September 24, 2014

Expand Your Color Space

Darkroom Chemistry for Ilfochrome Masking

Dedicated photographers know color spaces well. The picture here represents a new color space for me. OYP. Orange, yellow, purple. It's the chemical "color space" I now work in when creating black and white contrast masks to help control certain tonal densities when printing Ilfochrome.

I'd known about masking for years but consciously avoided it. I believed I could capably print without the added workflow burden. And actually, I could, to a degree. Then, last November during my annual Fall photographic trip to Zion National Park, I had an epiphany caused, ironically, by the marketing bullshit I experienced in the Michael Fatali Gallery.

I worked for Michael Fatali for a couple years back in the late 1990s. What few people understand is that Michael didn't print his own work. Back then, it was printed by a master printer, Richard Jackson, the original owner of Hance Parters. In his galleries today, Michael expounds his master printmaking abilities, making statements that are, at best, dubious and, at worst, plainly deceitful. Over the years I've met many people who question, often passionately, the veracity of his claims.

Possessing this "inside knowledge" and having to endure the "hail the great master printer" message presented to me by the cluelessly naive gallery representative, sent me into a tizzy. Within hours, I was on the phone with Richard Jackson (we'd never spoken) and, two months later, we spent 3-days in my darkroom intensively engaged in Ilfochrome masking. I'm now empowered with a new tool in my quest to further master the art of print making.

The moral for me is an old and simple one. You'll never know until you try. Or, in photographic parlance, always be willing to expand your color space.


I hope to make pictures like I walk in the desert—under a spell, an instinct of motion, a kind of knowing that is essentially indirect and sideways.

Ellen Meloy