Ansel Adams once compared the negative to the score of a symphony and the print to a performance of that score. After acquiring an image, the usual tendency is to tweak and tinker with a succession of "performances" until some sense of satisfaction is achieved.These days I suppose we are more likely to use terms such as "capture" and "output". As media and processes have become more sophisticated, so too has the creative process. Images that were never printed because of some small flaw can now be corrected and brought out into the light. Some might argue that altering reality is not kosher, but photographers have always added their own embellishments through the use of filters, burning and dodging, and a wide variety of paper choices.

During two decades of work with the Getty Research Institute, I have been blessed with the resources to test and explore the latest printing technologies and produce work with ever increasing longevity and archivability. Prior to the shift from traditional photographic media to ink on paper, color in most photographic work was fugitive, and was expected to fade or change within 25 years or so. Today's digital prints, which are produced using pigmented inks and rag papers, have achieved 100+ year ratings for permanence and stability.

A technique I have favored through the years is hand-coloring black & white prints. Before pixels, one was limited by the color palate of the oils and guaches used in this process and they had to be applied to prints one at a time by hand. The usual result was a one-of-a-kind item. Multiple copies or editions were rare due to the sheer amount of labor involved. Today, processing images in a digital environment allows for a hybrid product where photography, painting, and traditional printmaking are woven together. Images can not only be painted upon, they can be re-imagined in a way that more closely resembles the memory of the original scene. This new found freedom has transformed my twenty year cache of black & white negatives into a vast and addictive coloring book that is beginning to shed light on an interesting dialogue between reality and memory. A well executed print is often a fine thing to behold, but I am most intrigued and pleased by creating more impressionistic renditions.


© 2007 Jobe Benjamin