WHERE WE WORK
Originally published as part of Rfotofolio’s series Where We Work.
Please tell us about your work space.
I share the space with the photographer Cy DeCosse. I’m fortunate in having such a large space although the darkroom is now on the slightly small side for all the processes I work with – platinum, silver and polymergravure.
At one end of the studio is the darkroom. I used to have two enlargers in there but now have just the one Omega 4″ x 5″ enlarger, sinks and a 5kW ultraviolet light source with a 30″ x 40″ vacuum frame. This is necessary for making the platinum prints and the polymer plates for polymergravure.
The large studio area can be used for both photography and as a work area. My computer, scanner and printers are at one end, while one of the walls that runs the length of the studio is used for hanging work prints and proofs. If I’m working on a series of images or a portfolio over the course of many months, I can see the progression and how individual prints relate to each other easily.
At the far end of the studio there is print, paper and digital negative storage in eight large flat files stacked two high, with a huge work surface on top. Beyond that is bookbinding and portfolio case making equipment, such as the Kwikprint press for debossing and hot foil stamping, dry mount press, intaglio press and everything that goes with making polymergravure print editions.
Suspended on an intricate pulley system from the centre of the studio ceiling is a 7′ x 12′ softbox with 20 flat panel LED lights in it. It makes for a beautiful, soft work light.
What “objects of inspiration” do you have in your space?
I have many framed prints (not owned by me, unfortunately) that are on the wall above my computer and that I look at all the time. Irving Penn, Sarah Moon, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Parke-Harrison, Kenro Izu, Sheila Metzner, Frederick H. Evans amongst others. It hasn’t gone unnoticed either, that the print that hangs above the Epson printer, and the one I look at every day as I wait for the printer to output my digital negatives, is a Robert Parke-Harrison print titled “The Waiting.”
Books are very important to me too, although most of my treasured books are at home and I bring them in as necessary.
Do you have any favorite tools in your work space?
I love combining 21st century technology with that of the 1800s, so I have a RAID setup, for storing image files, sitting under a platinum print of Imogen Cunningham’s along with a cast iron book press from the 1800s.
The one tool I use every day though, and because of which it must be my favourite, is my Mac Pro, because without digital technology I’d be lost. However an image is made, digitally or with film (I still prefer to use film most of the time) everything printed in platinum or polymergravure goes through Photoshop at some point.
My silver prints are still made the traditional way with an enlarger and chemistry in the darkroom though and I’m very attached to my set of dodgers that I still use and have been with me for over 35 years and five darkrooms.
The studio has a great stereo setup and I usually need music around me. I also keep up to date with things happening back in Britain by streaming BBC Radio 4, which has great documentaries and plays. Again, only possible because of digital technology and the computer. Did I mention the espresso machine?
How did you set up your space to accommodate the different media and techniques that you use?
The darkroom was originally designed solely for platinum printing, but over the years it has morphed into what it is today through natural progression. Gelatin-silver printing was quickly added, then polymergravure and finally gum dichromate. Bookbinding and portfolio case-making also requires space and equipment but fortunately not in the darkroom.
If there was one thing you could change about your space what would it be?
The answer is probably the same as everyone else’s; I’d like it to be slightly bigger. Having said that, I’ve worked in some very large darkrooms and hated the experience! I prefer the intimacy and comfort of working in a smaller room with good safelighting and music.
How do you keep track of all of your ideas?
I love technology, as I’ve mentioned, but I’m also one for a good Moleskin book (only squared, mind you) and a fountain pen. I much prefer paper and pen. I do use the software Omnifocus to keep my work, clients’ work and projects organized though, and that syncs across all my devices, Mac Pro, MacBook Pro and iPhone, so I’m up to date and can make notes wherever I may be, with or without notebook. This probably makes me sound organized, but in reality it’s likely a futile attempt by me to be more so.
Does your space inspire you?
Yes, of course! I wouldn’t be able to work easily or creatively if it didn’t. My darkroom has always been a comfort to me and a place that makes me feel good.
Thank you Keith for sharing your workspace.