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The Photo Comp

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2001: 52 Sundays

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The Photo Comp

Before the gigahertz microprocessor, before Thomas Knoll's wonderful code, before the pixel and the byte there was the photomechanical composition. Images and text were put together by hand. Painstakingly placed in registration using registration punches and pins made by guys like Warren Condit whose machine shop was in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. These handmade tools that allowed sheets of film to be layered in perfect alignment, were like beautiful little sculptures—works of art in and of themselves.

I used to build and print these comps. The pro labs had 8x10 inch Salzman or Fotar enlargers with glass negative carriers. These were precision machines whose manufacturers are all but forgotten. I would spend my days in the dark with the radio blaring. The cardinal rule was that you could not enter a darkroom without knocking. If I didn't want to talk to someone I didn't have to. They would knock on the darkroom door and I would call out “dark!”

The Photo Comp is a result of the dross of working with these comps, scraps of work and life thrown together into the glass carrier and printed. Some were handed out on the streets of Boston and Cambridge as guerrilla handbills. The author Richard Powers collaborated with me on several of these. The tools that I used have since been rendered as scrap, and the techniques have been rendered obsolete, but this poor world keeps spinning around. Warren Condit died on March 11, 2003 in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Click to see images.


© 2007 - Jeffrey B. Evans