A Passion To Print by Cali Tatum
Traditional photographs, is there a difference? You bet your grain there is.
While most photographers are abandoning traditional film and silver print photography, Juliet Harrison embraces the nearly extinct ritual of photographing and printing images in a dark room, one by one. Some call her a purist; some think she will cave in to the more daylight ways of drawing images on surfaces without the use of silver. I just think she has the eyes to see that these treasured images are the difference between paint by numbers and a true masterpiece. Yes Virginia, there is a difference. And the work, time and effort is worth it.
Traditional black & white photography happens when light hits the emulsion of film within the camera. The photographer can control the speed at which the light smacks against the chosen speed of the film to capture an image that is more connected to their own expression of information. For fine art photography, every grain of silver counts. Yes, there’s silver in them their prints. As digital images clog up the internet by the zillions, one photographer does it the old fashion way, with 35mm film and hand exposed silver prints one by one. Exposed film or latent images are taken from the camera in a darkroom, then some of the silver is washed away by using chemicals, then the film is placed in an enlarger. Light is pushed through the grains of the film and exposes silver on special photographic paper. The light exposed image comes to life when soaked in a variety of trays. All the wile the photographer holds, rubs and coddles the image to exactly the right contrast of light, dark and every tone in between.
The only similarity between digital imaging and photography is, they both use something that looks like a camera. Digital is more like a drawing done with an electronic tool and less like real photography.
Harrison has chosen to express her love of equine by expressing her images in the best possible way. She knows the feeling of stepping into her canvas with a pocket of unexposed film and clicking the shutter which is more of an extension of her imagination than a camera. B&W photography in particular acts like an x-ray to the soul and not a reflection of color. The level of intimacy displayed in Harrisons images is so passionate, I nearly feel like a voyeur as I view her work. Her work reminds me of the great Dorothea Lange who said, “While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” Harrison just gets it.