A question I get asked alot, goes something like this:

"..why do you choose to produce your work through the traditional darkroom method of photomontage rather than using a computer....?"

Photoshop has only been around for maybe...20+ years? ...but it seems to have cast a spell of 'cultural (& photographic?) amnesia'.

I'm now 59.... I started working w/ collage when i went to college in 74-75, and when i started doing photo-montage, in '82 or so, the darkroom and traditional methods were the only way to do it - 'digital' didn't exist.
So to me, Photoshop is 'an option', but not a neccessity. From my point of view, it is easy to ask the question: "Why should i spend a pile of money, on a bunch of stuff that will take who-knows-how-long to set up, and learn, when i can produce something that virtually everyone who comments would agree, is 'unique' and 'on the same level as P'shop" without bothering?...."

I never have to worry about an enlarger crashing the way a computer does.
Why re-invent the wheel?... I'm interested in making pictures - 'how i get there' is secondary to the 'there' that i get to.

(P.S. 2010 - computers don't crash nearly as much as they did 10 years ago... but Photoshop is still 'an option, not a neccesity'! I now do plenty of digital work and some digital montage. None of it will replace the darkroom for me.)

On another/deeper level.... It *is* more limiting to work in a traditional darkroom - and that is exactly what I like about it - you have no "un-do's"(especially the way I do it, w/ one enlarger), you don't have a huge pile of 'eye-candy' filters, and "cool effects"", etc etc... So you are stuck with really figuring out *why* you shot whatever it was you shot...you are really stuck with content.
and whatever partially finished print you are working on...
I don't mind the 'being stuck' part.

Years ago, I had a drawing teacher who made his students spend one hour a week drawing 'from life' ( a model of some sort..), and there was one absolute rule - NO Erasing! - (After the hour was up, we slapped all drawings on the wall, and critiqued them..)Once he caught a girl erasing - He rushed over, grabbed everything on her desk 'cept the pencil she was holding, & tossed it all out the window..!
(We were on the fourth floor.)

Somehow, that has always stuck in my mind.
When i first started montage, i combined all kinds of things, just for the textures and spaces, and whatever wierd stuff i could do.... After a few years, especially after coming out to California, I noticed something else developing: There started to be a full circle between what i was 'compelled to shoot', & the image it ended up in.

That probably needs some explaining. When I go shooting, i really just 'go walking'..... I go to places I like, and want to take in somehow, but I have no agenda, or plan most of the time.. And i just walk, until something says "take me" - it's something that 'shines', in the Stephen King sense of the word - there's a vibe from another reality of some sort....I'm not sure how it 'connects', but I take a few frames.

Over the last 18 years in & around San Francisco, I've found a few places that have.. hhmmm how can i put it? - a certain something about them.. so I stop by regularly.

I spend alot of time pawing over my proof sheets, and making small 'tracings'(drawings) of things that 'gather moss'... When something 'grabs me', i start printing, and i don't know, many times, how a picture will end, but i start anyway. ...and look at a partial test print/ or a drawing that i keep on the easel, and go back thru the proof sheets.... until i find what really finishes a picture off - the 'being trapped... and having to figure it out' is the important part of it.

Seems like my process has evolved over the years, and the more comfortable & confident I am about printing skills, the more variation there is in how I approach any particular image. When I shoot some images, i have an idea which ones maybe "the key" , or the nucleus of a picture - I look over my proof sheets alot, and sort of 'store in the back of my head/subconcious/.... those images.

It seems like my subconcious mind wants to work on them..... Sometimes, the picture just lands in my minds eye - rather 'fully formed', and the printing process is fast & more focused on the subtleties of the secondary elements ( clouds, horizons, foreground & back ground textures).

I have started to print these pictures twice - the first time, with the attitude that "*maybe* this will be a finish....and maybe *not*..."
whichever happens, is OK.

The second printing is usually done immediately after the first, when I see how various 'overlays' are working, to refine the values or postion slightly. I still have more of the same batch of paper and of chemistry, in trays, and if I record the f-stop/exposure times, it goes really quickly.

PS 2010 - More recently, I have been printing several versions of the same image, during the same darkroom session - the first is rather simple, the following ones are more complex, and add more to the image. It's an interesting way to work, and I have more varying prints from the same 'thought'. :-)

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