Back in 2004 I thought I wanted to go to a larger camera, 8” x10” was the next step up from my 5” x7” Deardorff camera. I already had several lenses that would cover the larger format so before I actually purchased a camera I was fortunate to borrow one with the idea to see if I liked the format.
Secret Window resulted from an April trip to New York City with fellow Large Format shooter Peter Bosco. Peter had an interest in shooting the water storage containers that sit atop so many buildings in NYC so we decided to find a parking garage to gain a vantage point that would be conducive to being eye level with some rooftops. We came upon a parking garage that was closed for the weekend. We knew the garage was closed because the Up access lane was blocked off, however the Down access ramp was not blocked off. We decided to drive Up the Down access lane and got to the top floor, as I remember about 6 stories up. We had the complete roam of the top floor and over in one corner found the vantage point you see in this photograph. Framing the image was very obvious to me, I remembered something I’d heard Paula Chamlee tell me when looking through the ground glass, “it’s not what it is, and it’s how it relates to one another”. I knew the giant letter M would be a boundary on the left while the unusual shapes of the building in front would be the center piece of the image, all surrounding shapes would serve to highlight just how unusual the shape of the foreground building was. The random tonalities of the building would just heighten the feeling of dimension and depth. The vantage point from the parking garage provided a perfect angular view to the background buildings, which creates a subliminal sense of depth to the photograph.
The Pyro component of the image is very important, the shot was taken in almost mid day sun with an Orange filter to create some texture in the blue sky. That Orange filter will steal away shadow density because the shadows are illuminated by Blue light, opposite the Orange filter. With conventional developers it would be very difficult to hold good rich shadow information. Pyro developers by their nature add a proportionate stain to the reduced Silver negative and this actually can add density to the shadow areas, with Pyros ability to separate the highlights additional exposure can be given to help the shadows while the highlights are controlled with careful development with all tonalities remaining well separated in the final image. Rich detail in the shadows and the sky is as much a function of Pyro chemistry as it is the photographer’s actual skill set.
This image @ 20”x24” was the center piece of a one man show that traveled from Toronto, CA. to Louisville, KY and ultimately central Connecticut where I received one of the finest compliments my photography has ever received. Bob Carnie of Toronto Canada, who I consider to be one of the 5 finest Silver printers in the world said of this photograph, “it is one of the finest Silver Gelatin prints I have ever seen, it belongs in a Museum”.
As it turned out after several months of shooting the format I realized that I did not care for the 8×10″ perspective in a horizontal format which is what I almost always shoot. The several images that I have made with the 8×10″ format that I am happy with are shot in a vertical orientation which I find more pleasing than the horizontal 8×10″ perspective. I learned from shooting the 5” x7” format for nearly 20 years that I was more in tune with a wider more horizontal way of seeing so I returned the camera and as it happens ultimately purchased a 7” x 17” camera to compliment the 5” x 7” format. I contact print with the larger 7”x17” camera and enlarge my 5” x 7” negatives.
The image was shot with a Burke and James 8” x 10” camera, 355mm G-Claron lens using Tri-X film and tray processed in PMK developer, printed on Ilford Warmtone Multi-Contrast silver gelatin paper and Split Toned with Thiourea and Sodium Hydroxide for a wonderful tonality split in the upper tonalities.