Post-processing, manipulation and tintypes as 19th-century polaroids

August 20, 2015  •  2 Comments

As a landscape photographer who was working with digital cameras, I'd had great days. Walking mountains or ocean coasts, able to make photographs whenever and wherever I want. With modern equipment, there are for a landscapist no limits. You can walk peaks and make photographs by the way. You can work in rain, snow or wind. Nothing can stop you to capture the world around you even in its most harsh conditions. I remember an evening after windy shooting on the ocean coast, when I was cleaning camera from the salt in the shower, together with myself. This freedom, that was something I really love. 


Godafoss, Iceland. Digital print from a digital negative 
and a silver gelatine print from 6x9 film negative


And there were things I hate. The biggest nightmare for me was post processing. In the digital age is the moment of exposure somewhere in the halfway of the creating of photography. And it was not the need to sit behind computer screen roughly the some time I spent in the country, what had bothered me so much. The worst thing was, that there were never ending possibilities. That was the freedom, which I really hate. 


London as a bromoil print


I was always in doubt, how much, in what extent a photographer can, may, or should manipulate a photography. When we look at the history, there were very different approaches. Josef Sudek had made a very pure, literal contacts from his large format negatives, unveiling the beauty of the world in the most humble things and sceneries. On the contrary, Ansel Adams mastered the art of darkroom post-processing and was able to materialise the beauty of the world in the way, which exist just in his eyes. 


Ostry Rohac, West Tatras, Slovakia.
Two version of silver negative prints from the same 6x9 cm negative


There is not a general rule, an absolute, every time and for everybody true definition, what a photographer can and can't do before or after the moment of exposure. Maybe more than anything it is a question of personal philosophy. What do you believe the photography is or should be. 

There are photographers, who simply don't like post processing. Consider it as something artificial, even if it is done in a darkroom with a film. As a manipulation, not a creation. And maybe this is why I like to work with tintypes so much. They are like 19th-century polaroids. Of course, there is a work you have to do after the moment of exposure. Developing, fixing, varnishing. But any of these steps can improve the picture captured on the plate. 


River Bank, Maly Dunaj, Slovakia. 18x24 cm tintype


How do you see it? What way do you prefer? Josef Sudek and his straight contacts, or Ansel Adams and his highly elaborated prints? Or is this question for you not important, not relevant?


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All photographs (c) Juro Kovacik


Juro Kovacik
Thank you for nice words, Graham.
Graham Hughes(non-registered)
I love your blog. I hear your heart and down here at the bottom of the earth want to do similar things.
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