During the autumn of 2017, Hidden Light had the opportunity to help produce a beautiful series of silver gelatin portfolios from images by photographer and renowned author Eudora Welty. The Eudora Welty Foundation commissioned 50 numbered portfolios and 10 Artist Proofs, each containing 18 images. The commission was in cooperation with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History which preserves the negatives in its collections, and Eudora Welty, LLC, which holds the copyrights for all the images.
Throughout the 1930’s, Welty created an impressive collection of photographs documenting life in Mississippi. The images chosen for this portfolio were selected from more than 1,000 negatives. Eventually, just 18 negatives were selected, showcasing the breadth of her work and providing the viewer with a time-traveling view into 1935-1936 Mississippi. The Eudora Welty Foundation’s purpose is to preserve the literary legacy of Eudora Welty. It works in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History which preserves Miss Welty’s home and garden. The Eudora Welty Collection is housed at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson, Mississippi, and is comprised of thousands of pages of manuscripts, more than 1,600 photographs, and more than 14,000 correspondence letters including many writers of the twentieth century. Director Tate Taylor selected the images to be included in the portfolios and cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt oversaw the production of the images.
Scans made from the original negatives were provided by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. From these scans, Hidden Light created digital negatives to proof the entire series of 18 images. Placing the negative directly on Ilford Warmtone Fiber Base Silver Gelatin paper, contact prints were made at 11×14″ and prepared for final proofing.
Each image was tested in the darkroom until a perfect 11×14 proof print was achieved and a final set of images was ready.
With 18 prints to “match,” and supplies in the shop, darkroom printer Taylor Mahoney got down to business. Using a custom contact frame built specifically for the project, Taylor made 70-100 copies of each photo by hand; first exposing each sheet of paper under the enlarger, then hand-processing it through the developer, stop-bath and fixer. A final wash ensured all residual chemicals were removed from the paper for archival longevity. After the prints had been left to dry overnight, each print was flattened using a vacuum heat press. After a thorough inspection, each print was hand-stamped and numbered out of the series of 50 portfolios and 10 sets of Artist Proofs.
Finally, at the end of 20 days of consecutive printing, the final portfolios were bagged and shipped off to the Eudora Welty Foundation for boxing.
For more information about the Eudora Welty Foundation, visit eudorawelty.org