Writing on photography technique?

I spent Friday in a darkroom at N.C. State University with Raleigh photographer David Simonton.  We experimented with some of Gene Smith’s darkroom methods.  David is a deep thinker and natural teacher.  I’ve interviewed a number of Smith’s assistants, including recently in Japan, but I told David to start from a blank slate.  He did a masterful job.  First thing in the morning we sat around his kitchen table and he pulled sections from about 8 different books dating back to the 1950s, a few of which I’d not seen.  Then we moved to State’s Craft Center to make prints and the last part of our day was spent working with ferricyanide on prints.  For me, it was a first step toward writing well about technique in Gene Smith’s Sink. There are more steps to take.  I want the writing to appeal to experts as well as mainstream readers.

Thus, I have a question:  What is your favorite writing about photographic technique?  Could be how-to, from a biography, from a novel, anything.

Many thanks for any responses, here or to me directly.

-Sam Stephenson

8 Comments

  1. Sam Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

    Early feedback from two photographers:

    Edward Weston’s Daybooks
    Ansel Adams’ three – The Camera; The Print; The Negative.
    David Vestal – The Craft of Photography

  2. Sam Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    Another photographer and filmmaker weighs in with:

    Ansel Adams. Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs

  3. Lisa Satterwhite Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

    My all time favorite is DARKROOM2, Lustrum Press, Canal Street, NYC, 1978, edited by Jain Kelly–a treasure trove of exactly how photographers made prints during that period, including how Emmet Gowin held the totally clear negative regions outside the image circle to a soft gray. He used multiple masks in a process called contour printing. He also shows The Hint That is a Garden, with and without the hand-made filters. Ten photographers in this amazing collection, all magnificent in their own way.

  4. Joel Wanek Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    One of my favorites is Bea Nettles ‘Breaking the Rules: A Photo Media Cookbook’, less a philosophy of printing and more of a how-to book of extended and antique photo processes. Also I love many of the interviews with Roy DeCarava I’ve heard and read. He had a signature printing style too and very strong ideas about how he waorked. Also, like Smith, he really celebrated the rich dark tones.

  5. admin Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

    Thanks very much, Lisa.

    Another friend emailed to add Geoff Dyer’s “Ongoing Moment” to the list.

  6. admin Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    One point I want to make is that I plan to write about the specific equipment and materials such as the condenser enlarger, Dektol, graded vs. polygrade paper, and Smith’s unique “soft-hypo” recipe. I’m not sure it’s possible to get that detailed without losing the mainstream reader. We’ll see.

  7. Joel Wanek Said,

    May 22, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

    A couple others have come to mind: the great Time Life Library of Photography Series and Vicki Goldberg’s Photography In Print. The Time Life series has many volumes, one of which is The Print. Its a great book with a section where photographers write about their individual approach to printing (not to mention the gorgeous gravure reproductions). Also, that series was intended for the general public so the highly technical subject matter is very clearly explained. Goldberg’s book is an anthology of writings by photographers from the origins of the medium
    up to the 1970s. A lot of writings deal with printing and the
    technical approaches and changes.

  8. Jermaine Maxsom Said,

    June 2, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    A couple others have come to mind: the great Time Life Library of Photography Series and Vicki Goldberg’s Photography In Print. The Time Life series has many volumes, one of which is The Print. Its a great book with a section where photographers write about their individual approach to printing (not to mention the gorgeous gravure reproductions). Also, that series was intended for the general public so the highly technical subject matter is very clearly explained. Goldberg’s book is an anthology of writings by photographers from the origins of the mediumup to the 1970s. A lot of writings deal with printing and thetechnical approaches and changes.
    +1