Using a traditional darkroom is a revelation for me. I've spent the last four days in a darkroom with developer, stop bath and fixer making contact prints from my Indian and Nepal images that I shot earlier this year. What I didn't expect was to fall in love with the black and white photographic print. I also didn't expect to have my head turned from thinking about images in colour and appreciating them in their monochromatic form.
Take this image for example. Firstly, I can't even specifically remember shooting it, which is a revelation in it's own right as I often have the most memorable images imprinted in my mind when I come home. So it was great to discover this little treasure. It was shot in a UNESCO heritage site called Baktapur, which is in the Kathmandu valley, perhaps an hour away from central Kathmandu.
I love the composition although it's flawed in some ways. I'd have liked to have had the silver jug at the bottom of the frame removed, or burned in so much that it's less distracting, but that's not easy in something like Photoshop without really screwing up the image. But I'm not too precious. It's the girls pose that works for me, combined with her dress. It's rather candid yet I was standing a few feet away from her, down at her level. I'm a bit foreward at times, not in a demaning way - i'm quite discreet and will just find myself in the middle of the action while in this case there was preparation for some festival going on. I have to get in close.... that's the only way to get decent impact or presence.
Ah but then again, as much as I loved the shot in colour, it was really something else to make a black and white print of it on Monday. There's something lovely in the texture of the girls dress that draws me in. The above image is just a desaturated version of the file above - I don't have the means to reproduce a real black and white print here, but suffice to say that it has a quality and impact that's hard to convey. Regardless of this small issue, I feel the image has now transformed into something else. It has an 'old world' element to it, and I bet that most folks would think it was shot a few decades ago at the very least or perhaps early last century.
Which do you prefer, if you discount my own feelings on the matter?
I love both (naturally, I have that invested emotional connection with my own images).