Marked Up Photographs Show How Iconic Prints Were Edited in the Darkroom


Want to see what kind of work goes into turning a masterful photograph into an iconic print? Pablo Inirio, the master darkroom printer who works at Magnum Photos‘ New York headquarters, has personally worked on some of the cooperative’s best-known images. A number of his marked-up darkroom prints have appeared online, revealing the enormous amount of attention Inirio gives photos in the darkroom.

Sarah Coleman of The Literate Lens writes that Inirio’s tiny darkroom has many of these squiggle- and number-filled prints just casually lying around. Not just any ol’ prints, mind you, but some of history’s most well-known images.

The comparison images above show photographer Dennis Stock’s iconic portrait of James Dean in Times Square. The test print on the left shows all the work Inirio put into making the final photo look the way it does. The lines and circles you see reveal Inirio’s strategies for dodging and burning the image under the enlarger, with numbers scattered throughout the image to note different exposure times.

Coleman wonders whether the magic of seeing this process will carry over at all into our new digital age:

Over the last fifteen years, almost every photographer I’ve interviewed has waxed poetic about that “magical” experience of seeing an image develop in chemicals for the first time. You have to wonder whether today’s young photographers will rhapsodize as much about the first time they color-calibrated their monitors.

Here’s a similar comparison photo of a portrait of Muhammad Ali, captured by Thomas Hoepker in 1966:


A portrait of photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, captured by Bob Henriques during Martin Luther King’s march on Washington:


Finally, a portrait of Audrey Hepburn, captured by photographer Dennis Stock:


Back in 2009, Magnum Photos tweeted two photographs showing Inirio at work in his darkroom. “Pablo Inirio, our Dark Room Printer at work,” the captions say:



You should definitely give Coleman’s original 2012 piece a read. It’s an interesting look into the mind of a darkroom master as he works in a rapidly changing industry.

(via POTB via Gizmodo via Fstoppers)

Image credits: Photographs by Magnum Photos

  • AK

    i worked professionally in a darkroom for 12 years and people need to
    understand that its an art form to create a print form a negative. using
    different film bases and different batches of paper or grade 1-5 in
    B&W which anyone under 30 will not understand i suppose apart from very few .i think with the
    transition of sd card compact flash and digital cameras and ps lr
    photography has seen developments in people becoming (printers) in the
    digital age but far to often people push to hard and make a mess of it
    .don’t disrepair it take s time to become skilled at printing . most of
    my work was for commercial and exhibition largest print to date from
    negative was 48 ft wide by 32 feet tall all printed in 8ft sections
    mounted on to 25mm mdf from 10×8 film . rgds AK

  • jojo

    The Larry Bartlett book (Larry Bartlett’s Black and White Photographic Printing Workshop) gives an informative insight into developing a print.

  • tiredliberal

    Yes. I agree. I went to a workshop on how to do this at the University of New Mexico, a long time ago.

  • tiredliberal

    Um, Jerry is not a Pictorialist and he is still alive. He became famous in the 1960s.

  • tiredliberal

    People complain about the cost of film photography, but you could have a camera that was 100 years old or a pinhole camera or even NO camera and you could make great photographs. Today, the cost of printers, monitors, scanners and computers are astronomical and you constantly have to buy new ones, not to mention all the new software. The fact is that you can’t even choose to just stay with your old hardware OR software, because the manufacturers change everything constantly and don’t support old software or hardware just to keep you buying more.

  • AgNO3

    I know Jerry we went to the same Univ. RIT. I never said Jerry is a pictorialist . Where did I even hint he was dead?
    Jerry style is totally influenced by the pictorialist. and alek has obviously never heard of William Mortensen.

  • AgNO3

    and what do you call the work of William Mortensen and the pictorialist?

  • AgNO3

    umm if you had the red safety light on while doing color printing you where doing it wrong. color paper being full spectrum unlike orthographic black and white will fog under any light source.

    I hope that was supposed to be satire.

  • tiredliberal

    Sorry. I just went by what you said. He was definitely influenced by the late 19th and early 20th century Pictorialists, but he wasn’t part of that movement when it existed as a “thing.” I understood that you were saying he was “from the 20s and 30s,” meaning, I thought, that he was active then. Thus he would probably be dead by now. Anyway, I’m sure he wasn’t born until the to mid early 30s. I was a student of his in Gainesville in the 70s. I was in my mid 30s then and he wasn’t that much older than me, under 10 years, I would guess.

  • AgNO3

    He graduated from RIT in 1957 or something born in 30 something accordingnto wiki. Great great guy as you are aware. Well as a teacher I supose he could be different haha.

  • tiredliberal

    Oh, he was a great teacher. Very funny. Very supportive. Wrote me a great letter for grad school.

  • Steve Bigler

    If I have to explain sarcasm to you… it is shocking that YOU were the fastest sperm…

  • Steve Bigler

    No… but have you always been 85 and boring?