We got asked to do so much more in the past. Now everyone seems to have short schedules, tiny budgets and diminished expectations of what is possible...

I shot this image back in the 1980's for a theater group. The photo shoot was not some afterthought engineered to fit into a couple of minutes after a dress rehearsal or during a rehearsal break. It was scheduled and the "look" of the shoot was well discussed before anything started. The play was set in a Texas town in the 1940s. We all decided that the look that most appealed to us as collaborative group was both a hand colored look and the look of portraits that were lit by tungsten spotlights. A look that was an amalgam of current, contrasty shadows and the kind of wonderful tonality inherent in images of the time.

We selected a film that would emulate the look of film from that time. It was called Ektapan and was ISO 100 or 125 panchromatic black and white. We carefully posed and photographed all six major actors in their costumes, paying attention to the fall of the light under hat brims and chins. Each subject lit from scratch to match the feel of their character.

Once the shoot was over I took the six rolls of 12 exposure film back to my studio. I'd shot an additional roll of film in a separate A12 Hasselblad film back; one or two frames of each person we photographed. This roll of film was my test roll. I would hand develop it in a single roll tank and evaluate it after the film dried. In this way I'd be able to see if certain frames were too thin (needed more development) or too thick (needed less development) and I could adjust. I ended up custom developing each roll to get exactly the density I thought would print best on one of the two grades of paper I had chosen for the project. The development took the better part of a day!

Once developed and dried I made contact sheets for each roll. One contact sheet for me and one for the marketing people at the theater. I didn't take chances with the people at the theater misreading the edge numbering so I wrote out the numbers with a red China marker. If we talked on the phone I wanted to make sure we were all discussing the same frame....

Once the frames were selected I went back into the dark room with two boxes of 11x14 inch black and white print paper. Not just any print paper but Kodak Ektalure G surface paper. It was the perfect choice for both a long range of tones and also a perfect surface on which to hand color. Why two boxes? One was grade two and the other grade three. The numbers related to their fixed contrasts. Two was softer, three contrastier.

I made three or four identical prints of each selected negative, selenium toned the prints for just the right look and then washed them archivally. I air dried the prints on screens, face down. The prints had to dry overnight before we could start working on them.

My next step was to carefully hand color each print with Marshall's Transparent Oil Paints. I won't bore you here with all the techniques and steps but it took about three hours per print. The extra prints were made so that I could start over on the painting if I messed up. Which I did. A lot. Figure at least 18 hours for print coloring...

Once painted the oils had to dry completely before I could spray the surface of the prints with a fixative to prevent abrasions.  After all these steps the images were delivered in a print box with neutral paper sheets in between each photograph.

The theater had to send them to a color separator to get the scans done for advertising and the programs but I also made a set of black and white prints for newspaper and magazine to use.

Once the color separators did their work each print was matted and framed and hung in the lobby of the theater for the run of the show. It added to the feel of the period piece for people to be able to see the prints in the lobby during intermissions.

Today no one seems to ask for anything harder than putting this better head of our CEO, Chipper, onto this better image of his body in Photoshop. I find it sad that the schedules dictate the creativity and that there is a self-reinforcing expectation among clients that no one is up to do something extraordinary so why even bother to ask? Is it any wonder we like to show prints from a different time?

Rome's Termini Station. Arrivals.

Camera: Mamiya 6 medium format, interchangeable lens rangefinder.

Lens: 75mm

Film: Kodak 400 CN (chromogenic black and white) ISO 400

Scanned from original print.

Hanging out at the Vatican, taking images of the non-tourists. The normal lens means you're close.

It was always interesting to shoot black and white film with a medium format rangefinder camera, out in the streets. Interesting because there was no way (other than the experience module in your brain and the depth of field scale on the lenses) to know how the image would look. The rangefinder window on the Mamiya 6 cameras showed an images that was as much in focus as your eyes could see. The center weighted meter got one onto the the target but you had to use your experience and observation skills to get exposure closer to the bullseye.

And if you got everything just right you still ended with a negative that had to be matched to graded papers and interpreted in just the right way to get the look that you had in your mind's eye in the first place. We digital users forget (or never experienced) the fact that the time elapsed from taking the photograph to actually seeing the first indications of what you actually got could be separated by days, weeks or even months. There was, for the most part, no immediate feedback loop to guide you in iterative steps to a better image --- in the moment.

It was a wet and rainy October day in Rome when I walked over from my hotel near the Via Veneto to the Vatican complex. It was the middle of the week and the kids were at school; their parents at work. When I got there the area in front of St. Peter's Cathedral was packed with senior citizens, gathered around their church banners, talking and debating. In my old pants and a vintage sport coat I mixed with the crowd and looked for images I wanted to take.

I pulled an old, incident light meter from my pocket and made a general reading for the area. The overcast light never changed. I ignored the camera meter and set my exposure controls based on the meter's indication. I kept the lens focused to around 10 feet which put me into a useful zone which could be quickly fine tuned when I put the camera up to my eye. I was working with a 75mm lens at f5.6 and there is surprisingly little depth of field there. The ISO of the film was the limit and really couldn't be changed half way through the roll without sacrificing what was already on the roll. You adapted by using a slower shutter speed and bracing yourself; paying attention to your handholding techniques. On sunny days, out in the streets, you could shoot at f8 or f11 and this allows you to pre-focus even a medium format camera and get good images. The benefit of pre-focusing is that when you see a scene you want to capture you need only lift the camera to compose and then shoot immediately. Most of use learned just about where twelve feet in front of the camera was, more or less. This yielded a photographer a certain invisibility that seems to have faded over the years.

I spent the better part of an afternoon wandering through an ever changing crowd just looking and absorbing the feeling and mood of the participants. Time well spent as I became, over time, a fixture to be overlooked. Perfect.

Too much color...

An artist at work on part of a wall that no one ever sees. 
Conceptual realism?

Selfies at the wall. Bringing portrait organization to visual chaos.

Photography of selfies in progress (and the above counts because of the included selfie stick) made with Nikon D810+24-120mm f4G lens. ISO 64.