A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Karen Gerbrecht, Max Factor & My Fuji X-E1
Friday, March 07, 2014



 
Karen Gerbrecht, alas! in b+w


Few might know who this man was, Maksymilian Faktorowicz, 1877 – August 30, 1938. A few more might know that Max Factor, a Polish-Jewish cosmetician from Łódź, Poland started a company we now know as Max Factor.

But even fewer would know that the man was instrumental in making John Fitzgerald Kennedy the President of the United States.

In the early 1850s photographer Mathew Brady had to work with Daguerreotypes and wet plate glass negatives. The emulsions on these photographic methods conspired with the then slow camera lenses to make exposures quite long. Few humans (except for the often photographed soldiers of the American Civil War) could sit very still for a minute or more. Elaborate metal braces (that could not be seen) were used to keep portrait sitters immobile.

Brady had a very large skylight studio with a glass wall on one side. Light on sunny days poured in. Brady noticed that when he tinted his skylight blue exposures were shorter.

Without knowing exactly, Brady had discovered what Nixon should have known when he appeared in the TV debates with Kennedy.

What Brady discovered is that the blue end of light that we humans can see (but we do not see the blues very well) contains ultra violet. All photographic materials be it film, videotape and digital cameras (and crucial for Nixon, early b+w TV cameras) are sensitive to UV light. This meant that while a face might look just fine in a TV studio with all those hot TV lights, light sensitive materials see more. The TV cameras in those Nixon/Kennedy debates penetrated Nixon’s face and made him look worse than he was.

Max Factor knew this. He also knew that suntan lotion blocked UV light. He concocted a mixture of suntan lotion, made it pink, added perfume and lanolin (it was supposed to be good for skin) and called it Max Facto Pancake Makeup. Kennedy had it on his face.

Sometime around 1977 I has a red haired Canadian Pacific Airways stewardess (they were called that then) subject. I took portraits and then attempted to print decent colour prints in my darkroom which was equipped with a colour head enlarger. I was never able to print a picture that showed the true colour of her skin.

The reason (my suspicion, only) is that red-haired people must affect the UV penetration of light in such a way that their true colour does not happen. If you then add to the mix that transparency (slide) film can have a built-in colour cast or that the flashtubes on a studio flight are old or simply are not balanced for daylight film, you get what I have gotten all these years. To make it worse when I photographed anybody with a gray backdrop, the gray was never a true, neutral gray. It always had overtones of blue, green and or cyan.

With the advent of good digital cameras that have either auto white balance or white balance you can dial in, gray backdrops are gray and skin looks like skin.

I have a problem. I am unable to get my favourite red head, VSO violinist Karen Gerbrecht to pose for me. She has a busy schedule. I can only dream how her skin will glow when she finally meets up with my Fuji X-E1.

The picture you see here is a scan of the long discontinued Polaroid Type 55 Instant b+w negative film. 



     

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Blog 3001

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9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17