I got some good chuckles this morning over an article called "Tears in the Stop Bath" over at Idiotic Hat:
Of course, there was a certain satisfaction to be had in learning to produce a good enough print, but producing excellent prints really only appeals to the kind of person who might enjoy the challenge of making their own furniture. It's a hard, painstaking craft, that takes years to learn....
I love that "almost comic lack of control over the uniformity of the end product." I also liked the analogy to furniture-making. I'd never thought of John Sexton as Norm Abram before. I sometimes watch a television show called "The New Yankee Workshop," in which a phlegmatic New Englander by the name of Norm Abram wanders around in a gleaming, well-lit, obsessively organized workshop equipped with about $480,000 worth of esoteric power woodworking equipment. He says things like this: "And now we're going to make the anterior verplex hamhock joint. This can be a little tricky—" (note that when Norm says something can be "a little tricky," he means that it's going to require full-scale black magic on the part of ordinary mortals born of women) "—but it helps if you have a handy little piece of equipment called a Remosaic Inside-Out Perglulator. It's a little expensive, and it pretty much only does verplex hamhock joints, but it's a lot better than trying to scratch the joint out of the wood with your fingernails...." We then hear the sound of a high-speed motor and an exquisitely sharpened blade munching away at hard maple, and voilà. I picture guys all over America descending into dank, smelly basements where there was six inches of standing water the previous spring. The basement is littered with heaps of old paint cans and oil-soaked rags, lit by a single hanging light bulb six meters away. They stand there quietly for a moment, staring at an antediluvian dirt-encrusted cast-iron table saw now being used as a storage table for boxes of items last used when Richard Nixon was president, thinking, "Now, where am I going to put a Remosaic Inside-Out Perglulator?"
Even back in the days when silver prints were common, good ones weren't. On the other hand, my aunt's house is full of gorgeous furniture she built herself.
Featured Comment by JK @ Studio Hatyai: "A good laugh, but not knowing better at the time (and perhaps through 20cc or so of rose-colored filter now), I thoroughly enjoyed almost every hour I spent in the darkroom. Especially safelight-less, pitch-black color darkrooms. They often induced a kind of meditative state that nothing in my life since has ever replaced."
Mike adds: Don't get me wrong, I love watching NYW. But definitely only as an observer....
Featured Comment by John Sartin: "I just have to comment on this one. I spent 30+ years working as a designer /craftsman working in wood. Norm actually visited my shop once while filming a segment of "This Old House" in Tucson. There are many similarities between photography and woodwork that I find amazing. There is the hand/low tech vs. machine/high tech, there is the pro vs. amateur, there are also the common difficulties of trying to make or craft something useful/attractive and worthwhile. The business aspects are similar as well. Changing markets, low budgets, ridiculous deadlines.
"I quit being a woodworker to become a photographer for many reasons. I was tired of the isolation and infrequent interactions with people. My body was also rebelling against the years of heavy lifting, repetitive motion stress, chemical exposure and breathing sawdust. I will also admit to feeling a bit jaded in my attitude with amateur woodworkers coming into the shop seeking camaraderie yet being totally unaware that the similarities of what we were doing ended when you have to factor in budgets and deadlines.
"Now I have a small general photography business and work with people often and occasionally wish for isolation. I am shooting and processing film and becoming interested in alt process work and am concerned/cautious about the health considerations. I am keenly aware of the fact that there are many amateur photographers with creative and technical skills far superior to mine that will never have to consider budgets or deadlines.
"Nirvana is always over the next hill but photography is a cool thing to practice on the way. I really don't miss the woodshop."