Beyond the Negative

Photography is an art and it need to be reflected that way!

If you are a kid after 90s like me, chances are you might have never seen a film negative used to print photos back in the days. This makes it a miniscule probability of you knowing terms like platinotype photo printing, carbon transfers, oil pigment prints, chemical compositions required for printing photos or even for that matter the importance of choice of paper when it comes to printing a photograph.

I had never thought that something explored after my 12th to cope up with the fast paced life of Mumbai would turn into a love for lifetime. Had I not been gifted the range finder camera by dad and probably if I had not tried getting a pro at photography and fallen in love with exquisite photo prints by local vendors, I would have been just as unaware of this rare art form as probably 95% of our countrymen today.

A few things, though sad, may happen for our good. Something likewise happened to me too. As my love for the art of photography and photo printing bloomed, the analogue photo printing industry went bust because of digital revolution.

So, I learnt digital photography and printing. However, after much R&D, I still did not like the quality of these prints as much as that of prints those local vendors created for me out of negatives. Further, in those days, there were no ready to use industrial product available for analogue photo printing, and this marked the beginning of my quest on finding analogue printing processes.

13719563_1745676862382237_1366958597014501096_oI got determined to learn how to print photos on my own from negatives and began doing small experiments. I persuaded dad to buy me materials and persistently followed up with ace companies and artists in countries abroad. I learnt the art of developing film rolls, followed by art of printing analogue photos on industrially made photographic papers. However, every time I would try to print a photo, I would not be able to achieve the fidelity and depth I desired. Thus, began a journey to find a means to recreate the magic that a film could provide.

I progressively learnt about the old processes existing before the onset of photography as we know it today. In my pursuit, I read old books written as early as 19th century describing the methods to print photographs in noble metals and pigments, photos which are as permanent as the paper they are printed on.

13765839_1745677229048867_7634577687545431867_oI must have spent countless hours in a dark room to mix chemicals and make my own paper, umpteen phone calls to companies abroad for specific papers and unending emails around the world to help learn the details.

Why take the pain to learn an art which takes two days to print a single photo in today’s digital world? Well, the of joy of creating something from scratch and knowing that the creation will live, be loved and cherished beyond one’s own life time is enough to answer your curiosity.

Today, 7 years later and no formal training on the subject, I find myself as one of the rare prodigies of this art in our country. It still gives me goosebumps when I see a photo appear in front of my eyes – it is simply magical.

This art has taught me the importance of slowing down and experiencing finer things in life and that nothing is impossible when you would do just about anything to make it happen. It keeps me grounded and compels me to experiment and learn better.

I am currently pursuing analogue printing in its original form as well as in combination with digital photography & painting. To those who wish to take it up, I am always there to help you if you are truly keen on learning. Start with basic forms like cyanotypes and gum bichromate prints and then take over to more complex models.

With the right knowledge on material and mastery, we can surely ace this near extinction art form and create newer platforms for everlasting legacy photo prints for generation to come.

~ As told by Yashasvi Bhuta


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