John Yang did all his own printing and had a lifelong interest in photo chemistry and darkroom technique. As a young man in 1951, he traveled cross-country to take Minor White's summer class at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. There he was taught the rudiments of view camera work, and Ansel Adams' Zone System. His earlier prints were silver gelatin (D.O.P.), but in the 1990's he started investigating alternative processes and taught himself the use of platinum, palladium, ziatype, and printing out paper (P.O.P.).
Throughout his career, Yang methodically documented his own darkroom workflow in order to refine his technique. Below are some of the ephemera from his darkroom, including pages from his "Darkroom Notebooks," a series of binders Yang used to organize articles and his own notes detailing his investigations on chemistry, papers, lenses, cameras, etc. Yang never owned a computer, or consulted the internet, relying instead on a collection of old technical books, and these notes of his own experiments and observations.
On John Yang's Darkroom Notebooks:
"John Yang left behind a treasure trove for anyone studying the technical history of analog photography. John Yang was not only an artist, but a superb technician and a meticulous scientist. He documented his experiments with exposures, papers and chemistry; corresponded with other photographers and those in the industry; and annotated his library of technical articles and books. He was endlessly inquisitive, and pursued subtleties of photographic techniques until arriving at perfection.
The John Yang archive deserves to be studied in depth. It will provide more and more insights as the quickstep march continues away from the analog photographic techniques he and so many other artists valued, and that are celebrated in art institutions around the world. John Yang’s contribution to the art world of elegant images and meticulous prints is made even more precious by the archive of materials that so eloquently and personally describe his process."
— Nora W. Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator of Photographs
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Thank you to Adam Bartos for assistance with the technical notes on this page.