Another satisfied artist

We received this note from an artist who recently made the transition to digital printing here at Light Work/Community Darkrooms. This is exactly the place to make that change and have it be fun. Read on to hear about Michelle’s experience in her own words.

“. . . I hope to be back in Syracuse next weekend or early the following week. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time! I basically came up to Syracuse with a vague notion of wanting to make a tightly edited portfolio of ten to twelve 16 x 20 prints. The images are from a project I’ve been working on for the past ten years—a mix of medium and large format film.

I have never seen a photograph printed larger than 8 x 10. I think I just wanted to see what these images looked like big. I do have a darkroom at home that I could have used, but I often find it difficult to stay focused when I am at home with so many distractions. . . .

Last Monday, I spent close to ten hours printing in the artist’s [black-and-white] darkroom. I have been printing for thirty years. I couldn’t even begin to calculate how many hours of my life I’ve spent in the dark, hovering over trays of chemicals. By the end of the day I was exhausted and frustrated. I couldn’t face the thought of spending another minute printing in the darkroom. By late Monday evening, I had made up my mind: my [traditional black-and-white] printing days were over.

I’ll admit, the Imacon scanner was intimidating. The process of creating a proper scan and then prepping the file for printing in Photoshop felt overwhelming. On Wednesday, I learned that most of the scans I had done the previous day weren’t very good. I had clipped both the shadows and the highlights. I felt like crying and calling my mother to come pick me up, which wouldn’t have been practical as she lives in Florida. [Digital Lab Manager] John Mannion just smiled and said, “It would be easy to give up right about now. Go back in there and get a proper histogram.”

Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper. I dialed up James, one of the Light Work mentors. It took him all of ten minutes to materialize. I’ve waited much longer for pizza delivery. He held my hand through two or three scans. Everyone helped with Photoshop suggestions. [Customer Service Manager] Vern Burnett even got me to re-think one of my images, which changed the way I ultimately cropped it. By Friday, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it: producing scans that preserved all of the detail in the highlights and shadows, at least where the detail was relevant. I was making nice files in Photoshop using adjustment layers.

The highlight of the week was attending Rachel Herman‘s opening reception [for Imp of Love]. I connected with her and her work immediately. We spoke at length. DC has no shortage of photographers, but most of the photographers I know essentially wear one hat: the wedding photographers shoot weddings for the sake of booking more weddings; the newspaper and wire photographers shoot for their respective employers; the commercial photographers are working for ad agencies and corporate clients. I know very few photographers whose work-for-hire is used as a means to an end. I often feel like I’m working in isolation.

This past week was transformative. It literally changed my life. I’ve learned a new set of skills and an entirely new way of working. Light Work for me is like an oasis!


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