Stan Getz, The Toluca Rocket & The Wondrous Latent ImageWednesday, August 22, 2007
Sometime in 1964 at around 2 in the morning I was with my art major friend Robert Hijar inside the darkroom of the University of the Americas. The university was outside Mexico City on the way to Toluca, the state capital. The darkroom had dusty brick walls that were painted white. We had to keep the print developer trays warm by adding hot developer and water. It was very cold. Every few minutes the room would shake. We would stop using the enlarger until the second class "Toluca Rocket" the bus with 15-plus forward gears that trecked up from Mexico City to Toluca rumbled by. Robert taught me how to process film and it was with him that I first saw the latent image on a white sheet of photographic paper (Kodabromide F-3) emerge, like magic, in a tray of Dektol.
I never followed all three dictums suggested by American photographer W. Eugene Smith that were his formula for a successful night in a darkroom. He said you needed an interesting negative, good music and booze. I substituted liquor with a good pipe. After a few pipes I would get dizzy with the room's poor ventilation. Robert and I listened to lots of experimental music and lots of Stan Getz. Our favorite was Stan Getz Focus with music composed and arranged by Eddie Sauter. Through all these years I have always had a darkroom. At first it was a bathroom converted to a darkroom. Now I have a darkroom with a bathroom.
Last week's small darkroom flood had me on my knees with a shop wet vac. For days I have had heaters drying the carpet. Finally today I was able to return to my darkroom. I have come to love and appreciate Grant Simmons's fine art giclées of my b+w negatives and slides or the wonderous light jet prints from slides at George King. But there is something to be said still about holding a photograph made from photographic paper or as they call them in the fine art circles "gelatin silver prints".
What you see here is almost as good as holding it. Not quite, because Ilford Multigrade FB Warmtone paper has heft and the image has depth. The reason the print is not b+w is that I immersed it for two minutes in a 1 to 3 bath of Kodak Selenium toner.
I gaze at it. It's on 8x10 paper. It cannot compete with the drama of the 30 by 40 inch giclées (fine art inkjets) that Grant has made for me. But it is the intimacy of being able to hold it and lift it close to the eye. I can almost listen to the Rocket, Stan Getz playing I'm Late, I'm Late and every time that image emerges, as Rebecca's did yesterday afternoon, is feels like that first time.