the first ciba

image – Brian Griffin

I was a studio assistant at South Bank Studio centre, a huge studio complex, that created scenes for advertising and fashion, from album covers to car advertising in mammoth infinity coves. And I got into the industry as a studio assistant, the floor sweeper and painter the ‘apprentice’ or dogs body to the proper assistants who assisted the photographers and film crews. The studio assistant was forever in the snow blinding world of painting infinity coves, the size of aircraft hangars, back to white in the early hours of the morning before sunrise. Feeling like a different world now, where London’s streets on the walk home in those early hours, quiet and tranquil, just the odd night bus and street cleaners.. Bermondsey still holding the fragrance of Dickens in the London air.

And I loved being a studio assistant.. and then some unknown event, or perhaps passion and destiny, I found myself becoming an E6 processing technician for the studio’s lab, and yet again was there to dawn again, making sure the 10×8 film was ready for the photographer, for the next day’s shoot, or their client. I found myself in those early hours, this time in the pitch dark most of the time, and I realised that there was an opening.. an opportunity perhaps…

in continuing colour printing that i had taught myself when I was part of an art project in an old people’s hospital in Bethnal Green. Where we painted giant canvasses in oil of scenes from the East End of London for their wards. Bringing the East End back to life in the green victorian hospital for all the wonderful characters that resided there. It was a wonderful time, and a wonderful project, and I was truly blessed in getting accepted. The images were first captured on 35mm E6 film, and Ilford sponsored the paper for the creation of prints for colour guides.. and of course it was the ‘cibachrome’.

And I was given that freedom by the upper echelons of the studio, to create a service of colour printing there. As there was the insight of the studio and the world then, in seeing that it was a beautiful service to offer some of the great advertising photographers of that era, their portfolio’s or for their clients.. as creativity then was always a natural component to growth, in all industries. Creating the quality service.

The prints I made there were not only hand prints, but processed by hand too. In a little forgotten room lay a giant german b/w drum processing machine, that processed roll film to sheet film. And I realised it could be converted to process the cibachromes. A giant version of the little jobo machine I used in the hospital. And I discovered that by laying the prints in the tubes that once held the spirals and containers to process b/w film, it worked perfectly. A giant clock, and funnels to put the liquid into the drums. It was where I first printed for professional photographers, and this was my first ever print for a client.

I believe it is the purest form of cibachrome print I have, all by hand from the dark room to the method of processing it, without the automation of roller transport machines I was soon to use. Of course there is huge sentimentality to it, how wide eyed and proud I was to make a photographer proud of their achievement and craft, being trusted with the perfect frame.. and something that I have never lost in printing for all, from that day to now.

As with all great achievements.. I gave the first gifted print to me from a photographer, my first client, to my parents, and in all these years it hung in numerous rooms, living rooms and bedrooms…eventually in pride of place in the most important room in the house… my mothers loo in her little cottage.

And this is the scan and digital archive of the very first print I made as a service to a photographer. 

terence

portrait – Terence Donovan

I found myself sort of squatting in Focalpoint in The Oval. Brian’s dye transfer studio. Using his equipment to print for my own clients and his. At that time he was looking to sell off all his Cibrachrome processing equipment and enlargers, alongside the rest of the paraphernalia, and he was busy with his dye transfers, so it was a perfect arrangement. The artisan production of the dye transfers intrigued me, the Rolls Royce of the colour print. Cibachrome seemed so amateur..

I delivered some prints to Terence one day, helmet, box and bungee’s and sat down opposite at his big desk. He always told me that riding a bike in town would give me spots, and perhaps I shouldn’t ride a bike..

He was always an inquisitive man, I always remember how huge and daunting he was, and kinda scary but in a very unique and comforting way.. a very ‘London’ way, he had a great presence. And I sat there explaining my present working environment. He just listened, always very still, it was very easy to talk.. his elbows on the desk and his finger tips touching the others in that pyramid shape he always made leaning back in his chair, his head never seemed to move. Then suddenly he barked at his secretary outside the door to get his bank manager on the line. I wish I could remember her name.. she always reminded me of moneypenny, in the way they worked together.. And without saying anything to me in reflection of what I had been talking about made the decision to set me up a meeting with his bank manager. Explaining that this biker would turn up ‘his’ bloody good colour printer, who wanted to set up on his own. And basically in that moment he set me up, and set up Matchless Prints.

I was soon in Finsbury Square sat in a burgundy leather arm chair on a creaking wooden floored very posh office.. Within an hour the bank manager gave me the overdraft required to take on the 2500 square foot space in Clerkenwell, and back the not insignificant lease for all the equipment I needed to buy…a very different age.

The portrait was a gift, I had to print it for myself of course, the gift in choosing the frame I liked of a very personal portrait of Hendrix that he took in his London flat where he stayed when in London, a stone throw from Terence’s studio in central London. And it has traveled with me wherever I have lived and worked thereafter. And now at the top of my small staircase in my little cottage in Numana.

And in all the time before and all the years I printed for him thereafter, not once did he ask for a discount, nor use his fame and standing in the photographic world, always wanting his invoice.

This quote befits the memory of Terence Donovan, who I owe everything to.

dp

‘To see a human being reveal really exceptional qualities one must be able to observe his activities over many years. If these activities are completely unselfish; if the idea motivating them is unique in its magnanimity; if it is quite certain they have never looked for any reward; and if in addition they have left visible traces on the world – then one may say, without fear of error, that one is in the presence of an unforgettable character.’

from ‘the man who planted trees’.

 

charity and triumph

image – Roger Charity

The first fashion photographer I met and worked for was Roger Charity. And soon becoming working within a whole new world from the advertising world.. it was the eighties and I became the colour printing service to the ‘Buffalo’ label.. created by Ray Petri. Working in time with the magazine’s of the day, ID and The Face, and all within Buffalo… the photographers from Marc Lebon to Jamie Morgan.. the stylists and models from Mitzi Lorenz to Nick Kamen.

The synergy of that time, the people, created the overall feeling of ‘working with’ rather than ‘working for’, and that dynamic was one of the most influential components to being the type of printer that I was, and am still.. yet always remaining steadfast in the service to the photographers’ eye and vision.

Charity always had a camera, always a great documentary photographer, one of the greats in the fashion world.. as he was innately gifted to be able to shoot men and women..with the same gifted sensibility.

Outside Holborn Studios, he saw my black and white Triumph next to his beloved black and white Mercedes, my hand on the clutch and instantly photographed me as I leaned in talking to Ray.. he was sitting in the back seat, it was his ‘office’..

dp

“…his ubiquitous MA-1 jacket, hat and old pair of black levi’s that rarified clothing produced by cutting edge designers , Petri’s legacy of style -and the Buffalo stance-is still alive and making it’s presence felt on the biggest catwalk of them all-the street.”

Kate Flett.

It was a great time.. dp

Jack Pope #1

I wanted to write an essay on that most important and at most times, that unconsciously grabbed intangible piece of luck..formed in the moment of that the blend of heart and head.. as your eye is tightly morphed into the viewfinder of that 35mm camera…

yet simply..

I can see it perfectly.

dp

…..’ if you could read my mind I have a thousand letters that need to be written’ ….. 10th January 2009

Philip ‘Jack’ Pope
18th September1928 – 12th January.2009