In his ongoing “Developer Trays” series, John Cyr aims to preserve the antiquated process of silver gelatin printing by documenting the paraphernalia used by famed photographers and institutions. See the darkroom developing trays once owned by masters like Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, and the Smithsonian.
“From the mid-nineteenth century until today, silver gelatin printing has been one of the most utilized photographic processes. From classic reportage to fine art photography, the majority of it was performed in a black and white darkroom until the mid-1970’s. As recently as 2000, black and white darkrooms still served as the location for introduction to photography courses. The digital advances in photography over the past ten years have been remarkable.”
John Cyr has acquired and photographed developer trays from photographers like Sylvia Plachy and Joni Sternback, as well as those from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the George Eastman House. He undertook this project for the photography community to “remember specific, tangible printing tools that have been a seminal part of the photographic experience for the past hundred years.”
“By titling each tray with its owner’s name and the years in which it was used, I reference the historical significance of these objects in a minimal manner that evokes thought and introspection about what images have passed through each individual tray.”
We think this is a great endeavor by Cyr because it gives importance not just to photography pioneers, but to the process which produced some of the most remarkable images of our time. They may not be as valuable or interesting as famous photographers’ cameras or prints, but they’re still an inherent component of their work. Do you have photos of your developer trays? Share them in the comments below!
*Into the Darkroom* is a mini series about photo processing, developing, labs, and, well, darkrooms! Got tips or stories in mind? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.