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