This photograph is from about 2 1/2 years ago. I held the process for this photograph close to the vest for a long time, but I did share it eventually.
I dicovered this effect quite by accident. I was taking an alternative process class, and I had a stack of work prints that I was experimenting with in the darkroom. I was getting ready to begin work on the final project for the class. All of my film had been developed and I was ready to get started on the prints.
I had a several baths of various chemical laying about and was running prints through different processes splashing here and splashing there and just seing what does what when mixed with this and that. This print as originally created was woefully under developed. The negative was fine, but I printed it the developer had been exhausted and came out a flat gray. The darkest tone in the print looked like an 18% gray card.
Normally I would have tossed it in the trash, mixed up fresh developer and started again, but I kept it because I am a packrat. I dropped the print into a copper toner bath. I left it there for about 20 minutes but it just wouldn’t get dark enough to look like anything worthwhile. It was friggin pink. It looked like a pepto-bismol/easter egg nightmare. I figured it was a loss, so I pulled it out and was going to toss it in the trash. But before I did, I decided to drop it in a bath of exhausted lith developer just for shits and grins and to see what it would do. The image disappeared almost immediately. I chuckedled to myself and said, “so thats what it does.”
I walked away and moved on to something else, forgetting about the print (well, blank sheet of paper) in the lith developer. about 15 minutes later I walked by the lith bath again and noticed that the image was slowly returning. Lith printing is slow and infectious anyway, so I should have put two and two together.
I dropped what I was working on and tended to the now reemerging image. 40 minutes later, this was the result. Because I left the print to sit unattended, the paper floated in the lith bath and redeveloped unevenly and created a pleasing effect.
These tones are beautiful. I love these little accidents and am quite happy that I fell backward into it. This is still one of my favorite prints. It also helps that Beth is a knock out.
No photograph with this post, just me running my soup cooler. I was thinking about my post a few days ago when I was lamenting not being able to photograph my own vision, and the more I think about it, the more I think that simply isn’t true. My vision goes into every photograph I create. It doesn’t matter is someone else asked me to create the photograph for them. People come to me to create their photographs because of my vision.
I remember my college professor once saying that professional photographers, those who create photographs as a means of putting food on the table have to be willing to compromise from time to time and be willing to “sell their soul just a little.” I suppose there is some truth in that, but as in everything, black and white are not critical absolutes in life. A certainty in one situation is not a guarantee of a direct translation or application to another situation no matter how similar.
My studio has been open for six months now, and if I honestly believed I was a sell out, I would close shop, get a job at a gas station and take pictures on the weekends for free. But, I just spent the last four hours sorting through the photographs that I have taken since I opened up in January (because my website is in dire need of an update), and I am finding myself having a good measure of trouble picking which photographs to include in the update.
Between January 4th and June 6th, I have taken over thirteen thousand photographs with my digital camera alone. Granted, not all of them are winners, and about half of them are culled from the herd before I even show them to the client. But, after my sort this afternoon, I still have close to 300 of what I would call “winners,” photographs that I am happy to show to anyone. Perhaps 100 or more of them I would cheerfully enter into an exhibition…5 of them I already have plans to do exactly that.
So, I may very well be a portrait photographer for hire, squeezing friends and strangers for their hard earned dollars, but I am still quite satisfied that I am just as much an artist as when I was in college. My vision is in every photograph I create because it takes my vision to create it. My subject matter may have changed between then and now, but I still treat every subject with the same eye.
I still like photographing women sans clothes, but weddings, children, and puppies present the same opportunities for the exploration of light, line, and beauty.
Yup, there is a desert in Maine….look it up.
Have I mentioned how much I love film?
Weddings aren’t my favorite thing to shoot, but hey, it puts food on the table, and most of the time, they are actually fun to shoot. They aren’t my favorite thing to shoot because you roll the dice each time you do and pray you don’t end up with Bridzilla.
Anyway…no Bridzilla for this shot. One of the things that makes me unique (at least around here anyway) is that, on request, I’ll shoot film for bridal portraits. No, shooting film isn’t special, but shooting large format film is.
This photograph is a copystand reproduction of one of the portraits that was commissioned during this wedding. The bride liked the look of the lith printing process, so here it is.
She was a little slow in placing her print order after the wedding (like 9 months slow) and I had made the lith print right after their wedding in anticipation of their order. So this print was riding in my portfolio binder for 9 months. Everyone to whom it was shown fell in love with the print, so when the bride finally placed her order, I was very nearly tempted to refund to her the price for the print and just keep the lith…
This is my attempt at emulating Jerry Uelsmann. Any idiot with even the most rudementary photoshop skills can make a composite photo from digital images, but it takes a bit of skill to do it in the darkroom.
This is my meager attempt. I have a new found respect for Uelsmann’s craft. It isn’t easy, let me tell you. this is as close as I got, and I’m still not entirely satisfied.
The female figure comes from an 8×10 negative. The open hands (looks like an Allstate insurance commercial) came from a medium format 6×7 negative.
I shot this photo for use in a composite print in the darkroom. I enjoy it as a stand alone image as well.
I printed this in sprint (a cold tone developer) then bleached this print in an exhausted mordancage solution and redeveloped it selectol soft (a warm tone developer).
The emulsion cracked while I was flattening it, so I reheated it, cracked it again, reheated and cracked, etc. etc.
I owned this print for a grand total of 3 days. The model’s boyfriend snatched it up as quickly as he could.
This was part of a project that never really got off the ground. It was supposed to be a series about relationships and interpersonal conflict. The chessboard was going to appear in all of the images, but I had trouble in that some of the images simply looked contrived.
I am however, pleased with this photograph as a stand alone piece. Note the female figure topeling the King…isn’t that they way it always goes?
This is a copy stand photograph of the final (one of a kind) print.
35mm Illford PanF 50ISO, developed in Kodak D76, Printed with Dektol, bleached via mordancage, and partially redeveloped with exhausted Kodalith.