I miss the darkroom. Well, not exactly. What I miss is the magic of a photo coming up in the developer, the smells of the chemicals, the uniqueness of every print. Making a print by hand is really where the "magic" of photography exists for me. Today's digital prints are beautiful, but they lack an organic quality - the beauty of a hand craft - that makes them somewhat boring. That said, I don't miss the time in the absolute blackness of the darkroom, the smells of the chemistry (except for the fixer - everybody loves fixer!), the shock of coming out from the safelight to the daylight, or the amount of time it takes to make a print using modern enlargers.
Over the last few months, I've been experimenting with a printing technique invented in the 1830s and used somewhat commonly in photography from the 1850s to the 1920s. Gum dichromate printing uses watercolors, gum arabic (the sap of a middle eastern tree), and a light sensitive salt to make photographs on many different surfaces. It takes many days to get a print because of the steps that must be taken, and the proportion of successful prints to dismal failures should be disconcerting.
For some reason, however, I love gum dichromate printing. I've started to become confident enough in my results to begin printing some personal work on it. I'm thrilled with the results so far, in large part because it is allowing me to look at my photography in a different way. The character of the prints is so different than any modern printing technologies, and it is allowing me to give my photos a handmade quality that is so foreign to the very sterile, boring digital technologies of today. Further there is just a satisfaction at creating a print that looks good and took many hours to make. I'm absolutely in love with this process. Keep your eyes open - I'll be releasing selections from these new bodies of work in the very near future!