What’s so hard about Dye Transfer

Back in the day of dye transfer, photography was a trade taught in the US Miitary as well as private trade schools, many of which gladly accepted GI Bill tuition payments.

Large labs, processing hundreds of prints a week, divided the work into skill layers. As someone improved they were assigned to other tasks. Prove yourself often enough and you will have made it to a secure will paid career.

jobs. skills. steps

  • load film, clean, mop
  • soup film
  • mix chemcials for lab
  • make masks/seps
  • make mats
  • manage dyes and do rollup

The last task is key to the final result: rollup. This is primarily autographic; skill of hand, eye, timing with feedback. All the previous steps come together well, or the print fails.

Most of those who fail at dye transfer do so because they lack courage. They make the task harder than it is. Not even rollup is difficult, just needing attention.

Anyone who can teach dye, can teach anyone who can learn, in about 45 hours. This assumes you can get film in and out of a camera, and in and out of chemicals.

The hardest part about dye transfer was those who sold their weekend teaching skills to timid camera counter conversationalists.

Kodak’s Frank McLaughlin used to take people through the steps over the telephone. That’s how hard it was.

First, Get Good Advice

Ask a guide who knows how to get where you are going. Easy enough. How do you know where you want to go? Compare and contrast destinations. These are two people providing answers to the same question. One person, Martin Parr is an established photographer known primarily to street photographers. The other, Marina Abromavitch was a major founder of a manner and means of expression. She is a creative with influence.

Parr at SCAD

Martin Parr is talking to students at SCAD, a Georgia art-school founded in 1978.


Marina Abromavitch: advice to the young

Marina will make a piece of work; give you an exercise. It make make you uncomfortable. If it doesn’t, did it work?

Both of these people are talking to the young artist, not that person who gave up before getting thru their teens. Art has a way of being confused, as well as confusing.

Art is more difficult than knowing how to do something. It is not limited to doing something well, or important, or grand. It is a worldmaker, not a describer.

Learn enough in your twenties so you have enough time to have more than a career.