The studio has turned into somewhat of a zoo these last few weeks . . . well a collection of rare and endangered and extinct animals. To be more precise, a wonderful series of photographs of taxidermies by Sean Dooley.
They have just opened as an exhibition at The Horniman Museum in South London and are the results of a project that has been years in the making, researching and tracking some incredibly rare specimens. Only two examples of the ‘Lord Howe Swamphen’ still exist in the world. It has been extinct since the early 19th century. Not to mention the fact that only 126 Kakapo Parrots are alive and well in the world. What are we doing to the planet and our fellow species?
Anyway, I feel as though I have got to know a few more of them and almost consider them friends. But then I do spend too much time in the dark.
I recently completed a series that had found its way to the darkroom, from the changing coastline of Essex.
‘The New English Landscape’ is the title of a fascinating forthcoming book. The result of a long-term collaboration between the Photographer Jason Orton and writer Ken Worpole documenting and exploring the Essex Coastline and the factors that affect it. I look forward to it imminent publication.
An edit of 26 final images, graced my walls. Subtle, haunting and poignant are words that spring to mind when describing Jason’s photographs. I will find and add more links to this in due course, but here is a blog that expands the themes of their explorations. http://thenewenglishlandscape.wordpress.com/
A look at the final series of this years Redeye Printing Bursary with Rob Sara. The fruits of our labours. Actually these are the 2nd variations shown here, the final choices were carefully sleeved and boxed away for protection.
During our time schedule, we were able to produce 10 c-types, with another 2 to add following on.
Gillian . . .
“Woke up really looking forward to seeing the work we had done so far. I think when you are working with something so intensively you don’t see it, so I was excited to see all that we had accomplished in two days. The low level of anxiety was banished on the first day, however seeing the results of the printing my confidence has grown and grown.
The collaboration and exchange of ideas about my ‘Walter’ series and how the work is presented has been illuminating. This process will definitely inform and change my practice for future photography projects. I have a much clearer understanding of the different elements that contribute to the way film records information; especially in different light situations as I prefer to use natural light wherever possible. This will influence my technical approach when photographing future work, knowing how it can alter the raw material of my negatives.
My feelings about my photography are changing as my confidence has grown, as well as my levels of understanding of working with film.
The next stage for me will be to get the hand printed ‘Walter’ series exhibited. “
The Redeye Printing Bursary continued for the most part of 3 days. Once the characteristics of the negs are explored and the initial aesthetic for the opening images in a series, are decided upon, the workflow can increase. It is always a more deliberate start when beginning a new piece of work, because the choices made on the first few prints will affect how you treat those to follow.For me, making coherent bodies of work, with a visual identity that flows together is one of the most important aspects of my approach. Whether the prints are for exhibition or book reproduction the work needs to stand as a whole.
Gillian continues with some more of her thoughts, as the bursary progressed . . .
” At the end of the first day, we managed to get three images, with 1st and 2nd prints fully printed by the end of the day, I think we spent quite a lot of the time discussing the work and making decisions about the size and what to print as well as the more technical aspects that by the end of the day I felt much more confident that we would be able to print quite a few the next day.
I ended the day at my accommodation, Crosthwaite House, in the Lyth Valley near Kendal, my room overlooked a small valley and was truly stunning. After spending the day printing photographs about a rural life I spent the evening exploring the notion of the rural idyll!
We moved on to use 2 enlargers to enable more images to be printed, we carried on with the outside images to start with then began looking at the ones taken indoors to put through the 2nd enlarger. A couple of these negatives had very thin density so didn’t have as much information in certain areas of the image. As a consequence more tests had to be taken to get a good balance of colour and contrast. This process took quite a bit of time to achieve the results both Rob and I were happy with. The images appeared to come to life before my eyes by going through the various tests and finally printing a full image to see how it looked as a whole. Sometimes when testing certain areas you need to see the whole image to see what the adjustments are doing in the rest of the image.
In the morning we managed to get the outdoor images finished and get well on the way for the indoor images in the afternoon after our lunch. We decided it was such a lovely day to take lunch outdoors so headed up the hills for an hour. It is such a beautiful part of the country, we sat up on top of a hill (Farleton Fell) considering all that we could see, giving us the chance to reflect on the day before as well as the mornings work.
During the 2nd day confidence in my myself and my work continued to grow, having someone like Rob spend so much time looking, considering, reviewing your work in such a positive and supportive way has been as much a benefit to me as the actual prints we will have printed.
In the evening, I spent a very enjoyable time with Rob and his wife Lorrie, in their gorgeous garden, having supper. We talked about how to present work to curators and galleries to get the work exhibited, amongst other things of course!
Nobody ever sees what a colour printer does! . . . as there are no safe lights in this darkened world. Colour paper is obviously sensitive to all visible wavelengths of the spectrum.
But here goes with a video clip of a test print made of ‘The Barn’ from Gillian Gilbert’s series. The negative is shown in a previous post.
Should download into a media player. Warning, bit surreal.
Two pieces of equipment that perhaps have the greatest influence on the quality of one’s prints is the processor and the lens.
Optimum professional chemistry that is tested and maintained with a good throughput is essential. So included for tech minded folk is a picture of my Kreonite KM1V 30 inch RA4 processor. All my exhausted chemicals are by the way, captured from the machine, stored until I have 300 litres and it is then collected by Wastecare, who re-process the silver and heavy metals from it, to the current EU legislation. Not a drop pollutes and I couldn`t have it any other way.
The contrast and sharpness of the image in print form can be affected by the nature of the lens chosen to enlarge. Quality of optics, coatings, condition and alignment are all critical. I have a variety to use for all formats, 35mm to 10×8, but a favourite for medium format are a couple of Apo-Rodagon 90mm by Rodenstock. Apo lenses have additional elements to focus a greater range of the colour spectrum to the same focal plane, therefore reducing aberration of colour and increasing image sharpness.
That’s it, no more tech stuff !
As with many aspects of photography, testing is crucial in order to achieve the best results. But with traditional methods this is more the case I am sure.
Hand printing involves making test exposures, processing, then evaluating and making alterations to the enlarger. I tend to store the changes and settings in my head, but thought that this would not help Gillian too much really! So sharing the colour filtrations of the enlargers, exposure times, techniques and reasoning helped us to explore the testing of the prints together.
It is a 5 minute processing time through my Kreonite machine, so often I will run two enlargers to work efficiently. Helps you concentrate and focus when you don`t go off and get distracted. Seeing and reading subtle colour and density shifts is the essence of fine printing.
After some good chat initially and making test prints at various sizes, Gillian and I decided that we could produce her series, with an image size at 16 inch square on 20 x 24 paper. This considered the medium format neg, framing issues, total space required for exhibiting, practical transportation etc. The goal we set ourselves was to produce 10 finals with two more to select when the first printing was complete. 12 in total for the bursary award.
Being a bit of a perfectionist is an essential requirement I reckon, to be a good printer. A fair dash of patience is needed to go with it. The subtleties of c-type photographic emulsion still astonishes me and even though the amount of papers available is nothing compared to what it used to be, amazing prints can still be produced optically.
It has made it a greater challenge as a printer to affect contrast with technique, instead of reaching a choice of papers like Kodak’s Supra or Portra or Ultra, depending on the saturation you wish for.