Dark Room Magic
A portrait of The Artist formerly Known As Dark Room Magician.
It wasn´t love at first sight, love arrived ten minutes later, when he lit his first cigarette. Time takes a cigarette, as Bowie sang, and sometimes it only takes a cigarette to break the ice.
Problem was, Erich Reismann just came in from the hairdresser; that´s risky business in Austria. Freshly cut and blowdried hair does not befit a Wild One – which is what he was. Erich was a „Junger Wilder“, one of those exciting new photographers of the 80s Media Boom, when yuppies created magazines called Wiener or Cashflow to give photo artists rare opportunities to shine. And shine they did.
Those were the golden – and in Austria all too short – years of black and white photography in mass media, but we were not aware of the era´s brevity. Going forwards, you can only live. Looking back, you may understand if you so wish.
I met Erich in a work situation, which was nice. Before, I had little understanding of photography. In truth, I had none. As far as I was concerned, photographers were people who did little more than push a button to get a result. Meeting Erich was the right time to gain due respect – for the art of dealing with light, the skills of putting those people in the frame at ease, the patience of waiting for the right moment. There was more, of course, but those were the coolest ingredients. It felt like a hunt sometimes and, indeed, Erich is the son of a professional hunter.
The truly unforgettable bits happened when the adventure seemed over. They happened in the red light of the Dark Room, in its chemically spiced-up atmosphere. The „golden“ bit of that era was its analogy. The way I feel about photography now, nothing compares to the magic of a negative turning into a positive result. Reismann was a master of this forever lost art and I for one am mad about its demise.
I know, digital photography is now and here to stay, photoshop and all that. As for myself, I take comfort in that rare privilege: looking at the photo above, I don´t just see an excellent portrait. I see a white sheet slowly transforming into shades and finally acquiring drama. I see a thumb and an index finger, which, in circular motion, mysteriously give light to previously dark spots. I see Reismann in a white coat.
I see something nobody else can. And that is that.
Click HERE for the German version of this text.
Click HERE for a visit to Erich Reismann´s Homepage