The Medium Of My MessageWednesday, April 17, 2013
In 1963 my friend Robert Hijar was studying art at the University of the Americas. This was a university in the outskirts of Mexico City that had come to existence in the early 50 when American soldiers full of dollars from the GI Bill decided they might as well study in Mexico. I was struggling as a second year engineering student but I dabbled in photography.
Scanned Fuji Instant print
We took our fave records but Hijar, whose parents were CIA agents had access to wonderful reel to reel tape machines. We listened to Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz. In Mexico there was always something interesting to snap on the street, outside a church or inside a church.
Scanned Fuji Instant negative
For my upcoming show opening May 4 on Celia Duthie's Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island (for which I have no illusions, since I will be rich and famous only when I am dead) I am clearing my darkroom of all boxes of ancient paper, Brovira, Forte, Oriental and some newer boxes of Ilford Warm-Tone paper. I am printing almost every day. Some of the negatives I am printing are negatives I may have taken in the last couple of months. I would call this new old stuff.
Straight scanned 6x7 cm b+w negative
But there is another aspect of my present photography that has me playing Stan Getz/Focus as I type now. That’s how excited I am. The process involves the use of Fuji Instant Black & White FP-3000B pack film that fits in my Mamiya’s Polaroid back. This film is almost Polaroid but not quite. It is the not quite that is the exciting part. Those 7x7 cm b+w prints are beautiful and a good scan (I have a very good scanner) does them justice. It is the “negative” that you peel off that is the novel feature of this very fast (3200 ISO) film. The peel, somehow randomly solarizes as it dries.
Most reading this might remember Man Ray’s solarized prints of the 30s. To do this he would place an exposed sheet of photographic paper in the developer tray, and somewhere during the development he would turn on the darkroom light for a tad. The photograph would then partially reverse. This process is called solarization. That process when performed on a negative (not the print) is called the Sabattier Effect. My Fuji peels go Sabattier!
Once dry I scan them. Since my scanner, unless I tell it not to, will scan the peel in four colours (red, green blue and black) I can tint the resulting scan to whatever colour I choose.
These scanned peels when transformed into giclées by my artist friend and expert Grant Simmons at DISC are a beauty to behold.
“But wait,” as they say on TV, “there’s more!” While Man Ray could have photographed his solarized prints and then printed the negatives on direct positive paper, as far as I know he never did. He would have made very strange un-reversed prints. But I can, see here
Scanned b+w negative and reversed
This excitement made me go to some nudes I took of the excellent and beautiful Nina Gouveia (now residing, alas, in Spain) where I had handed her a bolt of silver polyester satin and I had used my ring flash as the light. I scanned one of the negs and I was amazed!
Now there are three ways to reproduce these (that you see here) as hard copy:
1. By far the easiest is to scan and send the digital file to Grant Simmons. He will interpret (as I know he always does) my file and produce a wonderful giclée.
2. The second method I might use but not quite yet. Beau Photo sells a direct positive photographic paper. Normally this paper is used by photographers with large cameras who insert the paper, instead of film and might use a pinhole lens for the h of it. This way when they process the paper they get a direct print.
3. Alex (that’s me) has several boxes of Kodak Kodalith in 8x10 and 4x5 sheets. The boxes are labeled with a word that must have been invented by Kodak – “Discontinuance”.
|Nina in satin reversed|
In method three I project my Nina negative onto the Kodalith sheet (it is plastic like the film of old). I must use a red safety light or the Kodalith will fog. I then process it as if it were paper. Once dry I have a very nice b+w, 8x10 or 4x5 slide (in this size it is called a transparency). If I put the slide on a sheet of photographic paper and expose to the enlarger (with nothing inside the negative carrier, I should have a beautiful reversed print (but I cannot make it blue or any other colour except sepia or slightly magenta depending on the toner I might dip the print into).