At least fifty percent of the image is done in the darkroom—I think Gene would say ninety percent. The negative has the image, but it can’t produce the image completely, as the photographer saw it—not as Gene saw it.
Ahh…the good old days of film photography, when all you had to do was click the shutter (insert sarcasm emoji). The above quote is from photographer James Karales (from a very interesting 2013 article by Sam Stephenson in The Paris Review). Famous for his stunning coverage of the Civil Rights Movement at Look magazine in the 1960s, Karales first found work as Smith’s darkroom assistant, fresh out of college. He goes on:
Gene always liked to get separations around people, figures, and that was always done with potassium ferrocyanide. It was the contrast that made the prints difficult. Gene saw the contrast with his eyes, but the negative wouldn’t capture it the same way. So he would have to bring the lamp down and burn, and then if that spilled too much exposure and made it too dark, you would lighten it with the ferrocyanide.
Patrick’s post got me thinking that the Straight Out of Camera (SOOC) philosophy is a modern phenomenon that seems to track closely with the growth in the number of people owning digital cameras. It’s most active adherents are people for whom any work in the “digital darkroom” is anathema. I think some of these SOOC…