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Alternative print processes

8 years, 8 months ago film, photographic material, photography 5

Last week the printer and photographer, Jack Lowe, added a new posting to his blog about Calotype printing. He has been experimenting with digital negatives suitable for old print processes, and has collaborated with photographer Richard Freestone in producing two prints using the Calotype process. This struck a chord with me. During the late 1990’s, I spent a long time in my darkroom working with similar techniques. My particular interests were gum bichromate and Kallitype printing.

These are contact printing processes, which require negatives the same size as the final print. The sensitized paper with the negative on top is exposed to light before developing in the required solution. In the case of gum bichromate, this is water.

A quick glossary:

Kallitype –  a suitable paper is first coated with a solution of ferric oxalate and silver nitrate.

Calotype – a suitable paper is  coated with a solution of weak salt solution, dried, then brushed with a weak silver nitrate solution, dried, making silver chloride. Fox Talbot used this process and he referred to it as the Talbotype.

Gum bichromate – a suitable paper is coated with a solution of gum bichromate mixed with water colour pigment.

Kallitypes and Calotypes may at first glance appear very similar, as they can have a similar red-brown hue.

Richmond lock on River Thames - Kallitype print

Richmond lock on River Thames - Kallitype print 1998

When I made my Kallitypes, I masked the negatives to create a clean straight line edge to the print. This was due to my coating method. With Jack’s prints, a brush is used and the brush marks are left in the final images. Jack said,”It’s as if someone’s come along with a magic brush and painted the image onto the paper!”. With some of the gum bichromate images below, I used this brush technique, and have included the edges in the final print.

fritillaria meleagris - gum bichromate print

fritillaria meleagris - gum bichromate print 1998

With gum prints, I nearly always printed three layers of colour to build up density. This means you have to be accurate with registering the negative over the image with the subsequent layers. The whole process, with paper preparation would take around five days. The paper had to be left to dry and shrink properly before applying a new coat of sensitizer, otherwise it would be bigger than the negative, causing registration problems.

Although I think the effect can be beautiful, it made the art directors I showed the images to flinch! The time it took made them nervous. I remember showing these to the art director of Gardens Illustrated in 1998, who complimented the prints highly. But she said that, “Unfortunately the editor would not allow gratuitous flower images to be used in the magazine”. Oh well!

lavender - gum bichromate print

lavender - gum bichromate print 1998

chrysanthemum - gum bichromate print

chrysanthemum - gum bichromate print 1998

It’s unlikely that I will be returning to these particular processes in the near future. My darkroom was replaced by a digital studio in 1999. But I do hope to work with Jack soon in producing some photogravure or polymer gravure images using his digital negatives. See my posting from last year. Perfecting and understanding the use of the printing plates has taken slightly longer than I hoped, but I would expect to have some images to show in the next few months.

Parrot tulip - gum bichromate print, 1998

Parrot tulip - gum bichromate print, 1998

Crossbones Graveyard, 25.3.11

8 years, 8 months ago People, photography 0

A few examples from this shoot. The Crossbones Graveyard is in Bankside, near Borough Market and London Bridge. It was originally an unconsecrated burial ground for ‘single women’, a euphemism for prostitutes, who worked in the “Liberty of the Clink“. This was an area controlled by the Bishop of Winchester, and the graveyard was used until the mid-nineteenth century when it was closed down after being declared full. Excavated during the Jubilee Line extension works in the 1990’s, it was estimated that up to  15,000 people were buried there. The women who worked in this area were referred to as ‘Winchester Geese‘.

Cross Bones Graveyard, Winchester Geese

Cross Bones Graveyard

Cross Bones Graveyard, Winchester Geese

Cross Bones Graveyard

Cross Bones Graveyard, Winchester Geese

Cross Bones Graveyard

Cross Bones Graveyard, Winchester Geese

Cross Bones Graveyard

Jubilee extension, near Cross Bones Graveyard

Jubilee extension, near Cross Bones Graveyard

Man in Redcross Way, near Cross Bones Cemetery

Local resident in Redcross Way, near Cross Bones Cemetery

buddleia near Borough Market

Buddleia on wall of Cross Bones Cemetery

At the first sign of sun – London, 25.3.11

8 years, 8 months ago People, photography 0
Embankment near Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern

Embankment near Millennium Bridge and Tate Modern

Embankment near London Bridge

Embankment near London Bridge

Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

Paradalia

8 years, 9 months ago photographic material, photography 2

Just after Christmas I received an email asking me to donate a signed print for a silent auction. I often get email requests, and an awful lot appear to me  as scams. But this one had something genuine about it and, after a few enquiries, it turned out to be students raising money for the photography degree show at The Arts University College at Bournemouth. So I sent them a print. This week I received an email saying it had sold for £350, contributing to the £4000 raised, which is nice to know! Their show is called “Paradalia” and will run from early Summer 2011. And this is the image I sent.

beech trees, Gunnersbury Park, London

beech trees, Gunnersbury Park, London

West End, London, 16.3.11

8 years, 9 months ago photography 0

Some more test shots from London:

street photos, Piccadilly Circus, 13.3.11

Piccadilly Circus, 16.3.11

street photos, Oxford Street, 13.3.11

Oxford Street, 16.3.11

street photos, District Line, 13.3.11

District Line, 13.3.11

street photos, Centre Point, 16.3.11

Centre Point, 16.3.11

street photos, Oxford Street, 16.3.11

Oxford Street, 16.3.11

street photos, Piccadilly Circus, 16.3.11

Piccadilly Circus, 16.3.11

street photos, Piccadilly Circus, 16.3.11

Piccadilly Circus, 16.3.11

The Bermondsey Tiger

8 years, 9 months ago photography 2

A couple of weeks ago I saw a programme  on TV about the reintroduction of certain animals into the wild in various parts of Europe and North America. Wolves and bears seemed to be the favourite cuddly beasts.  So it was to my great surprise that whilst wondering around Bermondsey last week I stumbled upon a tiger!  He seemed quite happy sitting in the tree, and appeared to be enjoying the sunshine. Not sure why he was there – doubt he knew either, so if anyone can explain, I’d be pleased to know!

The Bermondsey Tiger

The Bermondsey Tiger

Bermondsey, 7.3.11

8 years, 9 months ago People, photography 0

A selection of images from Bermondsey.

Bermondsey street photography

Bermondsey

Bermondsey street photography

Bermondsey

Bermondsey street photography

Bermondsey

Bermondsey street photography

Prunus cerasifera - Bermondsey

Bermondsey street photography

Dyas

Bermondsey street photography

Bermondsey

Out and about this week – 6.3.11

8 years, 9 months ago Garden Photography, Gardens, People 0

Some photographs from the previous week – Kew Gardens, The Garden Museum and Victoria Tower Gardens.

Kew Gardens - Camelia japonica 'cardinal'

Kew Gardens - Camelia japonica 'cardinal'

Kew Gardens - stop-plate cover

Kew Gardens - stop-plate cover

visitor at the Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

visitor at the Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

Plane tree leaves on embankment near Victoria Tower Gardens

Plane tree leaves on embankment near Victoria Tower Gardens

Kew Gardens - Prunus cocomilia or 'Naples Plum'

Kew Gardens - Prunus cocomilia or 'Naples Plum'

Christopher Woodward, director of Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

Christopher Woodward, director of Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

climber on wall, Garden Museum

climber on wall, Garden Museum

Sergio Cumitini, Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

Sergio Cumitini, Garden Museum, 4th March 2011

Acer pictum covered in yellow moss, Kew Gardens

Acer pictum covered in yellow moss, Kew Gardens

Garden Museum

Garden Museum

Garden Photographer of the Year competition 2011

8 years, 9 months ago exhibitions, Garden Photography, Gardens, news 0

This year I have been lucky enough to have a single image selected in the final of the IGPOTY competition and have a portfolio commended. The exhibition will be on show at Kew Gardens from May 14th.

The single image is a portrait of a gardening team in the WW1 cemetery at Le Trou Aide Poste, near Lille, Northern France. This photograph is based on an image, taken around 1920, of a team of War Graves Commission gardeners. It is part of a story on the Fromelles Cemetery near Lille, opened in 2010 for the reburial of British and Australian WW1 soldiers, whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave in 2008. The gardeners still work in teams, and move around various cemeteries in a particular region. Many are second or third generation, and are related to the original gardeners, many of whom fought in WW1. Kneeling on the right is Jean-Pierre (Jimmy) Macdonald whose British grandfather fought in the war and who settled in France in the employ of the War Graves Commission. For more information and images see www.pauldebois.com and look at the Fromelles gallery.

Team of War Graves Commission Gardeners at Le Trou Aide Poste Cemetery, near Lille, Northern France

Team of War Graves Commission Gardeners at Le Trou Aide Poste Cemetery, near Lille, Northern France

The Polaroid SX-70 portfolio was based on a photograph I took at Kew Gardens in 1982 as a photography student. Using the same camera, along with newly-released film I returned with the aim of capturing the atmosphere of this building, creating a ‘retro’ feel, with soft, almost monochromatic images. Polaroid SX-70 film was discontinued many years ago, but new film has been released, made by a company who bought what was left of the original Polaroid factory. This film has its own peculiar characteristics, but like the original Polaroid, produces very soft images – optically and tonally. The Palm House has lots of shade and I had to think in terms of black & white as the film could not render colour very well in these conditions. The photographs are not intended as literal portraits in the conventional sense.

The Palm House, Kew

The Palm House, Kew taken with Polaroid SX-70 film

The full size images can be seen in the previous posting ‘Shake it like a Polaroid picture‘.

An alternate view

8 years, 9 months ago Garden Photography, Gardens 0

These are experimental shots I’ve taken over the last few days, and are tests for a project I’m currently researching. They happen to be taken in my back garden. As I haven’t done any gardening since mid-summer, most things appear to be dead – even the things you would expect to be alive. I suppose this style of gardening is best described as non-interventionist – but it leads to some great photographic opportunities!

inside a small watering can

inside a small watering can

unharvested red chilli pepper

unharvested red chilli pepper

moss trapped between layers in greenhouse glass

moss trapped between layers in greenhouse glass

unharvested chilli peppers

unharvested chilli peppers

dead corkscrew Hazel

dead corkscrew Hazel

rose

rose

lilac bud

lilac bud

cut branch on dead orange tree

cut branch on dead orange tree

olive tree leaves on ground

olive tree leaves on ground

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