Review in RPS Journal: “Strongly recommended”

Issue Date: May 2015, Vol 155.  The Royal Photographic Society Journal is the oldest photography journal in the world. The review is by David Healey, ARPS, Chairman of the Analogue Group.


Documentary photographer sheds light on the power of process

A documentary photographer, Wang sets out to explore the transition from ‘digital to daylight’ through interviews with some 40 photographers (mainly American) and notable figures in photography, from Elliott Erwitt to Howard Hopwood of Harman Technology, the manufacturer of Ilford film. For those unfamiliar with analogue processes, the early sections of From Darkroom to Daylight will provide an insight into photography’s foundational technology, and just how fascinating, focused and personally rewarding the process of darkroom printing really is. There are no distractions in a darkroom, unlike when editing pictures on a computer. Like many photographers who still use analogue, I use digital as well. This book exceeded my expectations. It is not a lament on the decline of film. Instead, it is about master photographers and educators giving you the benefit of years of experience. The interviews are insightful and intelligent, and Wang’s portraits of the contributors are thoughtfully executed and revealing. There are fascinating pieces of historical information, for example on photo paper and Kodachrome, and on the interface between analogue and digital workflows and creativity. Whichever medium you work in, From Darkroom to Daylight provides profound advice. Here’s Platon talking about the discipline of film, as he recalls photographing Colonel Gaddafi. ‘I think I got one roll of film – that’s all I had of him. I remember getting halfway and I still didn’t have it, and I was aware that I had six frames left. So you don’t waste one.’ In comparison, how many of us fall into “machine-gun” digital photography, where most of our 50 images of the same scene end up being unremarkable? Wang ends his book with the observation that the darkroom is an opportunity to ‘give yourself the time and space to concentrate, reflect, and master the materials of your craft’. Thought-provoking words indeed … As with a photograph, you have to live with a book and look at it regularly to see if it is worth keeping. A reviewer’s readthrough is by necessity cursory, but this is a book I shall definitely order. Strongly recommended.  For a PDF of the full review, click here

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