How you decide how to print an image?
I mostly used black and white film until I changed to digital. I make traditional black and white prints, in a darkroom directly from the original negatives. When the print size is over 20"X24", or when it is impractical to make a silver print I make a digital print. I also make digital prints from colour negatives, colour slides, and digital photographs. In some cases I make digital prints from images that were manipulated in some unique manner.
Black and white prints or digital prints- which one is better?
They're different. From a black and white negative a black and white print will be closer to what would have been made when the photo was taken.
Because of the nature of the stage lighting a great deal of work goes into making some parts the print darker or lighter. No two prints will be exactly the same. Sometimes a negative is almost impossible to print well and digital corrections can improve the print a great deal.
So the black and white prints are made directly from the original negative?
Usually, but some of my well known images used techniques where I made different negatives (and positives and...) from the original negatives, and then combined them in different ways. The prints are made from those internegatives.
Why did you do that?
Partly because I liked making things look different with darkroom techniques, but sometimes to squeeze enough information out of a negative to make good print.
And you hand coloured some of these images. What exactly is that?
There are different materials and techniques that give different looks. Water soluble dyes sink can be painted on and sink into the emulsion-that's probably the classic hand coloured look from back in the days before colour film. I wasn't there incidentally, this was a revived technique! You can use transparent oils to to get a similar effect or a more opaque painterly look if you put it on thicker. I've used coloured pencils as well. Sometimes I combined these techniques on one print.
You don't do that anymore I guess?
Actually, I do for prints that were done that way originally. Sometimes I make digital prints from a hand coloured original, as well. A few times I've even hand coloured digital prints-the jury is still out on how well that works.
So I'm not sure you answered which type of print is better?
It's a question that has long answer because there's no real answer.
A black and white print looks more like an old photograph. Each print is unique. The image is made out of silver- that's why it's sometimes called a silverprint. If you print and process the way most fine art photographers do it has a very long lifespan even it you display it in relatively high levels of light. I don't know that we really know how long it will last. Longer than me and, barring huge advances in medical science, longer than anyone alive today.
A digital print can last a long time as well although different printers use different inks and it varies quite a bit. The HP Z3200 that I use is one of the best in terms of making long lasting prints- we're talking in the order of 200 years here. It's much better than traditional colour prints which have a display life time of perhaps 70 years- it's variable depending on the levels of light and the framing. They last longer if you keep them in a dark, dry cool place. I've got to say though, that in my personal experience, traditional colour prints from negatives look fantastic. I'd advise you not to obsess over the longevity thing even if I do. I choose to make digital prints from analog colour film because most of my concert photography was made on colour slides and there's now no really good material to print that on directly.
So sometimes digital is better and sometimes analog?
Kind of. I use whatever medium gives me the best result. For most practical purposes digital has surpassed film for image capture- it's much more sensitive to light and gives much more detail. There's good reasons that people still use film but they are mostly not technical reasons.
For prints a digital print is generally going to cost less. There's a lot of work getting the image just right but having done that for each print you just push a button. Each black and white print is made individually.
On a whole other topic, you are located in Canada but you price in U.S. dollars. Why?
I'm a little embarrassed about it but there are 10 times as many Americans as Canadians. And Canadians are more used to doing the math although they are rightly not liking the numbers that result. I also have to charge H.S.T. in provinces that have it and G.S.T. in those that don't. The only small redress I have for those issues is that I don't charge for shipping in Canada for orders over $40.00-and I don't have anything priced under $50.00.