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clyde butcher 24 x 36 horizontal enlarger

This short piece highlights Clyde's darkroom techniques, showing the artistic skill, time, and effort that is in each silver-gelatin print.

Welcome to the Darkroom

"I try to use the largest film possible for the particular subject I'm planning to photograph. So, if I have a huge, broad landscape, I use the 12” x 20" view camera. If I am photographing something small like the Ghost Orchid I use a 4” x 5” view camera," explains Clyde, who most often works with an 8” x 10” view camera, but has a host of smaller and larger format view cameras.



A meticulous artform

With fiber-based paper, there are enormous challenges making mural-size prints that require precise and meticulous procedures to ensure uniform quality and consistency in printing. "If you were to use resin coated (RC) paper, you could just buy a machine that the enlarging paper runs through and it would be no big deal," comments Clyde. "But if you want to do it in fiber, in a historical, artistic and archivally correct way, you have to develop techniques just to handle the paper."




Developing his own techniques

Clyde began making large prints as early as 1968. “The first time I did a huge print I had to wash it in a swimming pool," laughs Clyde, "I'm sure the chlorine wasn't too good for it! Eventually, I moved into a space where I built big sinks to handle the large sizes of my prints." His developing trays run down the center of the chemical room and allow him to develop 40” x 60" prints flat in the trays.

When developing his mural-size prints, his darkroom assistant, Neal Obendorf, stands on one side of the sink, while Clyde stands on the other. They wrap each end of the image around pool noodles then pass the print back and forth through the chemistry: rolling it and unrolling it again and again through developer, stop, two fixes, hypo-clear with selenium, and an hour wash before it is hung to dry. After the print has dried it is stored flat with weights to reduce wrinkles.



The Darkroom

Clyde’s 2,200 square-foot darkroom houses one horizontal and seven vertical enlargers, including some that are antique. The largest mural-size prints are made with the horizontal enlarger, a 24” x 36" copy camera which Clyde converted into an enlarger.


clyde butcher and large format negatives
clyde butcher neal obendorf
clyde butcher hangs mural prints

In this piece, Clyde explains his entire process, from taking the photograph with his large-format view cameras to hand-developing the print in his darkroom.

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