A year has passed again and it is time for me to prepare for the annual JRP chapter exhibition, starting Tuesday next week. Last year I showed four landcape images, taken on 8×10. This time it is all 35mm, eight photographs taken this summer during my summer holiday in Europe. Actually I am rather surprised that after feeling to struggle with pictures from back home so much that I had anything presentable at all. Still, with some emotional distance and good efforts editing down the selected images seemed to improve the more I looked at them. Now I am quite pleased and the images appear to have taken on a life of their own.
I have spent the last three days wet printing them to 14×17″ size, something I have not done in many many years, could be over ten years. The first day I just spent figuring things out and wasted a lot of time and paper. I don’t have space for a set of large trays so I used my Jobo print drums. This caused some problems (heavy streaking and rapid developer exhaustion) but on day two I found that the remedy was a 3-4 minute presoaking in water. The paper is Fuji Bromide Rembrant V fiber paper in double weight. After that the processing was flawless and I needed to make the eight prints in half the time, which was a challenge, but now they’re done and just need another wash and then put into the frames.
Like last year, a senior JRP photographer will visit the exhibition and offer individual feedback on the work of everyone. This year it will be by Yasuo Otsuji. I was very nervous last year about this, but this time I am a little more confident about it, so I am looking forward to the day (and the obligatory Japanese style party afterwards with many speeches). I just need to think about how to better explain the images as the people who I talked about them so far did not fully understand.
I cannot overstate how satisfying it is again to work on a set of images from capture to seeing them on paper. This is something that seems to have been lost with the advent of digital and the web. You put your images on Flickr, and that’s it. For me this is a waste and will not contribute to your self-improvement as a photographer. Producing work is all about making serious commitments, and printing something even with a lot of effort really makes you think about your images. Seeing the work prints in the evening makes you think about your images. Putting them into the frames makes you think about your images, and so does hanging them on the wall. Sitting in front of the computer doesn’t seem to do this for me. First because I would rarely spend long enough time at my desk to get in the right frame of mind, and then I’d always think that it’s just an image on the screen — and the bar hangs low for these.
This is not criticism of ‘digital’, don’t get me wrong, but the web and digital publishing will, in my opinion, encourage laziness and casual attention to things and as humans we are susceptible to such temptations and it will get harder and harder to push yourself to the finish line. It is like trying to get yourself home cooking when cheap and instant fast foods or ready meals are available at all times. I have always maintained that digital does not add anything substantially new to image making, like a PC does not to the act of writing. The key is the increased means of distribution, and this is as much a blessing as it is a curse. The web has a lot of true value, but also an overwhelming power to just offer endless diversion, which we need to be conscious about. For every resource out there, there are 99 unproductive ways to spend your finite time dedicated to photography.
There are no shortcuts and not the photographer who has the best equipment or knows his darkroom or Lightroom the best will succeed, but the one with the self-discipline and vision taking a thought process from beginning to completion, going all the way over the many bumps and detours on the way. This even works when it is not your best potential output you are dedicating yourself to, as long as you are working on something you set as your goal. Commitment — to yourself, to your work and to the discipline of photography.