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Chris Calohan's Bay High School BW Photo Class

by
Jon Cone
published on 06/05/2010 20:00:00

Bay High school is located in Panama City, FL…most people know of us as the Spring Break capital of the world, which while it is true, hardly indemnifies us. It is a burden we carry for a few months each spring and shed as quickly as possible.

“PIEZOGRAPHY PRINTING HAS CHANGED MY ENTIRE OUTLOOK ON DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY AND DIGITAL OUTPUT. THROUGH THIS REMARKABLE TECHNOLOGY, MY STUDENTS ARE NOW ABLE TO REALLY SHOW THE SCOPE OF THEIR WORK IN THE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTS.”

Chris Calohan

My name is Chris Calohan and I teach the soon to become ancient art of black and white photography. My students shoot pinhole, Holgas, 35mm, 4X5, 2 ¼, and digital (mostly, Nikon D40’s). They process all their own film and print in a traditional darkroom environment. The darkroom is nicely equipped with a variety of enlargers, 22 in all. Most of my students are a part of an advanced academic program called, “A.I.C.E.” which is the acronym for Advanced International Certificate of Education, and is a Cambridge based international educational centre. While grades certainly are an important part of these student’s lives, what really makes them stand apart from their peers is their intense desire to learn. This desire certainly makes my day pleasurable.

Several years ago, I became entranced with some of the lost photographic arts, now affectionately called, “alternative” and introduced many of these techniques to my students, starting with cyanotype and working my way from salt to albumen. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to attend Christopher James Alternative Processes workshop in Santa Fe and came home with additional skills to teach my students (or, as they would say, more knowledge to punish them with), and as the readers can see, they took to these processes like ducks to water…and yes, they still squirmed their fair share. The two most popular processes were salt and albumen, though palladium and gum were close seconds. We still do a goodly bit of cyanotype and recently have begun a dip into Tim Rudman’s world of Lith Printing.

This summer I am returning to Santa Fe and will get some instruction in wet plate collodion and carbon printing. With all the tools available, and the products being put out by my students, it is still a struggle to convince the powers to be, that the costs outweigh the end results. Each year now for the last ten, I’ve managed to make a strong argument, even in this failing economy. While I was at the Santa Fe workshop, I was fortunate enough to have Christopher James share his Piezography prints with the class and I knew then, this was another great alternative process, though admittedly at the time, I didn’t have clue one as to the power of this kind of printing.

As an educator, especially one in an art field that is losing hard ground every year, having the alternative processes available and having the expertise of Christopher James readily available, the chemistry from Bostick-Sullivan and the Photo Formulary, has dramatically changed how I am able to present the photographic arts to my students in addition to the more traditional darkroom methodologies. Four years ago, I added the digital dimension as another method of teaching the photographic arts, though will tell everyone, I did it kicking and screaming all the way. Most of my reluctance came because short of some very expensive printers/inks, showing my student’s work with the same clarity as came from the darkroom simply wasn’t there. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a fine art print, shot zone, and printed on a nice Ilford paper. It was but a mere imitation.

When I returned from the workshop, I used some of my program money to purchase an Epson 1400 and Jon Cone’s Piezography Special Edition ink set but didn’t put it into place until about midway through the first term. I was still being the consummate darkroom guy and my digital class didn’t start until mid-October, and…well, I liked James’ stuff, but still wasn’t totally convinced.

That has all changed now. Though having a somewhat shaky start with a balking printer which just didn’t want to cooperate, with a new printer in place, Piezography printing has changed my entire outlook on digital photography and digital output. Through this remarkable technology, my students are now able to really show the scope of their work in the black and white photographic arts. All the works shown are from students who first put a film camera in their hands either in August of 2009 or January of 2010.

I have attached some of my students’ works in hopes your readers can see what a remarkable difference Piezography printing makes in their presentation output. Because I am working with high school students and on a fairly tight budget, I use a variety of papers ranging from the JonCone Studio Type 2 paper to InkPress papers, both cold and warm tone. For special presentations, I allow my students to print on the 188 Hahnemuhle Photo Rag or the Jon Cone 310 though it is a major operation getting heavy paper through the print gate of an Epson 1400. Next year, I plan on a better Epson printer. I will date myself, but have to tell everyone, “I’m stoked!”

Chris Calohan
Bay High School
1200 Harrison Ave
Panama City, FL 32401