The re-emergence of chemical toning

We live in interesting times as far as black-&-white printmaking is concerned. The impact of digital technology on the photographic world in general has been immense, especially in the world of printmaking. I embraced the digital age as it became acceptable quality wise years ago finding it fascinating and enjoyable, nowadays I would estimate my work at being 60% digital.
Whilst most colour printers have forsaken their darkrooms in droves in favour of their digital-light rooms, I as mentioned earlier felt the need to embrace both mediums, but have also enhanced and added to my darkroom and traditional processes. To quote a good friend and photographer of mine “at times you seem to be heading in the complete opposite direction to the rest of us”.... well not completely true, more the fact that I just can't bring myself to decommission my darkroom, to me it would just feel like cutting ones arm off!

Strangely I'm now finding a steady re-emergence in demand for traditional wet monochrome prints, with the skill of chemical toning (adding subtle colour) as was the art long before the invention of colour photography being very sort after. The various colours that can be produced with the different combinations of chemicals, paper developers and true fibre paper are endless!

As colour has gone digital, analogue black & white still seems to retain a market demand.
People seem to want that distinctive retro hand printed piece of fine art, with the added archival permanence gained in the final toning process from attack by airborne external pollutants and oxidants that chip away at your precious print, as then you will be able to enjoy your prints contrast and sparkle just as it was the day you acquired it for many decades to come.
So as long as I still receive orders for traditional prints, I still have the reason and the pleasure of spending time in my darkroom.


Steve Denby - 2012