Back in the Darkroom

seven prints at 8x10 inches that Ian Lobb saw that prompted me to enlarge and exhibit all are a mixture or the natural and man made with neither dominating.
Seven  8 x 10 ‘work prints’ pinned to my darkroom wall.

Another cause for recent reflection was an encounter I had with Ian Lobb a few years ago. I asked him to look at some of my silver gelatin prints, which he did, over coffee in Fairfield.

choice of paper for this body of work in not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom
Choice of paper for this body of work is not yet final here are some of my options in my darkroom. Forte Fibre based on top of Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper.

He appeared enamoured by one body of work that I have been sitting on since about 2006, as it only consists of 6 or 7 prints.

The body of work was a response to Robert Adams’ book, Summer Nights. The first edition of this book has 38 images in it.  The date of the first edition is 1985. This means I may have been exposed to it whilst studying my undergraduate degree. Ian Lobb would have definitely been aware of it. He knew what I was talking about when I discussed my motivations for printing them. I acquired my copy  of the book in 2003.

I had no specific idea in mind while making the pictures however. I simply went for a walk one morning in a quiet country hamlet 3 hours north of Melbourne, and shot a whole roll of 120 film in that short time.

the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from
the contact sheet that I am making up to 9 prints from

Because of Ian’s response I have decided to print the images to exhibition stage. I have work prints from about 2017 that are 8×10 inches. But in this instance I feel a larger size will really make them shine so I am beginning the process of making the final prints. Paper brand and final size is yet to be determined. I have started with Ilford Multigrade Fibre based paper at 12 x 16 inches.

Re-examing the contact sheet this morning I feel I may be able to push the series out to 8 or 9 prints. This is unheard of for me. I consider one good picture per 3 or 4 contact sheets adequate.

The first print in the rinse tray.
The first print in the rinse tray.

I want to finish with a quote from another of my favourite photographers, Frederick Sommer, that goes some way towards  my reasoning behind making these prints:-

“… When you go out to make a picture you find you are moved by something which is in agreement with an image you already held within yourself.”
– Frederick Sommer

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Some Black and White Images From a 1998 Road Trip

I have uncovered the negs that I shot while on my big 1998 road trip. All 5×4 inch film, I’m surprised at how little of it I shot?

5x4 film shot of Port Augusta circa 1998 showing the dock and some factories on the horizon
5×4 film shot of Port Augusta circa 1998
Desert and scrub somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill
Desert and scrub somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill circa 1998
Whyalla Steelworks with the bay in the background
Whyalla Steelworks with the bay in the background circa 1998
Whyalla has a tennis court sport complex
Whyalla has a tennis court sport complex, circa 1998
Reset Landscape somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill, circa 1998
Desert Landscape somewhere between Whyalla and Broken Hill, circa 1998

 

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Thirty Plus Years Ago

A dark industrail scene from Melbourne's west in the early 1990s, in the foreground a pit of dark water, electric poles occupy the middle ground along with some fences sheds and other infrastructure container and a giant electricity transmission pylon can be seen in the distance, the sky has a smattering of small clouds
West Melbourne circa 1992

I was recently gifted a scanner. Thanks to Gary. This now means I can scan any or all of my analogue work on an as needs basis. All I need is time. This image has always stayed with me since I made it around 1992. It is one my earliest successes using 5×4 inch film. However it never moved beyond a contact print as the emulsion had been damaged  in a couple of places.

Now using Affinity Photo, I am at least able to resurrect it and use it online. I may some day get a commercial scan and make a big print from it.  In what context I’m not sure. I use Affinity Photo because it has a perpetual license and a few technical advantages over PotatoeShop.

I have been photographing this area for a long time and the changes are significant. I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Even after the major infrastructure project is over the mix of light industry along with the decaying  heavy industry and modern  architectural flourishes makes this in my mind an interesting place to photograph.

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How I prepare for a physical exhibition?

Prints drying in my darkroom
Silver Geltatin Prints drying in my darkroom

I have been busy the last few days getting my prints ready for my next upcoming exhibition.
The Exhibition entitled ‘Thanks Pandemic’ consists of 24 silver gelatin prints framed and matted.
All up the print finishing took about 12 hours. I don’t recollect how long the actual printing took, as it was done some time ago during several of the lockdowns that Victoria endured from 2020 to 2022.
These lockdowns were the catalyst for me to revisit my archive and print some images that I have always wanted to print. Now with time on my side and changes to materials I was able to produce a series of prints that reflect my skills and knowledge. Basically I like to make work with long tonal scales. This is made possible by using 2 filters under the enlarger, the 00 filter and the 5 filter, from Ilford’s filter pack. Using this technique enables finer control over shadows, midtones and highlights.
After the prints are made they undergo treatment for archival permanence using a 2 bath fixer system and using some dilute selenium toner. In this case it was 1:19 for 3 minutes in the selenium.

My toning setup
My toning setup, I’m using selenium toner 1:19 for 3 minutes

Then into my archival wash tub for one hour. My tub holds 10 prints so I had to undertake this process in 3 batches, 2 at 10 and one at 5 prints. They are then hung to dry in my darkroom.

My archival print washing setup
My archival print washing setup, washed 10 silver gelatin prints at a time

Next I flatten the prints in a warm heat press.
Once they are all flat, I begin the final stages of preparation for matting.

Flattened prints ready for over matting
Flattened prints ready for over matting

This involves making paper corners, 100 in total, then attaching the prints to a backing board that is hinged to the matt. All made using paper archival tape.

Archival paper corners
Archival paper corners, I made 100 of these.

Once the components are assembled the frame is reassembled and the protective corners replaced. Then they are stored ready for transport to the gallery.

A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.
A print matted and secured to the backing board, ready for the final touches to make it exhibition ready.

This body of work is going to use a mixture of frame colours 9 silver 9 off-white and 6 black. How they are how together will be determined once the work is in the space.

All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.
All the prints ready for transport to the gallery next week.