I have enjoyed a love/hate relationship with digital imaging for almost 20 years with, until recently, the balance always tipping towards the latter however in a bout of pragmatism I recently took the decision, in spite of the continued popularity of traditional printing and film use, to close my darkroom and concentrate on the production of digital inkjet prints.
Whilst I felt that digital inkjet printing has been the best medium for colour work for more than a decade it is only within the last couple of years that I could see – in the work of others – that the balance in respect of monochrome print quality was starting to tip towards inkjet prints. It may well be my failing eyesight but can no longer discern the difference between a quality wet print and a quality inkjet one, and that has to be the acid test, for it is the finished photograph that is paramount, not it’s production method enjoyable though working in a darkroom can be.
Having made the decision to develop my photographs within a computer it made no sense to continue using film with the additional complication of making clean scans from negatives. I feel that the modern digital sensor has countless advantages over film with none of many disadvantages of that medium so the change to digital cameras has also been embraced without a hint of regret. Many will disagree with me but I believe that one has to be rational about these matters, so the print is dead; long live the print.
As with darkroom work the right choice of materials and equipment is important, corners cannot be cut, care has to be taken at all stages of print production and that process still starts in camera. One’s skill set has to be changed to suit the new tools although the underlying basics of producing a good print remain the same; and it’s certainly just as easy to produce rubbish; trust me on that point.
My background of film use means that the treatment I give to my digital fles differs little from that formally given to my darkroom prints. I hide or accentuate detail to the extent that I feel is required to tell the story that I see within an image but everything that you will see was there at the taking stage, nothing being added during processing.
One can slice up the digital workflow so that something that had to be planned as a continuous ballet in the light from an enlarger can now be spread over any number of separate operations with a timescale to suit before committing to paper. It’s true that the uniqueness of a darkroom print is lost but then an inkjet clone doesn’t need flattening.
Several of the pictures shown in here originated on film but equally could have been born on a light sensor.