Achieving a good basic photographic print in the darkroom from a self-developed negative is a simple endeavour, given opportunity and some persistence. However it’s very easy to accept basic success and become complacent. Taking the next steps towards ‘fine’ monchromatic pictures is a good deal harder. The aim of this series of posts is to help me achieve these next steps by significantly turning up the heat on myself.

What is a fine photograph? I think it is a printed picture that encompasses the highest technical standards for the particular idiom that is being used to express a vision. So, for a photographer like Barry Thornton for example, this would translate into a monochromatic picture with the following characteristics:

  • a pleasing point of view and an interesting composition
  • a balanced range of tonalities
  • good shadow detail and, perhaps more importantly, a subtle rendition of highlights
  • sharp from back to front and
  • an overall sense of luminosity in the print

Achieving such a picture requires complete command over every aspect from visualisation and the knowledge of what look various film/developer combinations deliver, to finely tuned print controls.

For a different type of photographer working within a different idiom, bromoil for example or platinum or pinhole etc, the list of characteristics will be different. But recognising that there will be an aspirational list is a point of departure for photographers who want to move their abilities forward.

In this series of posts, autobiographical and diaristic in nature, I intend to bootstrap myself up the ‘quality ladder’ of monochromatic fine printing. As an aspiration I will follow the path set by Barry Thornton – that is, fine monochromatic printing. It is a very steep challenge which will require that I question every aspect of my progress to date. I will share failures and successes (if there are any!)