JUST LIKE THAT by THE PORTUGAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
One day I wrote this because I became a photographer. Without a real connection with the photos:
“Like a thought.
Like a thought, but one of those that appears very slowly, almost vanished, almost without feeling the energy of something appearing, and, slowly, like those slow-motion sequences in the movies, very softly, an image starts to appear on the surface of the red paper, because the spilling of the red light in the improvised darkroom lab, in my bathroom, some years ago. As if it were a magic trick, a liquid made by druids brought from secret places and forbidden to common beings brings to my eyes the first print in black and white of my life and made by me.
Ecstatic, as if I had just finished accomplishing the most important thing in the world, I brought the sheet of paper for a more mysterious bath to stop it in time, the crystallization for the eternity of the magical process. With trembling hands I turn on the white light, raw and cruel, that puts in front of my eyes, the most lifeless thing before my eyes like a photocopy made by an old machine with lack of maintenance, to great dismay after so much effort, passion, and care. But I did everything like the book so much studied before, step by step, for such an infamous result.
Like the bad cooker following the cookbook, it was my first printing on paper from a black and negative film. I am so glad that it was like this. Imagine if it was perfect. Glorious, like a conqueror in a military campaign demanding a statue in the center of the square, but, suddenly, looser of all the next battles because he was not able to deal with all the details and strategies to manipulate subtleties, temperatures, dilutions, exposition times and other tricks that we apply in the process, like curious children who always want to know how it will be otherwise.
I am grateful that my first black and white print was a disappointment in my improvised laboratory in my bathroom. It was what allowed away. A way full of disappointments, experimentations, almost there but not yet, and building in me the perception, the feel on my fingertips, on my eyes, in that strange thing that does not come in the books but moves us forward and, finally, a black and white print worthy of the name. And how I felt it. I had never felt it with the photographs taken in color negative and printed in the lab, or the slides I received in small cards or plastic frames that, with great fanfare, after dinner, annoyed everybody to see them projected on the wall. It was, for sure, that mystic connection with that Agfa warm tone paper sheet that never left me, while my improvised darkroom worked in my bathroom and, today, serves me as a model in my new lab, inside the computer.
From that moment when a tear was almost shed over such a precious piece, I realized that a photograph is only a photo, when printed on paper, like a page of a book that we can smell, feel with our fingertips and irradiate over the eyes to be loved and immortalize our memory. It was from that moment that I started to feel that a photograph is far more than just a print, on a sheet of paper. It was from that moment that I realize that a photo, after being printed, is a history book, has mountains and valleys, even if does not reproduce them, have light and the lack of it, mysteries, joy, sadness, affection, and cruelty and it is, probably, as a printed photo, the best mirror of the soul of the people and the world as an all. And this is too much power to be taken lightly.
It was because I realize that after that, finally, a satisfactory black and white photograph printed on paper I started a search process, first for a photographic camera, I will honor them with a further text, and, after, under that red light that often played pranks on me telling me that it was alright when it was not, but, with time, it was one of my best friends and companion of many painful, irritating and happy hours. Sometimes, just curiosity experimenting and changing exposition, time, and temperatures of the magic waters. At other times uncovering and covering some parts of the picture coming from the lens of the magnifier, for a meticulous and patient labor of trial and error and get the image that, in my view, brought the soul I knew it was inside. A work of “dodge” and “burn” long before Photoshop, done with the hands and all sorts of helpers I could find: various sizes and shapes of pieces of paper to stop the light in some parts of the image, chicken feathers for a soft cutout ( once more a tool of Photoshop), little sticks and branches to diffuse light and others that I remember no more.
I say thank you for all of this. The time changed, like Bob Dylan’s song, the tools also, but the essentials in quite the same. A photograph is a photograph and I do not find anything on the new apps inside the labs that are the computers, crazy machines that let us blow out our imagination at heights of the Himalayas, I repeat, I do not find almost anything that could not be done in my improvised lab in my bathroom.
After so much was done, after my black and white improvised lab in my bathroom, life and her needs so wanted, since some while ago when I become a wedding photographer, to find myself, again, with that first black and white print that brought me to the wonderful and precious world of photography, the one with the light and the lack of it, the stories it tells, the mounters and valleys even if they are not there, laughing and crying. Of life. Life printed on paper forever and, ever, in black and white or, better, in the scale of grays as I like it most.
Maybe, that is why in my wedding photography I do not find the spectacular, the unseeing, or the strangeness but what is simple, important, and what belongs to people. From people’s life as it is a wedding day. And give them that life back in photographs, for eternity, and whenever possible, in black and white.