Wednesday, July 20, 2016
This week I posted a two-part You Tube video that covers the complete process of Harman Direct Positive Paper in pinhole cameras, specifically using my set of nine film-canister pinhole cameras. The videos cover everything a person would need, from cutting the paper to size, loading the cameras, equipment needed in the field, aiming the cameras, determining exposure via a light meter, unloading the prints to a film developing tank and the entire method of rotary processing these small prints using a metal 35mm day tank.
I felt it necessary to make this two-part video because, even though many of these individual steps have been covered in previous videos, having them all in one production might make more sense to some people. My desire is to encourage more people to discover for themselves the simple joy it is of working with this remarkable medium, that yields exquisite little gem-like prints from a humble pinhole chamber and paper processed in a simple 3-part procedure.
We do live in a remarkable era, photographically speaking, because we have at our avail the most contemporary of digital imaging systems while also enjoying a resurgence of interest in historic photographic processes, along with unique products such as this direct positive paper.
Personally, I've been doing less digital photography in my free time, instead putting more time into various video projects, not only photographically related but also a series involving typewriters as the theme. Yet at the same time, I've begun to slowly shoot more black and white film, home processed and scanned, along with these direct positive pinhole prints. It's a satisfying mix of technologies, working within the medium of video while at the same time working with gelatin silver imagery, the best of the old and the new. Too, video and still photography work to tell stories and engage the viewer in differing ways; so I see these as complementary activities, rather than competitors.
This last week I finished a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus in my Minox GT-E, while I'm just now starting a roll of Ilford FP4 Plus in a Yashica T4 Super. I'm enjoying being able to put these various cameras from my collection through their paces, enjoying each of their respective unique attributes as film cameras, while also stretching my film-processing legs a bit more.
Here are the links to the two-part video series about the pinhole camera process. Enjoy.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Slow and methodically I've been using up this latest round of Harman Direct Positive prints in my set of nine film-canister pinhole cameras. Every time I do so, it's been in quantities of three, enough to develop in one batch in the 35mm steel development tank. Three seems a good number; a triptych, in quantity if not in actual intention.
To do this, to make the creating of these little gem-like prints part of one's private life, means that there has to be a sense of balance between the desire to chuck it all, ignore family, friends and obligations for the obsessive pursuit of one's Arte, and maintaining peace in one's life and relationships. In the past, I've been much more apt to obsess over the pinhole photography process, each outing a mission dedicated to the One Big Objective of returning with some trophy-like images - or don't come home at all.
These days, I'm a bit more laid back. For one, I've eased back on my expectations, happy with one or two good prints, even if they are small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand. Also, the gear is small enough to easily carry, even with a modest tripod. I'll carry a small day pack, with tripod in hand, metal camera mounting plate attached. Once I find a promising scene I'll get the tripod set, meter the scene and then pull out of its storage box one of these little cameras. The typical scene might only take all of a minute to set up, meter and expose. Quick, and expeditious. Then, I can get back to the business of whatever the day requires. No day-long pinhole expeditions, no choosing between creativity and life's responsibilities. Just fit it into those interstitial moments that have so much to do with whether a day has been successful and rewarding, or not.
Honestly, if I could be satisfied with a short, handheld tripod and the restrictive compositions it might limit me to, this whole process would be that much less obtrusive.
Last week, I made a visit to the Green Jeans Market in Albuquerque, a cluster of cafes and shops made from metal shipping containers, situated in a bit of land adjacent to Interstate 40, and made a few pinhole exposures; today, I returned to the scene of the crime, prints in hand along with a digital camera, fountain pen and notepad, to document these thoughts, while having a bite of lunch.
Now, since constant improvement (or, at least, spurious innovation) has been a continual part of my photographic journey, I've been thinking about the possibility of a combination pinhole camera and developing tank. Since I have several spare 35mm steel processing tanks, the thought came to me that, were I to drill a hole in the side of one of these tanks, then outfit it with some sort of liquid-proof pinhole/shutter mechanism, that I could expose and process a single, larger Harman Direct Positive print in said tank. I can imagine carrying a little box of small containers of processing chemicals, along with my little rotary base.
I can imagine a scenario like this: I visit some photogenic locale, such as this Green Jeans Market area, and expose one image. Then I retire to the cool comfort of Santa Fe Brewery's upstairs seating area, burger and brew at hand, and proceed to process said pinhole print at my table, between mouthfuls of greasy burger, washed down by a cool beverage that might resemble, were it not for the carbonation's bubbles, a glass of expired developer; best not to get the two confused. The result being - what? - a wet print that still requires a lengthy archival wash, then taped to a sheet of glass to dry for an hour or two in a drying cabinet?
This is where the needle scratches the record, where the whole idea falls flat on its face and I all too easily express my frustration that Harman/Ilford refuses to make an RC paper version of this wonderful positive photographic medium. For with a resin-coated, direct positive paper, the possibility remains of having finished, dry, one-of-a-kind positive pinhole prints in-hand at said brewery table, after a brief water rinse, squeegee and air dry, again between mouthfuls of greasy burger, washed down by cold brew. Which opens up the possibility of being able to create portraits on-location, reminiscent of those street portraitists of old, who would prowl the dark nightclubs of the 20th century in search of couples who wished to document their nocturnal encounters.
For now, the dream remains but a dream, and I have to be satisfied to return home to process these prints to completion. Yet I continue to dream these dreams, incessantly, never giving up hope for the things that could be, for that is what the joy in life is made of.