Old School Photography

Much of what we do at Ann Street Studio is with digital technology and I do love digital. I think it’s important to know the newest technology because that will forever shape how we shoot and see tomorrow. However, I was not raised on digital, but on the slow pace of film… the time it takes to load it and think about your exposure, never knowing if you got the shot until hours or days later. For our studio holiday card this year I wanted to step back, slow down, and enjoy the process of photography. It was amazing how much longer everything took, such a contrast to the enormous amount of content we can quickly produce these days.

We wanted to print an edition of 200 and started with the concept of shooting a simple still life of peonies to represent romance: the romance of mine and Kevin’s marriage this year. I went down to the Chelsea flower market and bought a variety of options.

It took 6 me hours to photograph 20 plates of 4×5 film.

Each sheet of film is carefully processed in pitch-black rooms with large dipping tanks. We then reviewed the contacts sheets of the film to choose our select for printing. I used red and green filters on the flowers when photographing to lighten and darken the greens and reds of the image and add more tonality to the end black and white product.

My favorite photo lab to use is actually LaPete in Boston. It’s large, clean, quiet and Bill (the owner) is an encyclopedia of photography and old school techniques. I go there partly to pick his brain.

30 sec exposure to light on warm toned fiber base paper, 2 mins in developer, 30 secs in stop bath (stops development), 5 mins in fixer (makes it not light sensitive), 30 mins in wash baths. It took two full days of printing to produce the 200 prints.

Using fiber based paper is a longer drying process than RC; each print was dried and pressed in 3 different machines, then cooled under weighted glass to flatten the print.

We headed down to Savannah and spent three days in Gallery Espresso spot toning each image by hand, since dust spots sometimes occur in the printing process. Signed, dated, and numbered – then sent for shipping.

It was, for me, like taking a deep breath. Although we always strive to create the best work we can possible create, I had an overwhelming since of pride looking at the photograph after all the time and detail and days it took to create it.

“Flower #7”, 2012