Monday, February 8, 2010

Kitchen table film developer

I've been scouring the Internet in search of easy-to-make "kitchen-table" developers. Why, when there are good commercial developers available?
Firstly because it is fun and secondly because I am committed to film and do not want to have to rely on the whims of companies whose only consideration is whether a product makes a profit or not.
In previous postings I wrote about Caffenol and Caffenol C but, with current the price of pure coffee, I wanted something cheaper. My search led me to a recipe published over 20 years ago in Shutterbug magazine. The beauty is it requires only two easily available components, in addition to water and the results were remarkably good. I adjusted the Shutterbug-published amounts slightly, to take into account the size of the tank I was using. The recipe is as follows: 300ml tap water (my water is pumped from a borehole so I am not sure if that makes a difference or not), 5 1/2 teaspoons of vitamin C powder and 7 teaspons of sodium carbonate, which can be purchased in a supermarket as washing soda.
Mix in that order until the powders are dissolved. The vitamin C powder I had on hand was coloured and flavoured orange and made the solution look a bit strange but appeared to have no effect on it's functioning.
Once the brew was concocted I scratched around for a roll of exposed film to develop and could only find a forgotten 35mm roll of Konica Chromogenic film. This is a film that gets processed in chemistry designed for colour negatives. I think it expired about 15 years ago.
I processed the film at 70F agitating for the first 30 seconds then two inversions every 30 seconds for 30 minutes. It was tedious and time-consuming but the results blew me away. The negs came out a dark, chocolatey colour but with lots of definition, sharpness and surprisingly fine grain.
I have published a few unaltered -- other than cropping and adjusting levels -- examples below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Why photography is important

This is an image that I believe sums up my mother's life at present and documents her current history. It was shot recently using an almost 50 year-old Rolleiflex, on the occasion of my Dad's 84th birthday.
Over the past few years my father has increasingly suffered spinal degeneration that has necessitated he walk with the aid of a "walker" and even that is a slow and difficult process. Thankfully his mind remains as sharp as a tack.
But his physical condition has dramatically increased the burden on my mother and means she pretty well must take care of my Dad constantly as he has, on occasion, fallen and injured himself.
She is reluctant to leave the house and leave him on his own even to go shopping or to church for a short while. Yet she remains cheerful.

A photo that tells a story

I wanted to take a picture that tells that story so future generations will know something about her and what sort of person she was.
In this image, the walker looms large and is overpowering, to show the influence it has on her life. The blinds on the widow look like prison bars yet she continues to smile.
It's not a "pretty" picture but to me it's important.
Over the years I have became acutely aware of how rapidly the world has changed and how personal and family history is simply fading into dim memories or disappearing competely.
But it is the images and stories of the ordinary man and woman that are most interesting. They are your vital legacy that must be kept for future generations because that is all that will tell your story in years to come.
Your lifestyle, environment, milestones, relationships, family and friends are patches in the quilt of who you are. It is your history and life and it is important.
This realisation has caused me to shift change focus and concentrate on documenting family histories, working with couples and families throughout South Africa.

My Dad