Child Worker - Adana

By Omar Ozenir

Child labour is one of Turkey’s long-standing social problems. At least 6% of Turkey’s children between the age of 6-17 work in the industry - at an average of 50 hours a week! There are many reasons that force children to work under the harshest of conditions. For example, part of the public actually encourages the learning of a craft at an early age. Another important factor is poverty!

Unfortunately, contributing a small but vital portion to the meagre family income is offset by having  less, or even no time for school. Last but not the least, from the employers' viewpoint child labour is cheap and therefore exploited as much as possible.

During a summer holiday in my early teens, like many others of my age I also worked at a blacksmith in a derelict industrial estate in Adana, in the south of Turkey. To this day, I vividly remember the harshness of those two months in the sweltering heat. Years later, I returned to the same area with another intent: to photograph. For a week, I “worked” from dusk to dawn and documented life in the foundries and blacksmiths and numerous other workshops.

Some technical bits for the interested:
Leica M6 camera with a 35mm lens. Ilford Delta400 film. XTOL film developer diluted 1+1.

If you compare the neg with the print you’ll notice that I cropped from the right, top and bottom a wee bit to a 4:3 aspect ratio. In rapidly changing scenes it’s not always possible to frame the picture in an optimal way. In that case I don’t hesitate to crop - within reason - to get a better composition. Some photographers never crop as a rule. However, I don’t make a big fuss about that. Nevertheless, I try to print from the whole neg as much as I can…there isn’t much of a neg with 35mm film anyway.

Unfortunately,  I haven’t exposed the neg enough. Apart from the fire, the density and contrast in the  remainder of the picture is rather low. One more stop of exposure would have been better. Still, a high contrast grade of 4.5 with the diffuser head on my enlarger resulted in good tonal separation. Using test strips, I found that an exposure of 13 seconds gave me a good starting point for the final print. This is a straight print on fibre-based Ilford Warmtone paper with 13s at grade 4.5:

As you can see, in a straight print there is no detail whatsoever in the fire. This area needs significant burning in to reveal all the detail that actually exists on the neg. For this purpose, I cut a hole of similar shape in the middle of a piece of scrap FB paper and exposed just the fire for an additional 30 seconds (the red area in the print diagram below). This burning in exposure was done at grade 1. The ability to use different contrast grades on the same print is a huge advantage for multigrade papers. So why did I use a grade 1 filter here? Let me try to state a very important principle in one sentence:

Higher contrast filters affect darker tones more, lower contrast filters affect lighter tones more.

If I had tried to burn in the fire at grade 4.5, once I started to get detail in the fire the surrounding darker tones would have turned black and given away the game, because for such a shape the mask can never be perfect and there will always be some spillover to surrounding areas. But with a low contrast filter the surrounding areas aren’t visibly affected while detail in the fire starts to appear.

Moving on, in order to lead the eye to the centre, to the fire and the boy, I decided to darken the lower part of the picture. I gave another 7 seconds (50% of the main exposure) to the area below the blue line, and further 7 seconds below the green lines just to hold the corners in. To provide slightly better separation between the boy and the background  I dodged him quickly for about 1 second during the main exposure with a piece of blu-tac at the end of a thin wire (yellow area in the print plan). I didn’t arrive at the final print after the first try of course…I’m not there yet.

Every bit of dodging and burning in requires some trial and error, so if I’m lucky it’s only after the third or fourth attempt where I get everything the way I want it. I have long accepted that my darkroom work should not be about quantity. I decide on one neg or maybe two and then take my time (of which I don’t have a lot with a 4 year old boy running around) and see what I can do with them.

For this photo the print developer was Tetenal Eukobrom, which I love to use with warmtone paper.


  1. Well, a very good step by step explanation on the printing technique. By far one of the best tutorials I've ever read. Also very interesting the story which lays behind the picture. I think the image itself summarizes in an extremely efficient way the problem of child labor. When I read the post on FADU I immediately remembered the article regarding the pre-flashing technique, also very informative and so clearly written, I just had to jump here right away and have a good reading. Again, thank you so much Bruce and Omar.

  2. Good explanation about why low contrast burning-in is the correct way. Fire in B&W is particularly difficult to print.

  3. Fantastic as usual!

    love the one liner about contrast filters

  4. Great photo as usual and a very helpful explanation of how it was achieved. Thanks Omar for sharing it and Bruce for posting it.

  5. I'm really enjoying these guest posts from Omar thx

  6. I think Omar's doing us all a great service with his articles. It's this kind of thing that helps keep film photographers enthused and makes digital snappers curious enough to take a closer look. Twenty-five years ago, tutorials like this were in lots of photography magazines but it's now hard to find them anywhere.

  7. Being a "digital snapper" who uses "something plasticky" to take photos, and has no particular interest in the Ancient Arts of the Darkroom, I find that a post like this is a wonderful lesson on how a powerful composition and careful postprocessing (can we say that for dodging and burning?) lead to a beautiful image. And that is independent on the medium used to capture the light that entered the lens.

    1. You're much more than just a "digital snapper", Frank. And you're dead right that, digital or traditional, it's good to see how a photographer teases his message out of an image. Can't say I'm too keen on post-processing being applied to darkroom work, though. :-)

  8. Just have to say what a great print the final one is! :-)

    The description of the production of the print makes it seem so simple to produce a great print ;-)

    Love reading the articles.

    Terry S

  9. lovely print ~(as usual) and nice to get a bit more background about it. always excited when one of your articles pops up on my blog reader

  10. Another fine display of print making,inspiring.

  11. Great post thanks for sharing tech