Creating a black-and-white photograph goes beyond the shutter

A master photo printmaker describes the developing chemicals, tools, and techniques that bring film frames to life.

Photograph by MARK THIESSEN

Printing black-and-white photographs is like tango dancing, says Brian Young. Each step of the film development has a rhythm. Or it’s like making a flan: Each chemical mix is precise in measurement and temperature. Young began printing in black and white in the 1980s and got hooked on “the ability to control everything,” compared with color photography. Today, in his Connecticut studio, it may take two hours to turn a piece of film into a print. “It’s not about being quick, easy, or convenient,” says Young. “It’s about being difficult, slow, and something you have to learn.”

More from this series

How does the shoemaker love his work? Heart and sole
Surfboard shapers hone the means to catch a perfect wave
Can you match these tools to the movie sound effects they make?

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet