RECOGNISING THE CRAFT OF PRINTING
Most photographers working today no longer, or may never, step foot in a traditional analog darkroom. Historically, the public’s perception of photography has been tied to the picture of someone exercising their craft under a scarlet safelight’s glow, agitating white paper in a tray of liquid. Is that collective image being replaced with one of a person clasping a stylus, illuminated by the light of their Macbook Pro? This month’s debate (page 96) broached the subject of printing with panellists who have seen both sides of the digital revolution. Printing isn’t always recognised as its own craft (and a career path in its own right), and we question whether more of today’s professionals should take the time to inherit the knowledge that’s such an integral part of photography’s history. Reinforcing the point in my mind was Stephen Shore, who we had the pleasure of interviewing this issue. He recalls the experience of developing film in his family bathtub – by inspection, no less, aged 14. It seems to me that all of photography’s masters had an expansive knowledge of printing. Although many employed printers, the knowledge gained through collaboration informed their photography and saw the creation of some of the world’s most iconic prints. If that knowledge about the craft of printing is lost, it will be a crying shame. And that statement isn’t restricted to photographers. I bought a print without seeing it recently, without a thought, and it wasn’t until a photographer exclaimed that he never would invest without seeing a print in person that I questioned my actions. The AoP used to name the printer of its competition winners. Industry-wide, there appears to be a loss in recognition. This week I visited Sir Elton John’s The Radical Eye exhibition at Tate Modern. It’s hard to believe that this is a personal collection, such is its breadth and volume. I found myself up close to each photograph, examining the physical qualities of the photographs… I’d seen the images online, but the photographs looked so different and somehow more tangibly tied to their past in their physical forms. My interest in printing is piqued, and I hope yours will be too.
On this issue’s cover is an image by modern master Stephen Shore, of his wife Ginger Shore at Causeway Inn, Tampa, Florida on 17 November, 1977. Taken from the series ‘Uncommon Places’. Read the interview on page 18.