Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shopped for Photoshopper

The first darkroom to develop films and print images was in a closet underneath a staircase in a bungalow in the town of Breda, the Netherlands.
This must have been around 1966.

As of then, wherever living, a darkroom was installed and used.

This was also the situation when living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in a large and comfortable house in the city centre near the famous Leidseplein and the Vondelpark.
One room was the archive.
One large room was the studio where portraits and erotic pictures were made.
One room was the darkroom.

But in the 90’s some things changed.
The activities in photography had become very time consuming.
There were always projects to perform, travels to make, portraits to take, exhibitions to be prepared and publications to arrange.
Less and less time was available to do printing in the darkroom.

Besides, after more than 25 years printing in the darkroom, it was felt it was getting rather boring.
And it was realized how unhealthy it was to stand for hours in chemical fumes in spite of a good ventilator.

Fortunately not far away from the house was a small professional lab run by a woman called Ruby specialised in developing black and white films and making black and white prints.
She got involved and responsible for most of the printing.

There were two hurdles to take to come to this decision.
One was a financial one.
Of course it was more expensive to have a professional lab print the pictures compared with doing it oneself.
Because when one does it oneself, the hours are not counted and charged.
But in the 90’s money was coming in from sales of work and also people who wanted to buy work had to pay higher prices to include Ruby’s fees.

But most important hurdle was the acceptance that the photographer himself did not print the own pictures anymore.
At the time it was believed that only the one who took the picture should do the printing in the darkroom.
Many thought that a print had more personal characteristics when the photographer did the printing.
Having a lab do the printing was like giving up on a strong personal presence in the print.

However, it did not take long to realise that Ruby made prints much better than the photographers could make.
And quickly this doctrine and dogma of having to do the own printing was dumped, production and quality increased and much more time became available for taking pictures.

Soon after, the darkroom was changed into a second guestroom when the wife’s brother moved in.
That was the last darkroom in the existence of this photographer and this is a celebrated and happy thing.

Nowadays, in the age of digital photography when there are no more films to develop and print, another issue has been coming up.

Since a few years on an abandoned beach in Baja California, Mexico, conceptual images are made.
This with a digital camera.
The individual pictures are combined into a final image with a software program called Photoshop in an Apple computer.

What is becoming clear is that the effectiveness of working in Photoshop and the resulting quality has everything to do with the skill and experience one has with this software program.
Photoshop is a very complex program and it takes courses and classes and many hours behind the computer to become a pro.

This situation results in the photographer having brilliant ideas for new conceptual images using several pictures but running into a wall.

It is possible now to construct with Photoshop a new conceptual image using existing pictures made on the beach, but the result looks rather clumsy.
This is because of lack of sufficient knowledge and experience with the software program Photoshop.

Hence, like in the 90’s, the question is asked if it is not a dogma that a photographer must construct his own images in Photoshop?
Why can a specialist not do it?
Who get precise instructions and clumsy examples after which a perfect and convincing image is the result?

Recently this process has been passed.
The concept of doing the manipulations in Photoshop on the own computer with the limited knowledge of the software has been left behind.
The decision has been made to hire an expert who will work on the PS-series in order to have perfect and more convincing results.

In the near future this collaboration may evolve in making the starting point pictures in Mexico and sending them to the Photoshop expert together with sketches how the final conceptual image is desired.
The days of spending many hours being frustrated with Photoshop are over.

Of course, one consequence is that now the price of the images of the PS-series will go up.
However, the collector gets a much better product.



Merel Zwart said...

I think it's common practice in advertising to have photoshop experts putting together pictures and photographers taking the credit for the final result.

mandira said...

Every painter began by crushing pigments and making paints in his master's shop, after becoming famous he let his own pupils fill less important parts of his canvases. But he still knew all the tricks of the trade.

Is not there a danger, that in your creative process you'll become dependent on the other? After all it is not advertising, and you need also have great trust in the expert not to misuse your material for some other purposes.

Anonymous said...

Andy Warhol didn't seem bothered by letting others complete his art. If you haven't found a master photoshop wizard you may want to check out Gene Nocon, the master of B/W and Digital out put.