Archive for the ‘beginnings’ Category
I’ve been playing a fair bit recently with different ideas and antique processes. In large part because I’ve no access to running water in my current studio space, thus my re-visiting physautotype. It’s a nice process for me in that it doesn’t require water at all, and it’s really not terribly sensitive to light (I also have no capacity to black out my space during the day, closing the curtains and working quickly is sufficient ).
This was a bad pour, the imafe is from a lith negative I had lying about. It was very thin, it seems that physautotype likes thin negs.
This is from my digital infrared series, I finally found an output from these files that I like.
This was a test exposure, it gives you a decent idea of what the plate looks like without any special holder. There’s a lot of detail there when it’s displayed correctly.
So the next step is re-jigging my negatives to be a bit thinner, which should preserve the shadow detail.
I’ve also been playing with an idea about dageurrotypes.
This is as far as I’ve gotten, not so special really. But in this case I’m trying to use cheap silver plated flatware and I’m using iodophor steriliser with a wet treatment to create the sensitive plate, so even this level of success is pretty surprising.
It’s not something I expect to work out very quickly, but it is fairly cheap to do.
So I’ve started working with physautotype again. right now I’m gettting some decent results, not quite perfect, but it’s starting to happen.
These are made with one gram of violin rosin which is crushed to powder, then heated till liquid, cooled, crushed to powder again and added to 100ml of ethanol alcohol. (I’m using purple meths, seems to work fine).
This solution is put to the glass plate with a syringe (the glass plate held level on the fingertips of the opposite hand), the solution is swished around till it covers the whole glass plate, then swished around some more before it’s poured off the corner.
After the plate is poured off and stops dripping I turn the plate by 90 degrees so the next corner is down (the plate being held vertically at this point) and I use a paper towel to mop the bottom two edges of the plate till no more solution beads at the edge (note; the edge, not the surface of the plate).
Soon after this the plate will pass from transparent to a light frosted look, when this light frost covers the whole plate (it can be sped a little by fanning or lightly blowing on the plate) the plate is put down and over the next few minutes a secondary frost will occur. If the coating is uneven or the glass wasnt clean it will be obvious.
I’m using overhead transparencies for the negative (it’s direct positive, so the negative is actually a positive), which seems to work, though I still have a little work to do there, I give it three hours under a nail polish setter and then develop using mineral turpentine fumes.
The mineral turps fumes incidentally don’t need to be concentrated, I put a small splash on some black card in a pyrex dish and that’s enough to last a few days, if you can smell it then it’s probably strong enough.
Then leave it somewhere that it can air and get some sun, and it’s fixed. hold in front of a black surface and the image will show up nicely.
Well, I investigated the idea that I thought would allow me to print them faster – doesn’t work sadly 😛
The idea was sensitizing the solution with methylene blue dye – Only I think I may have used a bit much as it pooled quite drastically, and frankly it cut the sensitivity away to nearly nothing, so I may be on to something with the idea of spectral sensitizing, just I have it backwards or something. *shrug*
That’s my pouring bench, my uber high tech coating method is to put about 1/6th tsp of solution in a spoon and then dump it in the middle of a clean plate… Like so (after 30 sec or so of spreading out).
I was double coating those in the hope it would make a difference – it didn’t. With a clean glass plate the solution will spread itself out by capillary action or something – over a minute or two it basically covers the plate on it’s own – this makes for a slightly thicker coat at the center, but unless you’re dopey enough to add dye to it it shouldn’t matter.
Some coated plates;
I guess it eliminates a variable – Yay me!
This is the closest that i got to a print;
It’s from a negative, so is negative, and it’s on black perspex – a substrate which, excitingly enough, I have discovered does not work at all well with this process (it coats very unevenly) – though it is good for backing coated glass plates – In the following I’ve bumped the levels and suchlike a bit.
I can make stuff out cos I know what the neg was – a view from my atillier window amusingly enough – there’s a square white sign in the foreground, some stairs about 1/3rd of the way up towards the right – and at the same level on the left a rounded window on the building facing me – very bloody hard to photograph.
So for now, I’ll go back to 1 & 2% solutions of rosin in ethyl alcohol on chemically cleaned glass plates, cos I’m reasonably sure that works.
Some things I’ve tried – first up an orotone – which is a fancy term for painting the back of a positive gold (you’re supposed to use a ‘particular’ paint, but whatev’s, I just used oil paint)
A black print (yup, I made that name up) – sorta like an ambrotype, but not like an ambrotype at all (silver gelatine liquid emulsion based) – I’m handing in one of these this week – it’s washing as I type.
The second I got a line;
The third I got a rhinoceroses bottom;
I messed up the development a bit, but it’s proof of concept – violin rosin and meths with mineral turps as a developer – a la Niepce. I’ve figured out a couple of things to improve the print – but learning to coat the stuff onto glass is top of the list – not easy compared to gelatin, or even collodion.
I have a masters crit Thursday, so after that I’m looking forward to doing some more of them, fun!
Some of the meta themes I’ve worked with in the past.
Perhaps I didn’t state it clearly enough in the first essay, but What I find compelling about photography as an artistic medium is it’s facility as a storytelling medium. To me sketching is analogous to this sensibility, as such much of what I have looked at through the lens, as it were, of photography is the snippets of information, the traces which imply the presence of a greater narrative.
These traces are the basis of a fair chunk of my work to date, I seek out the traces that people leave behind in their daily lives and frame them in a manner which allows extrapolation from any viewer. Obviously I use a photographic vernacular in framing these images, composition, printing techniques, and presentation strategies which are of, or have been co-opted by photographic sensibilities.
When I first began to play with photography as a medium I began with pinhole imagery, speed of vision is something we are very much stuck with, to slow down or to speed up vision is very much the domain of photography, perhaps more-so than just seeking particular lighting.
I’m more interested in exploring things that re-present to me a reality which our senses cannot percieve. The hyper fast, the super slow, the spectrally invisible, these are all of a realm, which is to us, extrasensory, this fascinates me in that I am learning whilst making such images, to perceive the world at large in a different manner to that which my naked senses suggest.
In making use of these photographic and non-human visualities I have, of necessity, experimented extensively with the medium of photography at large, these experiments ranging from learning new printing methods, or the capabilities of different technical modalities (camera’s, lenses, etc), through to physically rebuilding (cheap) digital camera’s in such ways that their descriptive abilities no longer match a nominally human view point.
As I have gathered images, negatives, prints and digital files I have started to see themes which emerge, and which bend under the weight of their neighbors. The intertextual and the semiotic have developed interesting complexities within my archives, and this has fed back into long standing (considerably pre-dating my engagement with the photographic idiom) fascinations with linguistics, language, translation, language, and the persistence of archetypical presentations.
One thing which I have not worked with to any great degree yet (and do not intend to start with now) is photographing people, this is due to the fact that I am intensely aware that to frame something in a photograph is to speak for it, to re-present the thing in a nuanced manner. When I am doing this with a trace that a person has left I am comfortable, because I am not challenging a pre-existing narrative, I am not speaking over something attempting to speak for itself.
However I am aware that when I frame a person photographically, then I speak for them in a manner which is authoritative. This, in and of itself, is not problematic, it is, after all the point of having a photographer at a wedding – however I do not personally seek to make stories of people, nor to have people act out stories for the camera. This aspect of re-presentation is something which I am intensely aware of and is something which I am looking to work more deliberately with at this point.
I’m currently being asked to define somewhat precisely just what it is that I’m wanting to study and why, and the short answer involves a lot of Ummm’s and ah’s…
So instead I’m going to break it down, starting with why I’m utilizing the medium of photography – and going for the long answer, even though this is messier and perhaps less elegant than the words I’d spin to hide my un-sureity about the conceptual terrain I am moving to occupy.
The mechanism and the meme.
(or why I do photography)
There seems to be an assumption, especially from photographers (though not exclusively) that people use photography as a medium because, one, they inherently are photographers, and two, because they wish to work with light – these a maybe partially true in my case (particularly the latter), but they are also somewhat misleading.
My earliest art practice, when I was a child was the written word, story telling, and poetry especially, to shape words in order to describe moments and events, this tendency to describe is still a very central pre-ocupation for me. Being reasonably articulate in forming the written word allows me to use the medium in a manner very much akin to how an artist uses charcoal to sketch in the details of a composition and to concretize a thought or situation in a manner which they can de/reconstruct, and which other people can access.
This can be a loose little snippet which implies a greater whole;
“As I crept along the musty hallway the cat food like smell gradually resolved into a far stronger cat food like smell…”
Or it can be a more insular and encapsulated (polished?) description;
“The man sits alone on the footpath,
disheveled, hunched, mumbling to himself.
People make him invisible as they pass swiftly by,
a child’s hand is firmly grasped…
I don’t look to see where the other cops are”
This tendency to draw, or to sketch thoughts using words has seen me expand the visual art media which I can use in a similar manner, pencils, charcoal, paint, and other similar media which have a similar fluidity when used in a looser, more reflective manner. By this I am not meaning an unfinished quality, but rather I am implying materials which can illustrate ephemeral concepts and momentary situations – at times the path to these places can be involved, time consuming, and deeply procedural, but they can inscribe the fleeting, the momentary, the insubstantial in all of it’s gossamer finery – obviously this can be done in nearly any media, but I am describing a personal sensibility which is served in my case by particular media far more than others.
I have also, over time, picked up a lot of process skills which can be brought to bear on a concept working with materials such as metal, fabric, print, and even supposedly non-art materials such as programatic coding. It wasn’t till I was 30 that I paid any particular attention to photographic media, though like everybody for a few generations I suppose, I had used camera’s for different purposes according to my needs or desires, albeit not in a manner that was deeply considered. I didn’t intend to pick up photography, or darkroom practice at all – instead I was kicked out of the print workshop at a former school when a new tutor decided to reconfigure the facilities and decided to occupy some time by having a nosey. Fate being what it is I quickly discovered that photography, as a medium, is one which is deeply capable of facilitating the sensibilities which I had developed already, though this necessitated a several year long investigation into process.
In photography, I have found a medium which to my mind produces a reflection – the camera itself is merely a lens which can focus and fix that reflection, I do not feel the popular analogy of a magic mirror to be relevant to me in the slightest, I don’t feel that there is anything magical about camera’s, or even process at all, though these can certainly shade to arcane in places – even when serendipity creeps into the equation (as it so frequently does), it is typically repeatable and a reflection of my working practice rather than an intervention by the ‘photo gods’.
The reflection that the medium can produce is really what draws me to the medium, this reflection as a sketching medium is about the closest thing to story telling that I have discovered in the visual arts, both in it’s speed of application, and indeed in how incredibly nuanced the reflected image can be. That which is reflected can be controlled, not just visually, but also in terms of what is implied, which is really the most important thing to me about photography as a medium. In the case of the urban landscape/vernacular photography that I have spent considerable time on, the control is a matter of peripatetic gathering, of movement, time, and selections which I largely make instinctively – in short, being there at the right time, and making choices both at the time, but also later in editing, printing and presentation (these are at least as important to me as the act of photographing).
Right now though, I’m more concerned with constructing and manipulating narratives, and in analyzing just how it is that a particular image/photograph/text can be taken to stand for a particular theme or meme, which doesn’t preclude working in the above manner in the slightest, but it does open up a lot of possibilities in terms of a more purely studio type method of constructing this reflection.
This in essence is why I choose to work with photographic possibilities as much as I do in my practice, it is because the medium allows me to sketch concepts and thoughts in a manner which is sympathetic to my intentions, and which I intuitively link to the manner and the methods in which I have previously worked. The narrative aspect and the questioning of assigned/valued meaning is the meme which I am working with – the medium is simply a mechanism.