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Wednesday, 09 October 2013


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Ctein -

Great good wishes as you move ahead in spite of the loss of the one place you could avoid the people who knocked on the door just by yelling out, “Sorry, I’m dark.”


If memory serves me correctly I remember seeing the Ken Jarecke photo in Life magazine (I think) shortly after it was made. The poor soul in the image was part of an Iraq military convoy evacuating Kuwait that got caught and destroyed by American warplanes. Yes, it was a controversial image but did get published in the U.S. though perhaps not widely.

With apologies to Ctein, after a bit of online looking it seems my memory is faulty. Life magazine declined to publish the Ken Jarecke photo, so I have no idea where I first saw it but remembering that I did see it is something at least. :-)

You are quitting the darkroom, is it because you feel that other printing methods can do as good a job (hard to believe) or just an age thing??

I've seen that war photo (as I recall, it is an Iraqi soldier burned in his tank turret) years ago in the French "Photo" magazine (available at the big bookstore chains in the U.S., which are down to one now, and maybe elsewhere?). I remember looking at it for a long while, curious about who he was and whether his family knew of his death or awaited his return. I always wondered why it had not been published widely in the U.S. as it is such a powerful image. Thanks for the explanation as to why it never did run in any major U.S. media.

It's satisfying to turn a page and begin a new chapter. Enjoy your lightroom.

That photo needs more of a disclaimer. I'm not happy that I clicked.
I don't know how you managed to print it.

RE: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/05/middle_east_enl_1115629150/html/1.stm

The photograph does not come anywhere near the reality.

Not the photographer's fault, not the printer's fault - one simply CANNOT capture the reality of combat in a photograph.

Photographs only impact the sense of sight.

Combat impacts the soul.



Ctein, I think it was very appropriate that your very last print shows off a thing of creation, of beauty. And that it is yours to keep.

Much better for the head!

Dear Robert,

I've written about this before, but no harm in a quick summary, again. It's not an age thing, it's a boredom thing. After 40 years of practicing the craft, my muse is thoroughly bored with doing dye transfer. I've gone as far as I can go with that; it's become entirely routine. Now, digital printing is much more interesting to me. I'm sure in another 30 or 40 years, that'll bore me, too. [g]

As for printing methods doing as good a job -- talking only my personal aesthetics, here -- digital runs rings around silver halide, either black-and-white or color. I can get MUCH better prints off my Epson 3880 than in the darkroom. When it comes to dye transfer, it's a mixed bag. About half my work looks equally good as a dye transfer print or an inkjet print. About a third looks definitely better as a dye transfer print. The other sixth looks definitely better as an inkjet print.

(Who decides what's better? Me, the artist, of course!)


Dear Ross,

Apologies, sincerely. I couldn't think of any stronger way to warn people off. If you can think of a more appropriate wording, e-mail it to me or Mike for consideration. The nice thing about online publishing is that we can go back and revise after the fact.

I only managed it by dint of serious mental discipline. I wasn't kidding when I said I had to think about it, and I had to work my way up to it, starting with 8 x 10 Ektacolor prints.


Dear Ken (and others),

Here's a more complete back-story:


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I'm saddened that the photograph of the dead soldier, and others like it, are self-censored because of a desire to "not hurt the war effort." It's very easy for us, safe at home, to be gung-ho about exerting military power, and other euphemisms. We need to understand what that really means. It's not movie heroics. It's what this photograph shows.

Good that you have a stomach turning reaction to photos such as these. I am afraid of people who don't. Somtimes 'ice water in the veins' is not a good thing.

Dear Bill,

I'm not sure what you mean by "self censored." Ken didn't censor the photo, the news agencies and entities that were supposed to present it collectively refused to.

That's just plain ol' ordinary censorship.

pax / Ctein

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Ctein for printing this image for me. I would also like to thank Bill Pierce for putting the two of us together.

At the time, if a news organization wanted to be included in the Department of Defense press pool, the organization's photographers were required to shoot color negative film. As we all know, color negative isn't archival. Its dark storage life is about equal to a C-print, meaning not much.

Shortly after the Gulf War, I was at Carl Mydan's 90th birthday party. I told him about having to shoot color neg. He was horrified. Said his negatives from WWII look just as good today as they did the day they were processed. Then I told him how I circumvented the pool system and shot 120 Tri-X (with a Mamiya 6) along with the color, which earned me a smile and a wink from the legend.

(The black and white idea came from Bill Pierce, btw, and he was kind enough to develop it too. D-76 at 1:1 how I miss you.)

The point being, archivability was important to me. Once the image of the incinerated Iraqi became known, I felt it was crucial to preserve it.

(There was no "self-censorship, btw. I did everything in my power to get this image seen. This image was originally slated as a double-truck in LIFE. It was also laid out on the front page of the NYTimes next to a picture of President Bush in a similar pose on the presidential podium. That's how I left the situation before going to sleep for about 30 hours. By the time these publications came out, all that had changed. I made a lot of enemies when I gave interviews to NPR and the BBC publicly criticizing my bosses at LIFE and TIME for not using the image.)

Before the pigment inkjet age, the only way to get an archival color print from color negative film was a dye transfer. Pierce rightly informed me that Ctein was the first and only option for producing these prints.

All I wanted to say, before getting sidetracked with the backstory on this image is, Bill Pierce has been a teacher and mentor to me from the first day we met. Putting me in touch with Ctein was some of the best advice he's ever given me, in a quarter century worth of great advice.

Ctein, added great value to the image, like only a master printer can. More importantly he preserved it for future generations. It's always a pleasure to work with a master anything (as long as one embraces the fact that the master knows best!). The only remark I made after seeing Ctein's proof was something along the lines of, I think the light was a little warmer that morning, and like that the edition became warmer (honestly one can't expect a printer in Northern California to realize the warmer tone of morning light after it's passed through layers of smoke from burning oil fields). Besides that, the dye transfer is Ctein's faithful interpretation of what the negative told him.

Thank you, Ctein. I'm sorry you had to live with and dig into every nook of this image during the printing process. That's more than any photographer should ask. At the time, I didn't even consider how, I don't think heartless is quite the right word, maybe how rude it was to throw this one at you.

Thank you,


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