Last winter I got to see a photographic display of cousin Ansel Adams’ work in Boston, Massachusetts. I had seen some of Adams’ work printed before, but only a few images, where this display had dozens of his photographs. I also learned something that I could see for myself and not just read about.
Ansel Adams was a master in the darkroom. He could make images shift dramatically by doing things like dodging and burning, which makes specific areas of an image lighter or darker. What I saw in Boston was that over a period of many years, he would print an image, and then reinterpret it in subsequent printings – changing the emphasis and look of the image, sometimes dramatically.
Today, we don’t need a darkroom to do the same thing. Although I learned in a darkroom environment with a film camera, I am now very comfortable using a digital darkroom – meaning my computer and software. I don’t like to play with images too much on a computer, as I like things to look the way I saw them, but thinking about Ansel’s technique got me playing specifically with images that I took in colour, but could reinterpret in black and white.
The first of these images I did a couple of weeks ago, and in homage to cousin Ansel, I used an image that is almost exactly a decade old. I stripped the colour from the image and then played just a bit with some digital dodging and burning to emphasize the contrast in certain areas. The image you see today is this photo – taken in 2009, but reprinted last week using the new interpretation – complete with a change in paper (I printed it on metallic gloss instead of my normal matte paper) and a change in the ink profile I used, which I calculate by hand. I also printed it much bigger than my normal 11x15 inch prints to show off the picture better. This is where printing all my work myself gives me a different perspective and a different final artwork than many photographers, as being so intimately involved in the final piece you see makes the image presented truly unique.
The image – Wallbrook Winter – is one of two pieces I have in the Yarmouth Art Society’s Winter Show, now on display in the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives – beginning with the opening tonight from 6 to 8 pm!
Why not come on down and see the image for yourself? Then you can tell me if you like the new interpretation better than the old.