I started 2018 with the idea of creating some images with interesting out of focus areas. I thought I could achieve this with my newly acquired 5 x 4 Sinar camera. After shooting 50 or so sheets of film I realised this was not going to happen.
I did see one or two glimmers of hope on the way through, but generally it was hard work getting images that were hitting my vision. So, I packed away my 5×4 and reverted to my small and medium format cameras.
I then had the idea of making a camera from scratch, I started with a standard 5×4 double dark slide and built it up from there. It is basically two boxes: one slides inside the other to focus and a +4 close up filter which focuses on a piece of glass which I ground using grinding paste.
I can’t now remember why but I decided to use paper negatives, which has its failings but also lends a very interesting look to the outcome. It is early days but I feel like I can see a future in this direction. Then it was testing, testing and more testing. I was teased just enough with some images which were just what I was looking for and an awful lot of mediocre ones.
Once I had grasped how to expose consistently on very slow paper negatives without a shutter or aperture ring the landscape work became more consistent, but I would really like a wider angle of view – maybe about 135mm as opposed to the 240mm I had created in the first place, which would mean a major camera redesign which will have to wait until 2019. Putting the landscape to one side I was also interested in what the possibilities were with portraits – this posed many problems. I was lucky to take a really nice shot of my daughter quite early on in my testing phase but it was by no means perfect. Since then I have been testing, trying to iron out the failings of the first image and yet recreate the same feel. No success so far, but an area I feel is worth pursuing. I have ideas for a crude mechanical shutter with a flash sync and improvements to the focusing system.
After taking these initial test paper negatives I was keen to reverse the negatives and see what they looked like. The easiest way by far is to simply scan the negative and reverse in Photoshop, then make small edits there, which was great for this early stage to assess what was happening and eeking out the most you could out of some quite over-exposed negatives. But long term I wanted to create silver gelatine contact prints in the darkroom, but with this I had no experience and
had no idea how sharp these prints would be. I was pleasantly surprised when my first attempts were quite successful.
Presentation was my next focus. Being a picture framer, a picture frame seemed to be the obvious solution. I have to say I am not convinced photographs look at their best in a picture frame, maybe even more so when the format is so small. I feel photographs look better in books and I have played with single images in a book format before. After trying a format with an integral mount and being dissatisfied with the overall appearance I decided to strip it right back to basic elements.
I hope 2019 will give me opportunity to explore these ideas some more.