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Why do I chose films and silver processes instead of digital ?

Digital photography has numerous advantages compared to silver processes or alternatives processes. But I am not attracted by this way of making photographies (for a my non professional artistic work). It is something I feel intuitively.

I will try to explain here more objective reasons that make me choose silver processes.

When shooting:

With silver film I can not rapidly shoot many pictures with the hope that there will be one good image among them. I have to give attention, to see consciously et to choose what I intuitively feel the right moment to shoot. And the pleasure of a real “declic” sound and feel… and to trigger the film advance or change the film holder !

• To shoot with silver, especially with large format, give me no choice but to work slowly. This help me to be there and see what is in front of me. Almost a form of meditation…

• I can not see immediately the image. It remains with a certain mystery. I will usually see it some days or weeks later. I think this might help me to later select the pictures because I then have more distance.

In the darkroom when I develop the negative films:

• To work in the dark gives a solemn dimension to the making of the negative. I have then the responsibility to bring forth with my hands and chemicals those images from their fragile potential.

• The negative film that is processed in the darkroom is an object on his own, it is not yet an image but his shadow, his cast. It is precious to me because it keeps in itself the direct contact with the light of subject at the shooting moment. I love negatives, I love to see those inverted images like a strange viewpoint on the world. My negatives are like souvenir of the light I chose once to let enter in the camera at a precise moment of my life.

When Printing on paper in the darkroom

• Printing in the darkroom is for me a long and difficult work. It usually take quite a lot of time fer me to agree with a specific interpretation on paper of a negative film image. I like to work in the dark, under the red light, and see the photographic image slowly appear in the developer bath. Magical moment !

• As I make my own prints, the total number of print from a negative I can make is by fact limited. It is not an arbitrary limit that I decide, like it can be with a digital printer. I have chosen to number the prints in editions (from 3 to 30 at most). But the number of the different editions of the same image remains open, although it is limited by the time I have. This is a physical limit, even if the negative does not usually alter with time and printing, as it is the case with copper etching plates.

• Printing with a computer and a digital printer is a passage through a complex technology wich to me lessen the artistic value of a work I prefer to be hand made. I am uncomfortable with these repeated transformations of light in digits of information : I see it as a dematerialisation of the image, a sort of transformation that lessen the life in it. I like the analogic aspect of silver processes because it keeps a continuity between light and matters.

• I want to be in contact with matters and I am sensible to the artisanal aspect of silver gelatin prints, with their imperfections. I have more the impression that I have made them myself than if I used  a computer and a printer. That makes them more present to me. Which brings me to the following question:

What is a work of art ?

If I am touched by an image, the print as an object gains an additional presence because I know the stages, the works, the attention and even the love it has demanded. This knowledge is part of my perception of the print as a work of art and support my affective attachment to a photography, as an object which has a unique and particular history. This also creates direct links with the subject and the artist who has produced by hands the photography, and has given to it, in some sense, a part of his humanity.

The photographic object – the print –  seems thus to me denser, deeper and more present and alive than any digital print.

L. M.