Saturday, March 26, 2016

Home In Houston, Back in the Darkroom

Building on Uncle George Thompson's farm near Lisbon, NY.
Back in Houston for a week. Can it only be a week? I am deep into checking off a long TO DO list. I am also spending days in a loaned-to-me darkroom, where I am beginning to feel as if I am working with amber, as if the entire process of making a print in a 'wet darkroom', as they are called in this digital age, is totally anachronistic. I didn't feel that way when I was printing for Finding Our Way. Those pictures were wonderful to print - what's the difference?
This spring, I've been focusing on that series of the girls on South Padre Island wearing white dresses in vast landscapes. Either the photos are no longer interesting, or I need to turn them into montages and move away from straight photographs.
Then there are the Lisbon photographs, taken in the late 1970s and early 1980s on summer visits with Mary B to upstate NY to visit my great aunts. Lots of photos of great uncle's barns and house interiors that remind me now of Walker Evens or Wright Morris.
Uncle George Thompson's coat rack. Circa 1979.
Printing the images on 8 x 10 paper with the black border of a full frame image feels as if I am encasing pictures under an airless glass dome, or as if I were mounting a butterfly collection. I don't know how much more of this stuff I can print.  Maybe if I printed on 11 x 14 paper, I wouldn't feel as claustrophobic?
Tapping a maple tree in very early spring.
For years, I've felt that a portfolio needed to be made from photos taken on those long ago trips. The impetus for printing them now is John's, Kate's and my October visit to the North Country. At last, we will take Mom and Dad's 'remains' to their cemetery plot in Newington, Ontario, Canada. I think we are all excited about this trip. We've not travelled together since Kate graduated from Cornell, way back in the day, when we drove in Kate's Pacer, visiting family in Watertown, Lisbon and Ottawa. Guess we are hoping to replicate that trip as we lay our parents to rest.
I am printing dups of these Lisbon photos to take as a gift to the our many cousins, who can then scan and reproduce as they wish. Indeed, I will persevere until I have a requisite number, even though it all seems archaic to do so.
First cousins and my great aunts Margaret Veitch and Mable Knight. Circa 1979.
After this task is finished, I intend to explore how I can make photo montages as I print - blocking off parts of a sheet of photo paper and then printing from several negatives. I can hand color or collage on top of these montages. Sounds like a plan, but it has yet to kick in.
Every time I use this loaned-to-me darkroom, I feel as if it is the last time these negatives will be printed. Ever. Which in the scheme of things is not true. I can always scan and print them digitally. I say, get over this nostalgia and create something new while I have access to this darkroom.
Back in Houston with a big TO DO list and searching for a visual image breakthrough.

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