Henri Cartier-Bresson at the March on Washington. Photo by Bob Henriques, printing annotations by Pablo Inirio

Magnum and the dying art of darkroom printing

A look at the work of Pablio Inirio, the man who's printed Henri-Cartier-Bresson, René Burri and Dennis Stock

There's a really interesting piece over at the Literate Lens website about the apparently dying art of darkroom printing. In it the author talks about spending time with Magnum Photos dark room printer Pablo Inirio - the man who made all those Cartier-Bresson, Dennis Stock and René Burri photographs look so good. 

Inirio was born in the Dominican Republic in 1961 and worked as a photographer's assistant in New York (including six years with fashion photographer Hal Oringer). He joined Magnum in 1992 as the New York office's dark room printer.

The Literate Lens story recounts a day spent in his dark room and studio some three years ago where the "prints lying casually around included Dennis Stock's famous portrait of James Dean in Times Square and a cigar chewing Che Guevara shot by René Burri." As the writer recounts, "Intricate squiggles and numbers" were "scrawled all over the prints, showing Inirio's complex formulas for printing them. A few seconds of dodging here , some burning-in there. Will six seconds be enough to bring out some definition in the building behind Dean? Perhaps, depending on the temperature of the chemicals."



The author of the piece points out that, "over the last 15 years, almost every photographer I've interviewed has waxed poetic about the magical experience of seeing an image develop in chemicals for the first time." It's a story phaidon.com can relate to as many of the photographers we work with, among them Burri, Roger Ballen and Danny Lyon have told us the same tale. 

Although you'd expect the fine art of the dark room printer to be a disappearing one (will today's young photographers rhapsodise over the first time they colour-calibrated their computer monitors?) there is a silver lining of sorts. The writer catches up with Inirio some years later and, somewhat unexpectedly, learns he's busier than ever. 

"Collectors and galleries still want prints on fiber paper - they just like the way it looks," he tells the writer. Many of his prints it seems go to exhibitions, book publishers and private collectors. "I'm still pretty busy - in fact I'm backed up," Inirio admits. Read the full fascinating story here. And to witness some of Inirio's work check out our Magnum related titles in the bookstore