For me the printing process is part of the magic of photography. It's that magic that can be exciting, disappointing, rewarding and frustrating all in the same few moments in the darkroom.
Whatever it takes to get the image to reach that level is what that photographer needs to do. And for me, I just have such a love of the tactile and sensuous quality of a black and white silver gelatin print.
I really don't have any secrets. I've never met a photographer whose work I respected that had a secret because the secret lies within each and every one of us.
A photographer needs to be a good editor of negatives and prints! In fact, most of the prints I make are for my eyes only, and they are no good. I find the single most valuable tool in the darkroom is my trash can - that's where most of my prints end up.
So to me it's very similar in terms of trying to distill within the image, those elements that are gonna form, hopefully, a compelling visual statement.
And friends of mine that had photography class in high school would develop the film and make prints and I'd take them back to the track and give 'em away or try and sell them. Much to my parents' dismay, I majored in photography in college.
I took a workshop from him a few months after that. That experience changed my whole approach to photography. At that workshop in Yosemite in 1973 I decided I wanted to try and see if I could pursue this for myself, and I'm still trying.
I find the surface of a photograph a thing of beauty in and of itself, and it is this surface that makes a photograph unique relative to other two-dimensional media.
I think the greatest photographers are the amateur photographers who do it because they love it. Arnold Newman is a good example; he is a consummate professional, but he's also an 'amateur' in the pure sense of the word.
I remembered seeing it and it was this metallic turbine and I thought it was beautiful. I had never been in a power plant before, but I felt, without being overly dramatic, compelled to make photographs of this for myself.
The first day at the power plant I found myself photographing some steam vents on the roof of the structure. And I remember consciously thinking that they were just like trees but they were metal.
Having photographed the landscape for a number of years and specifically working with trees and in the forest I found, without consciously thinking about it, that it was a great learning experience for me in terms of organizing elements.
And the camera position, the organization, looking for repeating forms, shapes, trying to set up a visual rhythm seemed to come very natural. All of a sudden I was in a forest of aluminum and steel rather than a forest that we might think of in a traditional sense.
I've found even after nearly 30 years of doing this, there are all kinds of new surprises that rear their heads at various times and I truly believe that 51% of the images, success takes place in the darkroom.
I've never seen a surface that I think is more seductive in image making.
It was amazing to watch him in the darkroom at an advanced age, still get excited when the results were pleasing. He still struggled like we all do in the darkroom and he struggled behind the camera, and when he had a success he was beaming.
The reason I do workshops is so I can learn, and I am fortunate that I've probably gained more from the whole experience of teaching than any one participant has. It is all about asking.
Whatever it takes to get the image to reach that level is what that photographer needs to do.
When the object that is produced...the photographic image...has the ability to make tears come to your eyes; to inspire you to the point where you have to catch your breath, then nothing else matters.
Today my passion is still black and white. Today if I have an array of cameras in front of me the one I would reach for that I would feel most comfortable with would be a 4 X 5 View camera. I was once working in a sort of soft light situation.
Many photographers are consumed with the idea of making beautiful contact sheets. I am far more interested in making the best final print I can.
We all start in this medium because of the magic and the challenge is to keep it going.
And as part of my activity there, he had indicated he wanted me to work with him on that and conduct the various technical tests. And so a few months later I moved from Southern California up to the Monterey Peninsula where I still live today.
To convey in the print the feeling you experienced when you exposed your film – to walk out of the darkroom and say: ‘This is it, the equivalent of what I saw and felt!’. That’s what it’s all about.
I support any procedure that allows photographers to express themselves, whether that involves color, black and white, platinum, palladium and digital technology.
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