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Garden Photographer of the Year competition 2011

8 years, 8 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‘.

Shake it, shake, it like a Polaroid picture…..or not!

The instructions from Polaroid issued after the song by OutKast suggested you shouldn’t really shake your valuable instant photographs as they developed. In fact shaking is more likely to cause damage. So however energetic you feel, gently place each picture on a flat surface …..and watch it, watch it!

Apparently the idea of shaking your print came from using the old peel-apart material which had a damp surface immediately after developing. Shaking the prints helped them to dry – or so the say.

Yesterday I went to Kew Gardens to test my latest photographic acquisition, a Polaroid 320 camera. After much searching online, I had found some old 669 peel-apart film, which was seven years out of date. As it’s not made anymore, it’s hard to come by. It was a bit slow, and the prints had a very strong blue cast too, but I suppose this is the fun of it. And did I shake them? Yes!

So a few examples.

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print

Palm House Kew Gardens - 669 Polaroid print, with the classic fault where the chemical gel fails to spread evenly over the print.

Just before Christmas I tried out another Polaroid camera, this time shooting SX-70 film. This you definitely didn’t shake. In fact it is so sensitive, it needed to be covered with black card as it was ejected from the camera to protect it from the light – then placed in my camera bag for at least five minutes. A complete P.I.T.A! Interesting results though.

'Palm House 1' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 1' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 2' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 2' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 3' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 3' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 4' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 4' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 5' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 5' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 6' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

'Palm House 6' Kew Gardens - SX-70 print

Kodachrome – no more!

9 years, 2 months ago cars, film, news, photographic material, photography 0
Austin Healey rear badge

One of my last Kodachrome images - taken in 1990

I’ve recently been reading postings on forums regarding the demise of Kodachrome, a film which has been used by generations of photographers, amateurs and pros alike.  Introduced in 1935, it was available in various forms until 2009, when Kodak announced it would cease production due to a fall in demand. If you are one of the few who have any rolls left, remember you have until 30th December 2010 to get it to Dwayne’s Photos in Parsons, Kansas, the last place still processing this film, when even they will stop.

I shot my first rolls of Kodachrome in 1979 and was amazed at the saturated colour which could be achieved compared to contemporary offerings, such as Ektachrome 64, also from the Kodak stable. At that time, most of my professional work was in black and white and I don’t remember using it for commercial photography until 1988, when I started to contribute to Car Magazine.

Car was the leading automotive magazine of the period, and under the art direction of Adam Stinson, it produced some of the most innovative car photography in Europe and the USA, influencing many magazines worldwide. Adam favoured Kodachrome, so when I was invited to start shooting for Car, I spent many an hour negotiating the Fulham Palace Road during the London rush hour, trying to get to the Kodachrome collection/delivery point in time to meet the evening deadline. At that time, barmy as it may seem, film shot in the UK could only be processed in Paris. I think it was a 24 hour turnaround, and it was always an event opening each of the returned boxes and spreading the frames, in their classic card mounts, over the lightbox.

Ultimately, for me and I suspect for many others, this impractical method of processing was the beginning of Kodachrome’s downfall. As a new generation of films emerged around 1990 which provided equally great colour rendition and saturation, practical alternatives were established. For many Fuji Velvia, still in production today, became the alternative of choice. It was possible get this, and other E6 slide films, processed quickly and easily and in front of an art director in under two hours. Commercially it made sense to move away from Kodachrome – sadly, it no longer fitted into a lot of photographers’ workflows. Then digital came of age!

The last time I used Kodachrome was around 1990, when  I was asked to shoot a series of car books. After the first book, I made several calls to the publisher asking to switch from Kodachrome. He saw the quality of the Velvia test rolls I had sent, and (reluctantly at first) agreed to let me shoot the remaining books on Fuji stock. To this day, I still think this was the right decision!

Despite it being something that I currently wouldn’t have much use for, I’d love to see Kodachrome survive in some form, as it adds to the flavour and mix of the photographic world. Unfortunately the process is so complicated, I doubt it will be viable for anyone to try to take it over.

As a footnote, Polaroid pretty much finished instant film production a couple of years ago – but with the Impossible Project taking over what remained of the production plant, the concept of Polaroid instant film is still with us. (Fuji instant film has been in constant production for many years, but doesn’t have the same following). Polaroid themselves have taken an about-turn and have produced a new camera and instant film, the Polaroid 300 – and have appointed Lady Gaga as their Creative Director, so there may well be hope for analogue devotees!

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