The start is usually a good place to begin, but I’m going to skip forward a bit and begin with this image (above), which I made at the start of this year, in January, 2017.
I’m hopefully not going to ramble on too much, because I’m much more comfortable with visual communication!
My very first camera was one which I sent off for with tokens, collected from cereal boxes, when I was probably about 9 or 10 years old, and I chose the yellow one – Kodak yellow probably describes it best – and I loved it! I used it a lot, mainly taking holiday snaps and photos of friends at school etc. It used 110 film cartridges, which I’d take to be processed at SupaSnaps – it was always so exciting when finally a week (or more!) had passed and you could hand over your ticket to the assistant who would then rummage through a bunch of folders to locate your much anticipated photos. There was always usually at least one print with a quality control sticker on, advising you of all the potential ways you’d managed to muck up your photo, and how to do better the next time! But I always kind of liked those images anyhow, the intense reds/oranges from a light leak, or random blobs from specs of dirt or whatever on the lens, the blurry, out of focus friend, family member, pet cat/dog/hamster, from having been too close to the subject, or having pressed the shutter just as some random person walked into the frame (this was before we called it photobombing!).
I don’t think I have that little yellow camera any more, sadly, but I do have an ever growing collection of old film cameras which I shoot with a lot, and I do still love the happy accidents. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate the level of skill, knowledge, practice and effort that goes into getting a good photograph (and I do sometimes try to!) but as a creative person, I like to find some sort of worth in the images that didn’t quite go as planned, for one reason or another. I’m always reading about different processes and experimenting – it’s fun to see what you end up with, plus you learn from your mistakes, but I really love to see the whole process, the “fails”, too.
This particular image (the blue one, above) was the result of a bit of experimenting.
I’d been given a Graflex Crown Graphic 4×5 camera as an absolutely amazing 40th birthday present from my good friend, who is a photographer/filmmaker. He had been doing mostly digital and video work at the time, and didn’t want to see the camera just sitting there gathering dust – and he knew I’d be delighted to make use of it! He also had some, by then expired, Shanghai 100 B&W film sheets, so I got myself some 4×5 film holders and did a few test shots. I’d no info on how to process these film sheets, so decided to just try it in Caffenol, a coffee based developing solution, which worked out nicely. (I’ve used Caffenol for almost all my B&W films, and with a few rolls of colour too).
This B&W image (below) was my first attempt at shooting with the Crown Graphic hand held, spurred on by having seen images of Dave Burnett shooting with his Speed Graphic, hand held, at the Olympics! I do normally use a tripod, with this camera, but I liked the idea of not having to carry one around.
Then one sunny January day (in Scotland!) I decided to try lumen printing, having just read about the process. A lumen is made by placing objects or negatives on top of B&W photo paper, then exposing to the sun. (Apparently expired paper is better than fresh). The quality of light was not ideal, at that time of the year, but I figured I’d give it a go anyhow, though instead of using photo paper, I wanted to expose another sheet of the Shanghai 100. I placed the negative of the original image onto a piece of glass (from an old photo frame) then placed the unexposed film sheet on top of it (emulsion side down) with a piece of card on top of those, which I was then able to tape to the glass to secure the negative and film in place. I taped the piece of glass to an upstairs window, with the negative facing out, and let the direct sunlight expose the image for around 30-40 mins before fixing, in Ilford Rapid Fix. (You don’t develop after exposing). This particular film has a very strong blue coloured anti-halation layer, which explains the colours in the resulting image. The image was very faint, probably because of the poor light quality, so I had to place the negative onto a piece of white paper in order to scan as a reflective instead, therefore some of the texture from the paper can be seen in the final image too.
I hope to update my blog every now and then with more experiments and accidents and camera/film test results. I’m no expert, just love to try things out, so I’m always happy to receive any tips and advice too.
I’ll end this first entry with another lumen print, done in the pretty much the same way as above, but by placing the film sheet into the leg of a pair of patterned tights….can only imagine what the neighbours must have thought, with my tights taped up to the window 🙂