The Print


The first ten years of my photographic career involved chemistry, in fact most of my time was spent in a darkroom.  I worked full-time in a big photographic studio not only processing both colour and B&W film, but also printing from them.  I made my own developers from raw chemicals bought from a specialist chemist near Rotherham, experimented with Lith Paper and Selenium Toner, and put C41 colour neg film through E6 transparency chemistry and vice versa.  Photography seemed like a dark art back then, loading 5x4 inch sheet film while fumbling around in complete darkness in a room filled with a heady cocktail of chemicals.  It is a side of photography that I still miss today , although I have fully embraced the digital darkroom.  When I switched to digital back in 2001 I didn’t personally print my work for a long time, it wasn’t until a shoot went to print usually a month later that I would see the finished work.  The creative printing side to my work suddenly stopped and the style of my work changed while I relearned and figured out how to translate my analogue methods into zeros and ones.  It took me a long time to feel like a creative photographer again and to reclaim my darkroom in its digital form.  But on that journey I realised how important the photographic print still is, it releases your image from the happy vail of the computer screen where everything looks bright and perfect, and shows it in it’s true form.  It makes you assess your work and question your technique.  You engage with subject matter in a certain way because, at the same time you’re considering how it might translate in print.  In the end it makes you a better photographer.  It made me realise nothing has really changed, apart from I’m not a part-time chemist anymore, more of an IT consultant.

The photograph above is part of some new work taken on my trip to South Harris back in March, it was incredibly windy and at the limit of me being able to take a photograph.  The wild conditions only lasted a couple of hours and for the other two days of my three day stay the sky was blue and cloudless.

matt swift