Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Inside Printers: 'We're Still Here'

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Inside Printers: 'We're Still Here'

Article excerpt

They're still winners, in a photo finish

Frank Glacken doesn't make prints anymore. His world now consists of scanners, computers, and automated film processors. Yet this former "inside printer" can remember the days when photographers, working the same shift, crowded around banks of enlargers in the darkroom at the time he started working for The Philadelphia Inquirer four decades ago. And Glacken can still get his hands wet if he wishes. Unlike most newspapers today, the Inquirer maintains a black-and-white darkroom, a one-person

anachronism built at the special request of the paper's photographers and director of photography, Clem Murray, during renovations of the Inquirer's center-city building in 1997. The darkroom is primarily used for occasional photos for the Inquirer's magazine and for photo documentary work.

Murray calls it a "toehold" in the past. In a sense, so is Glacken, a man whose first job in the Inquirer's photo department in 1962 was developing, fixing, and washing wire-photo prints exposed on a light- emitting drum device connected to a phone line. He also mixed chemicals, swept the floors, and washed the sinks. He still recalls which photographers made the biggest mess in there.

Back then, inside printers were a luxury most newspapers couldn't afford and were usually only found on newspapers with large photo staffs. On a smaller paper, the head of the photography department would make those difficult prints that others couldn't. Sometimes, a paper's inside printer was an experienced photographer fleeing the rigors of assignments -- "coming off the street," in the jargon of the day.

The role of inside printer became more important at the Inquirer when Gary Haynes became the director of photography in 1974. Even when photographers printed their own images, Haynes often had Glacken reprint them before they appeared in the newspaper. And rather than let Glacken become a staff photographer when a slot opened up, Haynes offered him a photo editor's pay to keep on printing.

And, as he printed, Glacken witnessed the transition from the time when even wire photos had to be developed in wet chemicals to today's increasing reliance on digital cameras for spot-news photography. Today, as at most newspapers, all of the Inquirer's pictures are shot in color, either digitally or on color negative film, even those that later appear in the paper as black and white. Color and black-and-white prints have been replaced by film scanners that digitize images from negatives. …

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