Sunday, October 25, 2009

What Triggers the Shot 2.0.

After having had both my ego and my iPhone deftly stroked by my new friend and reader Willem, I was ready to accept positive feed back and constructive suggestions on my latest blog entry: what triggers the shot.
Far from having exhausted the theme, of course I knew it to be susceptible of both deepening and expansion. So here are a few avenues worthy of further enquiry: death, memory and the wish to fix the ephemeral in life, it being almost everything really.

Poignantly, photographs were easier to obtain than to preserve, at the beginning. Once painstakingly discovered or invented (I am not sure which) and at last captured, the photograph simply kept developing itself from nothingness tot meaning only to be subsequently swallowed by murkiness and eventually total darkness. It turned black.

Going through the pages of one glossy imported photo magazine – one that I only flip through at the newsstand as I find it both aloof in tone and prohibitive in price – I came across a technique that could bring us back to that primitive emotion: Photograms on black and white out of date paper.
Place some nicely structured translucent object – like a leaf (or kinky lingerie) – on a sheet of photo paper and leave it in full daylight until the paper turns brownish in the most exposed parts – those not covered by the object – thus revealing an image. It is something like a shadow, albeit a negative one, of both outline and inner structure. A sepia roentgen if you will, of simple or intricate little things.
Left alone in the light, after removing the objects, the print will slowly keep discolouring and darkening until the image is lost. So it needs fixing if it is to be retained for some time.

By trial and error the first alchemists of photography at last came across hypo, a solution of sodium sulphite that preserved the image by removing the unexposed silver from the emulsion. Rinsing in water and drying were the last steps to a durable print. Once easily available, hypo is again something that you need to look for as digital photography made it unnecessary. But it is out there, and at least you know what to look for.

I have drifted a little from the original theme, yet I think that experiencing the pains and pleasures of the dark art of analogue printing will induce another motivation for taking photographs, although maybe a secondary one: the curiosity of seeing how they will turn out on paper.

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