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The Bitter Fruits Of My Effort

February 4, 2009

So yesterday I had a horrid day in the darkroom. I knew the honeymoon wouldn’t last, it couldn’t.

I did everything wrong. Everything.

I dunked the first print and it took nearly 1.5 minutes to emerge. Something wasn’t right.

So I changed the developer. The next print came up in 15 seconds, great, but it looked like SH^%.

Too dark, too muddy, too…..blah.

I burned more paper but it wasn’t any use. I just wasn’t there. The stars, the wind, the world, was off axis and my prints were far from stellar.

I changed negatives and it did nothing.

The bins filled with my waste.

I wanted to turn the lights on and watch as my wasted effort faded to black squares.

I printed with the second bellows set on 2 1/4 when I was printing 35.

My corners were hot.

I had dust.

I finally got a print where I wanted it only to head out into the light and realize my entire box of new, 16×20 paper was old, fogged and yellow around the edges.

If the counter was higher I would have banged my head repeatedly, but was too lazy to bend over.

And then something funny happened.

There was someone printing with me. An old school rock and roll photographer. Long white hair flowing out from under a backwards cap. A bounce in his step.

I confessed my sins of failure to him, casually, as if it was no big deal , and he turned around with a big grin and said, “Ya, I kinda like it when things like that happen, it gives me a chance to play around with things.”

I looked down at the faces of Mick, Jimmy Page, David Crosby and the ever dominant Neil Young. The photographer told me tales of the old days as he quickly printed through negative after negative from 35 years ago.

There was pure joy and history in his words and it was the remedy I needed.

I wondered if any of my struggle was real. Should I believe what I see?

I changed the lens. I changed paper. I changed the negative. And I changed my attitude.

I could feel the fire. If I’d have been wearing plastic wrap my fire would have lit the room. It might have been an out of control kitchen fire, but it was a fire.

I started making prints.

My limbs moved with fluidity(kinda), tai chi of light, defending and feinting when needed. I counted to myself, forced myself to consider and reconsider every move.

Slowly the final fix grew fat with success.

Life had realigned.

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