Unlike conventional black & white photographs, Dawne Fahey did not require any camera, film or data card to make these prints. When making chemigrams, their outcome is largely an unknown and a little bit of a mystery. Traditional photographic printers though generally work with certainties; we understand cause and effect, and possess the knowledge and experience to create our desired results. My motto is “reduce the variables”, and it takes a great deal of time and practice to create these works of beauty while dealing with unknown factors.
Due to this uniqueness, it can become a case of knowing when to stop. If you take the process one step too far, then you can enter the abyss and the print you have been working on for days, is gone.
When LIGHT is transmitted onto silver gelatin black & white paper, one can expect at least 50 shades of grey, some black and some white, yet on the walls before us we see anything but a black and white print. I find this a wonderful abnormality, and it gives colour to my monochrome view of black and white printing. It kind of makes me want to get out of the darkroom a little more often.
Chemistry is an essential tool for photographic printmakers, yet here, it is used in an unconventional manner. The interplay of developer and fixer transforms and contorts the image as opposed to converting the silver salts to a metallic silver, and then removing the remaining soluble silver salts to make a stable, permanent image. Each time the chemical process is incorporated, something new is created, and the image evolves before our eyes once again. But this chemical reaction is an unknown. How exciting and liberating this must feel – to just take the plunge.
Magic can be found anywhere – it is right in front of us. Light plus chemistry can equal magic. It takes a deft touch, time and experience to encapsulate it unto paper. These prints have been hand made, using no computers, no Photoshop and not even electricity if so desired. Yet just because a print is hand made does not mean it should hang on a wall, they still need to be exceptional.
These prints can never, ever be replicated. They will age, they may change, but they will always be wholly unique objects of beauty. If any of these prints cause a reaction within you, then that is the magic I am talking about. And you can buy this feeling, take it home and hang it upon a wall. That is pretty special, isn’t it?
When we live in a world of data, pixels, ones and zeros, wouldn’t it be a joy sometimes, to just look at a pretty picture, crafted by hand and created by a Light, chemistry and a little bit of magic. I think it is just wonderful…
Chris Reid | Blanco Negro