Lightsong StudioEmma and Katja (2015)

One of the benefits of learning my way around a traditional darkroom when I did was that so many people were adopting digital that there were times when I would have a darkroom with 10 enlargers all to myself.

I kept trying to figure out interesting ways to manipulate my prints. My first experimental efforts was to make a perfect print of a diptych with images from two different negatives. (This is much more difficult than it sounds.)

I figured out how to use a print to make a contact print that rendered a print that reverted to the look of the original negative.

And then I discovered Witkin and Uelsmann and wasted an entire month trying to among other things: seamlessly splice half of one negative together with half of another, composite a scene from elements taken four different negatives. I made progress–but it was slow and cost prohibitively expensive.

Eventually, I realized that as much as I enjoy printing and am in some ways better at it than I am with a camera, I’d rather work with real people, on location and try to as much as possible produce the desired look in camera.

Thus I’m not really fond of this image makers work. The vast majority of it at least draws attention to if not serves as a comment upon its own artifice.

For example, the above image has been burned in to suggest a stylized vignetting. The skin has been ever so carefully toned so that the woman acknowledging the camera stands out by comparison to the woman with her eyes closed. And don’t get me wrong–I only wish I could achieve grading like that in my own work. But perhaps part of the reason I can’t is because the effect is achieved by obvious, heavy handed manipulation of the rest of the frame.

It’s unfortunate because there is something simultaneously post-coital and womb-like about this image. (And it would be stronger without the vignetting to goose the viewer.)

But looking at this something else occurred to me that should be presented as a basic rule of photograph to compliment the rule of thirds and the rule rergarding an odd number of subjects in the frame always being preferable to an even number–namely, if you have to have an even number of people in a frame, have only one acknowledge the camera.