Decisions, Decisions…

Untitled, 1997, #2

This past week has been a busy one as far as things photographic go.

Now that I’ve started printing photographs again, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to actually try to do something with them. For the most part, the only one who gets to see my prints is me, so I want to see if I can change that.

Of course, it would be nice if I can convince some people to open up their wallets to buy some of these prints. Not that I expect to really make any money on my photography, but it would be nice to get a little something back to help offset some of my photographic costs. To that end, I’ve decided to place an ad in an upcoming issue of B&W magazine. The ad copy and photos had to be submitted last week, so I spent a fair amount of time getting those things ready. There’s no guarantee that anybody will bite, but I’ve got to at least try. I’ll let everyone know when the issue with the ad has been released.

The day after that material was due was the postmark date for entering B&W magazine’s single image competition. I haven’t entered any of the magazines competitions in the past few years, so I thought I’d give it a try this time. Again, this is an effort to raise my profile, get some work published and added to my resume. I submitted more than I might have in another year to increase my chances, both nudes and travel photos – with the nudes only comprising about one-quarter of the photos. There’s only one category for nudes, but the travel work can fall under different categories, which I figure gives me more of a chance.

One effect of placing an ad is that I really need to get my new website up to speed if people are going to start looking there. I haven’t worked on the site in quite some time, but I’ve been preparing to do so by beginning to scan all of the negatives from which I’ve made exhibition prints. A good number of these will be posted on the website. Many of these I’d scanned before. The difference is that now I’ve got the title of each image recorded with the scan, enabling me to properly identify each image on the website.

I had to stay home on Saturday as I was waiting for a package from FedEx (which actually showed up, unlike past attempts), so I decided to begin doing the scans then. As the packaged didn’t arrive until around 3:45 pm, I had plenty of time for scanning and managed to scan a total of 40. I did a bunch more today, bringing the total up to 56. I’ve got plenty more to go through, but at least I’ve made a good start. You can see one of these newly scanned images at the top here.

Still, perhaps the biggest event was getting back into the darkroom yesterday after an absence of nearly three months. I want to try printing at least once a month – twice if I can manage it – but holidays, my trip to Japan, visitors staying over and other things just got in the way until now.

My intention was to make prints from three negatives, but as it turned out, I only had enough time and paper to print two – and one of those will probably need to be printed again as I’m not really happy with the results.

I still consider myself to be at a stage where I’m getting re-acquainted with darkroom work. There are two basic things, as I see it, to be relearned. One is the routine: the physical act of getting things set up, the manner in which to do things- and making sure I have enough paper as well as chemicals. (Fortunately, by the time I used my last piece of photo paper, it was time to call it quits, anyway.)

The other thing to get up to speed with is much more complicated. That’s what I call “seeing in the darkroom.” This involves the decision-making process: does a print need more or less contrast? Does it need any dodging and burning? Should it be darker or lighter? The most important question in this regard seems to be: when is enough enough?

Deciding that the final method for printing a negative has been reached is critical, as I typically make several more prints that way, being the final print. The problem here is that I have to forget that I have more negatives that I want to print and concentrate on the one at hand, taking a good look at it to be sure that I’m really happy with it.

That didn’t happen yesterday. In making my first print – a photo from Thailand – I was obviously thinking of the other negatives I wanted to print and not paying proper attention. I thought that I had made a good print and printed up two more, but upon later reflection I realized that it really needs more work.

It’s kind of like a shortstop who sees a ground ball being hit his way. Anxious to get a double play, rather than making sure to get one out, he hurries his actions and ends up booting the ball, getting nobody out. That isn’t totally the case of what happened yesterday, as I am happy with the second print – one of my nudes of Carlotta in Nevada – though it did take a lot of work and five tries before I finally got it right. Fortunately, I didn’t boot that one – and I hope to get back to the Thailand photo next time.

Still, I’m beginning to understand what Ansel Adams meant when he said that he’d be happy if he only made a dozen good prints in one year.

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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5 Responses to Decisions, Decisions…

  1. First rule of darkroom work: Two drops of stop bath in gin, with an olive make the best martini. Indicator stop bath does not work nearly as well, but will do in a pinch, just if it goes purple make sure you mix your martini in the dark. Actually gin poured into the stop bath tray makes for a good martini source that you can tap off of until there is not enough to cover the print, as long as the mix is 95 gin to 5 stop bath. You can through in a few olives too and they help keep the stop bath mixed as you tip the tray. I have found to ill effect of olives in my stop bath on the actual prints. All the harmful crap is stripped off in the fixer bath, but after a few hours of sloshing prints around your martinis can start to develop a developer taste. Best to keep fresh stop bath on hand when that happens, and a new jar of olives.

  2. Dave Rudin says:

    Dave,Have you ever tried gin and toner???

  3. Bill Ballard says:

    Dave: good luck with sales of your work. I've been thinking of giving an advert in B+W Magazine a try myself. I'll be interested to hear your experiences. Having been on the gallery side of things for a while, even as an owning partner in one for a few years, all I can say is I wish you well. However, I feel you're mistaken that aside from you, no one wants to see your prints. My experience has been that everyone wants to see your prints; it's just that fewer want to actually buy them!

  4. Dave Rudin says:

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, Bill, and for your good wishes. They are much appreciated.However, to make a minor correction, I wrote that nobody but me "gets" to see my prints, not that nobody "wants" to. :-)As far as reaction to the ad, hopefully I'll be able to write about it here in a few months. Stay tuned.

  5. Bill Ballard says:

    Ah yes…I stand corrected. 🙂

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