The Print is the third in a series of photography books written by the great American landscape photographer Ansel Adams shortly before his death in 1984. The book details the steps needed to make a print from a negative, from enlarger, to the exposing and developing of the print. Each of these topics is covered in some detail with a large amount of qualitative suggestions thrown in. He describes a wide variety of papers, detailing how the results of each varies. The treatment of photographic chemicals is similar, and includes several cocktail recipes that Adams has found helpful.

It was Adams’ opinion that the print of a photograph is comparable to the performance of a score one can see why. A number of photographs are sprinkled throughout the book and each of them has a description of what was necessary to print it. It seems that Adams rarely had a print that he could print directly from the negative: many required dodging (lightening by blocking the print from the exposing light) and burning (exposing sections longer to darken them), often substantially. It seems that as long as the negative not underexposed in the shadows nor overexposed in essential highlights it can be adjusted into a nice print.

Adams’ commentary clearly reveals that he understands black and white photography as an expression of contrast. He describes several pictures where he darkened them in order to obtain wood grain and many of his mountain shots involve a dark, impending thunderstorm and a main subject illuminated by a transitory sun. This is not to say that he necessary feelt that this is the only expression one can derive from the medium, and he says as much, but it is certainly where he placed the importance.
Review: 8.0
It seems almost sacriligeous giving a master photographer such a low ranking on a book describing his craft. However, to this very amateur photographer and reviewer, it seems that much of what he says is transitory. The descriptions of the papers is likely to be obselete even if photography were not undergoing a shift to digital as manufacturers will certainly add new papers and discontinue production of old papers. The principles on developing prints seem to be what any competent photography text. The subtext of the pictures, however, is well worth reading, both because it reveals that a photograph is not merely what the camera sees, and because it reveals how he conceives of the black and white medium.

However, it must be said that I read the book not for information on developing a print but as an introduction on photographic post-production principles and techniques. I can say that I was not disappointed, although I ended up skimming most of the book.