really a satisfying exercise to pursue it, and I also just love what you get when you're finished, the luster of a gelatin silver print I have never seen matched by any digital output. So now that we've run this through the chemistry, I'm gonna rinse it off a little bit, and we'll examine our result.
I've finished rinsing the print, and it's now ready for inspection. In the darkroom I've got a small daylight balanced light source that I can use to inspect prints because the safelights obscure a lot of details, as I mentioned earlier. You can see here we're at a good starting point, but to me it really is just a starting point, and that's what I want to share with you in this course, is all the tools and techniques you'll need to make a good, quality black and white gelatin silver print from a 35 millimeter negative.
First Konrad provides a tour of his own darkroom space, and introduces the key ingredients that dictate how pictures print: paper, exposure, and contrast. He checks a series of images by developing initial test prints, and then explores options for refining the images in the darkroom via cropping, burning and dodging, and adjustments to the development time. When he's finished making prints, Konrad shows how to clean up the darkroom and introduces different paper choices and resources for black-and-white film photographers to explore.