Aloha to all my students and good friends.
I wanted to take a few moments of your time and begin a new on going forum of my lecture notes and articles. This first one is the one I used at last year’s lecture at WPPI. Again this year I will also be giving a lecture at WPPI so hope you folks can make it.
The announcement of the Daguerreotype process in 1837 started Professional Photography. It was a laborious process, in which the sitter had to have his head clamped to a head brace and his face painted white. The reason for this is exposures took over three minutes, and furthermore there was no electric light. That’s why no early photographs of children from that era exist; only what we now call “casket portraits”. This is because one of the first early jobs for Daguerrian photographers was to take pictures of deceased children.
Oh by the way, did I mention after these copper coated plates were exposed they were developed in Mercury Vapor? Well, no early photographers using this process lived longer then thirty seven years. Assignment one for my students is to look up the process and get a detailed description of how it all worked. http://www.daguerre.org/. In one of my next articles I will post pictures of one of these cameras and add some drawings of how they worked.
scientist and artist
OK, so where am I going with this article? Well, back then, the photographer was both a scientist and artist. I use the term artist lightly here as most of these early images were just like a passport picture. Foot note for study here look up Antoine Claudet. I will get back to him in my next article. So you needed to both take the picture and then have a method of printing it. NO LABS.
Now Im going to take a huge leap in time and put us at the turn of the century, were we have glass plates and photo clubs. By the way most women were not allowed in photo clubs just for the guys. Hey same deal for early bicycle clubs. What Im getting at is right up to the the early sixties most Pro Photographers took the pictures in their studio, and developed the large format usually 8×10 or 5×7 film holders in the basement where they also made the prints. Every photographer tried to excel at making master prints. My point: You could not even be a photographer back then with out being able to do both.
THE ONE HR PHOTO-BIZ
With the birth of the LAB and THE ONE HR PHOTO-BIZ a new era arrived. With “early color”, very few if any professional photographers printed their own portraits. Hey do you know my dad was one of the
first to put in a early color lab to do his own studio? In essence, here we as a group that lost the ability to practice the other part of our craft. It was a major turning point and of course as we all know all of those early color photographs faded. So a complete generation of photographers lost the ability to be both artist in the studio and technician in making master prints.
the importance of making your own prints
In the mid nineties, led by Epson, we got printers that gave photography back to the photographer. They as a company listened to what us photographers wanted. We could now print color on any surface we wanted. Canvas, watercolor papers and even silk. This, single-handedly, changed the entire playing field of our industry. My whole lecture series at many of the shows is to try and get you all to get back into printing. Printing your own work is the only way to start to learn what a great print is all about. As you make mistakes and experiment, you all grow. I feel you can never truly be a great photographer unless you come FULL CIRCLE and learn the aspects of fine print making. I guarantee that if you print, you will become a better photographer. By the way, how far do you think Ansel Adams would have got if he sent his images to a Lab? Do not get me wrong, Labs are great, but unless you understand printing your self and make your own master images its hard to tell someone else what to do.
Michael Gilbert MA.CR. XXV
Please stay tuned for my new Web Page and lots of new articles