This year, perhaps even more than in years past, and despite practically daily notices of film-discontinuations, I am being commissioned to do my slowest work: photo sessions driven largely or entirely by my dear and clunky 4×5 cameras. Behind the scenes, I am working on printing techniques that make the platinum printing I do feel like instant gratification. And I have been thinking: the slower the wedding, the slower the photography I am able to do. Slow photography requires breathing, reloading, time to think behind the lens, time to tinker, and, usually, a mess of polaroids—in other words, the freedom to be deliberate. (I also love that first reaction to a moment, and also seek that out in my work, just as anxiously, but I am getting at something different here).
I was rummaging through photo books this morning (my second favorite method of procrastination*), and pulled out a copy of Paul Outerbridge’s Command Performance. The prints reproduced in this book are platinum prints and carbro prints. Carbro prints, if you are unfamiliar, are made by a painstaking, triple-glass-negative technique. Printing is ridiculously labor intensive and unequivocally rewarding. Dazzling. Unfortunately these prints are a see-it-to-believe-it kind of experience.
But I’ve seen them, and the book was a gift to my husband after we went to the exhibition. The inscription I wrote, in part, says, “Cheers to doing things the hard way when it’s also the best way, an innovative or extraordinary way, and especially if it’s (at all) exquisite.” This apparently has been on my mind for quite awhile and I’d like to extend the toast to all of us photographers and commissioners-of-photography. So: as we all, myself included, race forward into photography’s future, clicking away at all manner of cameras, high-fi and low-tech, antique and newly-minted, let us not forget to breathe between shots. Let us hold dearly as a value thinking behind the lens. I think, my friends, that we are. But let’s make a point of it.
photo: Gia Canali