I bought my first professional cameras in 1967: a pair of black Nikon F's without on-board meters. They were followed by a growing assortment of prime lenses and my first Leica, an M3, in 1970. In the years that followed the Nikon and Leica families grew, augmented by a state-of-art photolab with several enlargers, one of which a motorized 4x5.
Who could have predicted what would happen? Who could have known that those first gimmicky digital image-toys would come to dominate photography so quickly, and so completely? Certainly not me.
Times do change. Like a packrat I moved my darkroom equipment out here with me. It now sits, still packed, in the shop building behind the house. My Leicas and Nikons are also lovingly packed away "just in case." I haven't made a conventional (silver based) photograph or print in several years. Except for the large-format stuff, that is. I still have undying affection and loyalty to the rigors and rewards of 4x5 work. Nothing can quite replace the rewarding meditative experience of crawling under that black cloth and fiddling with a colorful upside-down image on a bright groundglass. And the prints from it— oh, yes, the amazing prints!
But most of my work now originates in a late-model digital SLR camera and comes out of a medium-large format archival giclée printer (upscale ink jet to plainspeakers!). A very different way of working, for sure, but it's the image that matters, after all. It's a different way of working, but in its own way just as satisfying as the old darkroom route, without the drudgery.
Times change, for sure, even if tradition dies hard.
Photo: At work with a classic wooden 4x5 on a medieval monastic ruin in an Irish pasture...
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