Overwhelmed & Emotionally Exhausted

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

In this age of digital the common refrain by many photographers of my age who shot film for many years is that now photographers take many pictures as there is no nagging feeling that expenses are piling up because of costly film.

Of course we know that in the particular case of wedding photographers who take many photographs of a wedding session is that their labour may be as expensive as film once was.

In the days of film, wedding photographers would have taken their film to a lab and asked for custom proofs. The work here was done by either highly capable lab personnel or by highly capable machines. Now the wedding photographer has to sit at their computer for hours correcting hundreds of pictures. How valuable is their time?

But there are other facets to the idea that film photographers were spare in their shooting.

It was only in my later years (the end of the 20 thcentury when I might shoot a magazine assignment with one roll of 120 film and take nine or ten exposures. In fact I did quite a few sessions for magazines where I took no more than three exposures.

But now this February 2020 I feel overwhelmed as I sift to hundreds of photographs. I am throwing away law firms and many Globe and Mail business shots. These folks paid my bills and enabled me to shoot interesting stuff that did not pay as well.

In Mexico as soon as my daughters were born I shot hundreds (and hundreds) of pictures of them. There are b+w negatives, colour negatives, Kodachromes, Ektachromes and many drugstore type colour prints. Once in Vancouver I added photographs that I took with my medium format Mamiya RB-67. By the time our two granddaughters were born I went really crazy shooting them in whatever new technique I had discovered and with new swivel lens panoramics.

It would be very difficult now to calculate the cost of all the photographs I printed (in 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20) on very good photographic paper and archivally processed by immersing the washed prints in that known carcinogen, Kodak Selenium Toner. I did this in a poorly ventilated darkroom in Burnaby and then in Kerrisdale which until 20 years ago I compounded by smoking a pipe while printing.

It was in the early 70s in Mexico City where I met the father of one of my students who gave me many photo tips and inspired hence to experiment. His name was Ingeniero de la Rosa. It was this man who introduced me to the wonders of Kodak Black + White Infrared Film. But there was something else that he taught me that became for me a unique (nobody else seemed to have ever thought of the idea) personal skill that was admired and in some cases requested by wealthy families that I photographed here in Vancouver.

De la Rosa told me to buy Kodak Kodalith Film. This I did in 8x10 sheets. I would then project a b+w negative on it (as if it were photographic paper but making sure I had a red safelight as lith film is orthochromatic and not sensitive to red). The exposed Kodalith I would then immerse on regular b+w developer (as if it were photographic paper). The use of this developer took away the high contrast of lith film and made the result what we in photography call a continuous tone image.

Once I fixed and washed the Kodalith I would immerse it in that selenium toner. If I left it for many minutes (perhaps 10) it would take on a slight sepia tone.

Once dried if I placed the Kodalith on silver covered cardboard and framed the results would mimic 19 thcentury Daguerreotypes especially when viewed in gallery type of lighting.

Four years ago when I realized I was going to lose my darkroom in our move to our smaller Kits pad I went on binges making art prints, family prints, small and large (all processed archivaly) and as many Kodaliths as I could.

Once in Kits I fell into a deep depression. I did learn eventually to make good inkjets and I was quickly rushed into this 21 stcentury. But the best event that made me smile was when my friend and most capable photographer Hans Sipma told me that the inkjet product called Pictorico could do those Kodaliths and not only that I could make them in colour if I wanted to. I have been in sheer bliss ever since.

With film coming back I wonder how valuable the idea of having so many archival photo-processed prints may be. Do I keep two out of five? Or do I throw them all?

The lawyers are gone as are those businessmen. But I must keep Jimmy Pattison and others whose names I remember and don’t strike a blank in my mind when I find their files in my extensive cabinets (which I am attempting to shrink).

Included here are two Kodaliths of Rebecca (now 22) and Lauren (now 17). The scanning of the lith film on the silver cardboard does not really show the full effect. In some cases I have framed my Kodaliths with little bits of carboard on the corners of the film. This creates a space and when overhead lights hit the framed pictures it has a lovely 3-D effect.

I am overwhelmed and I can only work at this sifting for a couple of hours before I am emotionally exhausted and arthritically challenged.

Originally published at http://blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.



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