Early Morning is for Printing

I woke this morning at 6AM to catch up on printing, turned off the clock and slept for another hour. That said, at 7AM I went to my darkroom, trimmed a steel backed Toyobo Printight KM 73 photopolymer plate to size using a sturdy 18″ Dahle guillotine paper cutter (using the polymer plate on the bed which retains the flat edge on cut), and printed my PDN calibration tablets and a Stouffer 31 step tablet once again (1m 10s for the positive exposure, 1m 15s for the aquatint screen) to zero in on my standard exposure time for my UV box from Edwards Engineered Products.

Kim Weston told me several years back when I first met him that he wakes at 3AM to do his printing for the day. Having stayed at Bodie House (where Charis Wilson wrote many of the words that accompanied Edward Weston’s photographs in books like California and the West), I can certainly attest that Kim was completed printing the previous day’s negatives by the time I stumbled for a cup of coffee at 7:30AM. He has been printing early in the morning since the days when he assisted his father Cole and his uncle Brett in the darkroom.
Printing is a quiet time for me, and something I do alone. Compared to the digital darkroom, the traditional darkroom – and more so the very traditional alternative process darkroom (or incandescently-lit-room) – is a very tactile experience. Cutting, paper texture, brushing and cleaning of surfaces, liquids (use gloves please), printing frames, brushes, scrubbing, washing etc. I find it quite engaging in a fundamental way. And I always feel closer to the work compared to my time spent digitally printing.
I have done most of my darkroom study with Kim Weston. I remember much of what he has taught me. There’s a dry side and a wet side to the room. One hand is dry, one is wet when transferring across. Clean towels in the middle, wash your hands and dry them thoroughly to avoid contamination of materials. 
Watching Kim work is fascinating. It became second nature to him long ago – efficient, directed, fluid like his shooting with an 8″x10″ camera. Kim shoots in the studio with natural light, so printing in the early morning fits. You have a chance to look at previous day’s work, and have the daylight hours to shoot some more.
So, those quiet times early in the morning are a time for printing.
I have noticed that photographers by and large who print their own work early in the morning are also accomplished nappers.

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