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Tuesday, 17 August 2010


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It's fascinating to see how the different status of image and word is reflected in this business of how rarely the custom printer has been credited in books. The Turnley's acknowledgement to Voja appears in the middle of their Acknowledgements, in the same paragraph with John Morris, both after acknowledging about a dozen friends in the editing and publications cycle.

Koudelka doesn't acknowledge his printer in the Aperture edition of "Koudelka" that I checked, and there is no mention of Voja in the American translation of "Vive la France" which I have, although the print quality is lovely, not what you would expect for a Readers Digest-sponsored project. Vive la France and Koudelka, however, contain half a dozen essays, and acknowledge a small army of editors who have helped to shape the words that appear in them.



Following from your first post, there are two things that I can immediately think of.

Firstly: This man is clearly brilliant in his art and also extremely humble. The second part of your post here gives thanks as much as it does explain how his talent and his temperament has combined to make him so.

Secondly: With all this talent and knowledge -- is there any possibility he could share it with the world? A book? Some printing notes? I know it's a physical art so turning it into words or practice would be hard, but with the world losing people like him, I only feel that we're running out of time...


Thank you Peter, and thank you Mike.
What a great story...

Mike, Thanks so much for this. Reading about Voja reminds me of the famous story about Johann Sebastian Bach - someone asked him how he was such a brilliant organist, and he replied "I have ten fingers and 2 feet, the same as everyone else!" More to the point, I'm heartened to hear that so many of the great photographers produced the odd negative which was difficult to work with - I always had it in my head that they pretty well nailed it every time. Maybe I ain't so bad after all!

It is very difficult to make meaningful comments on a story like this one. One wishes to say something, to let Peter know how very much we appreciate his sharing the story of Voja. But...it becomes an exercise in finding something intelligent to say in response to a great story. So I will not try to find a brilliant insight. But I do want Peter to know how moving it is to know the story of someone who is so very excellent at what he does and who he is. Thank you.

Wonderful article and a great escape from all the talk about digital this and digital that. Thanks a lot!

And I would love to once see a comparison of a "straight" print and the final print of a well-known and famous photo. If you (Mike) could manage to show us such an example here (perhaps via Peter and Voja) that would truly be a coup.

Thank you so much for bringing Vojo's work out of the darkroom. I do a lot of my own printing, but have also worked with a printer for larger prints, and the relationship has been invaluable. He's raised the level of my own printing, which seems to have the effect of raising the level of my own picture making.

I really appreciate hearing that such famous photographers have found similarly satisfying relationships with folks who can do some real magic in the darkroom.

And it's good to know that even HCB has a few hard negs to print, and I'm not the only one who has had a few epic battles in the darkroom!

Thank you, great article.

Thank you for this two part story. It's wonderful to hear about Voja.

It just won´t mean the same in thirty years time when we read perhaps on TOP "the untold story of one of the greatest digital printing technicians," and how someone witnessed how he was able to spend at least an hour making adjustment layers burning and dodging a print.
Great stories like this one, keep proving how we are slowly losing essential parts of why many of us picked up a camera, this post brought back memories like the first time I saw a Salgado print, an Avedon portrait, Edward Weston´s portrait of Frida Kahlo or at school with my first ever B/W print of my ex-girlfriend coming up in the tray.
There is no doubt that the image is what counts in the end, but lately I've been going on those lovely old twisty back roads with their potholes, instead of the interstate highway which digital seems to reminds me of. I´m enjoying all the screw-ups and uncertainty which comes implicit with film, it's a challenge which my 1Ds II and Photoshop just don´t inspire with at the moment. It´s fun also watching my four year old son run up to my Fuji 6x7 looking for a preview screen!
Mike, did Voja print the originals for Salgado's book on Africa you were so impressed with?

Peter, what a fine homage to this most gifted artist. It’s a real pleasure to have you share your experiences and affections for this man. Thanks for this essay, it’s most inspiring.

Thanks for this piece Peter - a great tribute. Is there any place to see some of those straight print vs. Voja prints? It would be fascinating to be able to see the transformation?

This is one of the finest and best written essays I've had the pleasure of reading. Well done. I will be thinking about this for days.

Mr. Peter Turnley,

Thank you for a wonderful account of a wonderful human being. I haven't read anything as engaging or as insightful as this for a long time.
I concur wholeheartedly with what others have iterated, that a book or a DVD on Mr.Voja and his work would be such a joy to delve into. Invaluable.

Many thanks again,

Gregory Clements

Thanks, Mr. Turnley, for the elegantly written and insightful review of this man's life as a printer. It made me wish I knew him. It also refreshed my enthusiasm for silver printing, which, one hopes, will never become a lost art. Rare and fugitive, but never quite lost.

If we take your Paris seminar, would we get to meet him?

"He exudes a rare unpretentious dignity of someone that has led a hard working, decent life, and has cared for his family and friends, and put his heart completely into doing his work as well as he can".

I think this article is also, among other things, a touching gesture of friendship.

Thanks again to Peter and Mike.

Peter: Having met Voja when I took your Paris class for the first time, I never tire of hearing what this master has contributed to the photographic arts. And I share Voja's concerns about the future of traditional printing: the lab I use just announced that they have dropped wet printing in favor of making chromira prints from black and white negs. Horrors! Voja's story is an antidote to world tipping steeply toward mediocrity; maybe it will inspire others to keep his craft alive.

Jim Lustenader

Mr. Turnley,

Thank you for posting this story. I would likely not have learned about Mr. Mitrovic otherwise. An important figure in photography, and an artist in his own right.

Makes me wonder, has anyone ever collaborated with him to create dual-authored original works? I mean works where Mr. Mitrovic isn't primarily trying to bring forth the other's artistic vision, but where the two together are each adding their visions and ideas to create a piece. It seems a natural and exciting thing to try. There could be many ways such a collaboration might work, including some that don't start with the photograph (or perhaps ever use a photograph, exactly).

Simply wonderful. Thank you Peter for this heartfelt homage and thank you Mike for generously sharing your space with other gifted writers.

Not that I would ever compare myself with Voja Mitrovic, but reading about him here brings me back to my last darkroom days; the early 1990s, when I was studying photography in the Fine Arts faculty of Concordia University in Montreal. I was working full time at a desk job and was studying part time for my own enrichment -- I never really thought about photography as a profession, mostly because I feared getting stuck doing weddings and cheesy portraits.

Anyway, I had already been printing for eight or nine years, but at Concordia I was introduced to higher standards and through my studies I felt a need to go way beyond the basics. So I learned through practice. Lots of practice. 40 hours a week at my desk, two nights a week in class, and at least one night plus all day Saturday in the darkroom. Week after week, for more than two years. When I was working on exhibition prints, it was normal to spend two to three hours on each one. I knew I was getting close when a teacher looked at a 16x20 from a 35mm negative and asked if I'd shot it on a 4x5.

I entertained the idea of perfecting the craft and then working as a master printer. I think I could have made it if I'd really applied myself, but I didn't think there was much of a market for such work outside of Paris and New York. Also, by then I was already in my 30s and my desk job career was starting to take off. I think the last time I was in a darkroom was 1994. Now, some 16 years later I'm still chained to my desk, and unlike Edith Piaf, Je regrette quelque chose.

Thanks Mike and Peter, for this excellent portrait of Voja Mitrovic and his dying craft.

Thank You Peter and Mike.

What a inspiring, honest, deep story. Rare in days when most stories are written in marketing departments. Even though I never printed a single print by myself I enjoyed every bit of it. Being from Macedonia, a country that was part of former Yugoslavia, this touching homage makes an even deeper impression on me.
Hope some day to own one of Voja's prints to the point that I don't care about the image as long as printed by him.
Great story man, great story...

Voja is a true artist with considerable talent. Talent is something you are born with no amount of how-to's or instruction with give you "talent". If you are one of the lucky ones that are born with it, some skilled teachings will allow you to develop and rise to levels we mere mortals can only dream of.

In my days I have meet some really good printers, but less than 5 who I would consider as gifted as Voja.

I can only echo all of the above. I cant quite put my finger on what it is that makes the article so moving,close to emotional, the passing of something of such value maybe. Apart from making photos and printing them since 1964, black and white, I also have a boat. I and everyone else used to navigate without any electronic goodies, dead reconing, compass, log etc and a carefull study of the tide streams etc. Making a landfall only half a mile off after crossing the Bay of Biscay felt like magic, today we nearly all use GPS and can find that landfall buoy in the fog, at night! The collective skills are fast dissapearing in all sorts of disciplines. Peters article should spur us on to work a lot harder at our digital negs.It certainly will do that for me. Many thanks to Peter, and to Mike for providing the'platform'. Great stuff.
Cornwall UK

thank you Peter and Mike!
After reading this, all I can say is "Thank God everything is still right in the world of Photography".

"It just won´t mean the same in thirty years time when we read perhaps on TOP "the untold story of one of the greatest digital printing technicians," and how someone witnessed how he was able to spend at least an hour making adjustment layers burning and dodging a print."

I think that might hit why I struggle to be as impressed with some prints as everyone else (other than simply lack of experience). I ONLY have experience with digital prints. I have no appreciation at all for what it took to get good prints from film of any type. And I'm not sure I should bother trying to gain one...

I know nothing of printing, so unfortunately I cannot add to that area of discussion. However, I would like to know if Voja has attempted to produce/print any digital files with Lightroom or Aperture?

Black and Whites are my favorite. Your eyes see the light which is the true subject of a photograph. I have been studying differing techniques over the last year and prefer Lightroom3 over any other way (so far). It would be curious to me to know how Voja would prefer to process a digital file. Prefer is the wrong word here, but my meaning is clear.

Any thoughts?

There's not much more to add to the comments other than to say 'thanks' to Peter and Mike for bringing this enlightening, touching essay to us. Wow. It's always wonderful to see someone like Mr. Mitrovic operating at his craft.

Great story and excellent writing! Can't wait to see the upcoming print offer.

For those of us on the West Coast- Henri Cartier-Bresson The Modern Century, will show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from Oct. 30th, 2010 to Nov. 11th, 2011.

Great story. I love the dedication and passion for his work and art. I would love to take a workshop from Peter.


Thank you for sharing a wonderful relationship and for this rare glimpse of a great character and a gifted and dedicated artisan.

I'm not sure why darkroom tales fascinate and please me as much as they do. In some cases, I think I enjoy the story of the printing process more than I do the photographs. I suppose it's possible that it's the telling that I really enjoy.

This is well done Peter,a rare insight into the real world of photography,no school can match this "course" in life.

This (part 1, too) is just a great read on so many levels.

Thank you for this inspiring story. I´m all digital as a photographer, but this makes me want to dive deep into the world of shooting analoge and in the dark room. Thanks.

It has been many years since we have even had a dark room. Brought back memories of how you use to be able to manipulate film and then on to platemaking. Artistry it was. Thanks for the article.

Can we have a part 3 perhaps in the near future?

Thanks Peter for sharing the story of Voja Mitrovic to all of us. It was an absolute delight to take a trip down memory lane of darkroom printing. Those of us who have done darkroom printing know what a gifted artisan is Mr. Voja is. With the advent of digital printing and digital photo papers getting better by the day, I suppose we will have artisans like Voja doing the same for future photographers in the digital realm.

I was especially touched by the personal connection you have with Mr Voja. You are an extremely lucky person to know him personally and I find myself lucky to know you and hear the story. It makes me appreciate the art of Photography further. Unlike a painting or a sculpture, a Photograph is ultimately about the story of the photograph than the Photographer. As there are several gifted artist involved in making a photograph great!

Hopefully in the near future I will take your Paris workshop and have the privilege to meet Mr. Voja personally.
Uday K


I was moved with delight and inspiration by your article on Voja. Thanks for taking the time to craft a well-written piece. It would be a great honour to meet and discuss all manner of things with him. May he be granted many more years and all joy!


Thomas Wildeman

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