PDN Photo of the Day

A Developing Story (10 photos)

A Developing Story (10 photos)

All photos © John Cyr. Above: Andrea Modica’s developer tray. 10×12

John Cyr has spent the past year visiting darkrooms of notable black and white photographers in order to photograph their developer trays. Amassing over fifty trays thus far, Cyr believes that each tray contains a history as unique as the photographers that have used them. Not only do these trays reference the photographer’s body of work, but they also record fingernail scratches, tong marks and developer stains that have accumulated through as much as forty years of constant use. During this time of digital proliferation, Cyr finds importance in photographing developer trays so that the photographic community will remember the specific tools that were seminal in photography’s traditional darkrooms. To see more of Cyr’s work click here.

 Ansel Adams’ developer tray. 16 x 20.

 Sally Mann’s developer tray. 20 x 24.

Developer tray from the Photo History Collection of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Sylvia Plachy’s developer tray.

Larry Fink’s developer tray. 16 x 20.

Lillian Bassman’s developer tray. 16 x 20.

 The developer tray in the photo studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 Wynn Bullock’s Developer Tray.

 Andreas Feininger’s developer tray.


  1. John’s work is consistently top quality and is important in documenting the history of photography. In my experience I considered John the best master printer working today. To work with him is a unique experience of collaboration.

  2. Brilliant! These images really strike a chord with me, as twenty plus years ago, I was studying at Brooks Institute of photography, and spending endless hours in the darkroom. While, I’m happy with the digital era, these photographs definitely evoke a sentimental feeling in me. I’d love to hang them in my house!

  3. Love this! For me, each image evokes a personal and historical nostalgia. When you look at each photograph, you can almost see all of the images developed in these trays flash before you, like the ghost of a lifetime’s work. Beautiful.

  4. John’s project is one of the best works of contemporary photography. It’s personal and not only and the quality, and simplicity as well, commemorates what are still defined by younger and older photographer as “the real feelings”.

  5. At first I thought “On no, not developer trays” but these are beautiful photos invoking memories of red light, chemical smells and all-nighters watching those magic images come to life. So very many hours spent with wet hands and solitude and music.. I love the feeling I get from these photos.

  6. A super idea. Art indeed! Makes one recall all those magical hours spent in the dark – alone it would seem . . . but really not at all alone. Actually in the company of all the subjects in all those images that traveled through that tray. Pleasant company after all. At one time I had the notion of collecting all the “first frames” of a 35mm roll that contained images of my feet wherever I happened to be when I loaded my camera and advanced a couple of frames. Seemed pretty nuts at the time but now, seeing John’s creations, I really wish I had saved them.

  7. I enjoy this series. I am old school, worked 20+ years in a wet darkroom. I like looking at the scratches and patterns of same in these trays. I found myself wishing to see trays from Edward Weston and Minor White as well. Evocative and surprisingly sentimental.

    Nice work.

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