Of all the subjects that you can point a camera at, the land is, for me, the most demanding genre in photography. Ansel Adams made it look easy, and he even tried to de-mystify it by writing how-to books, detailing his considerable technique. Still, no one can touch Ansel, even more so in this digital age, because photoshop misses the point: the feeling of being there. Even though Ansel often beat the big drum of drama, his images always took you to that place, at that moment, and you never got the feeling he lied. (Okay, maybe just a little...)
I met and interviewed Paul Caponigro a long time ago, just after I’d discovered the work of Edward Weston, and Paul opened other doors. He impressed upon me the need to be more intuitive, to have a lighter touch. Let the negative tell you how the print should look. Go into the darkroom with no expectations, only the possibility of discovery.
I know I am not the most accomplished printer around, but I’ve come to accept that I’m the best printer of my own work. I once thought the only thing lacking in my photographs was some genius printer who could transform them into art. I had not yet learned to see my pictures as being uniquely my own and I thought the way to get past that obstacle was to hand my negatives off to someone else to solve.
It’s taken years for me to find a measure of patience in the darkroom, an indispensable quality, more important than papers or potions. And if I’m cut off from the darkroom for any period of time, I feel lost, untethered. A photograph does not exist to me unless I have printed it, made it an object.