Final selections for submission

Having made the decision to end the shooting phase of my project at Stokeleigh Camp, it is time to make my final image selections for submission. This part of any project has always been the most difficult for me and so with my Stokeleigh Camp work I have tried to be utterly ruthless with myself. No easy task.

Additionally, the project has been selected to be included in an exhibition at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol from August to October, so this has added an extra level of realism to the equation.

I have considered the opinions of my lecturers, visiting photographers, my peers and my own students and have highlighted some key questions to answer when making my final choices.

Scale – What size should this work be presented at?

The question of scale is something that has really made me think very carefully about with this project. From the onset, I knew I wanted to make prints for display and felt a relatively large sized print size was the way to go. Opinions on this subject varied with many of the people I discussed the project with placing value on the small 5×4 paper negatives as much as the enlarged test prints I had made. In contrast, the exhibition venue have expressed a strong preference for larger prints to maintain impact in their cavernous space. The reality of the forthcoming exhibition has added a real sense of importance to this difficult decision making process.

The conclusion I have come to is that for my submission I will present three, 12”x14.5” prints flush mounted onto black foam core with an additional 5”x4” print with the 5”x4” negative mounted alongside it. The smaller print and negative will be presented in a deep box frame while the larger prints are intended to be mounted straight to a gallery wall.  I feel this meets the expectations of both schools of thought. The larger prints will satisfy my own need to see detail while the smaller print / muddied neg pairing will provide insight into the making process.. My justification for including both small and larger prints is that to me it would be perfectly conceivable to see both sizes displayed in a single exhibition.

Additionally I have also made some small test patch prints of the images on 6”x8” paper. The test patches are taken from 30”x25” actual size prints as this is what I believe will be the best size for the Tobacco Factory exhibition. I have also decided that these images should be mounted to black MDF, but the test patches will allow me to analyse if the images are able to hold enough detail to be printed at this size.

Embedding the landscape – Am I creating sufficient agency between myself as artist, the space I am working in and the final image output?

This question cropped up during a review with visiting photographer Steve Macleod. I am not sure that there is really a correct answer to this point, and perhaps the question was born more out of creating further internal debate than to sway a decision. The conclusion I have come to is that I really wanted to keep this project a photographic print based outcome. I am content with the subtle, yet present, embedded soil into the negatives.

I have considered other options of screen printing outcomes with suspended soil or gum bichromate embedded with earth, but the test images I made did not match the feel of the Ilford prints and I simply did not want to deviate too much from my original idea for the outcome.

Conclusively, I don’t feel the need to justify the link between image and space any further than the negative stage. Making it even more prevalent feels to me to be verging on overkill and I think the subtlety of the negatives is strong enough. After rereading my research posts and reconsidering the work I looked at, I have concluded that the relationship I have established is sufficient. Many of the artists I have looked at maintain a link between location and outcome, resolved only as a photographic print.

Final image choices

I approached this task by first making small laser prints of all of the images I shot. Comparing each image individually, I selected certain characteristics I felt best portrayed human activity at Stokeleigh Camp and reflected the original intentions of the project. I concluded that I preferred the less than perfect exposures, with flatter highlight areas shallower depth of field. The developing marks caused by my own flippant processing technique add a link to myself as artist and the double exposure images provide a metaphor of the space being reused over many centuries. It seemed obvious also that the contours of the ancient ramparts should be included too. 


Two, 6″x8″ Ilford Black and White prints showing patches of my selected exhibition images at 30″x25″. These prints will not be submitted, they are simply to assess image quality at a much larger print size. 


Two, 5″x4″ prints to be mounted to black foam core and display next to each other in a deep box frame. The original muddied negative image on Ilford paper and a positive Ilford print at actual size. 


Three, 12″x14.5″ Ilford prints to be mounted to black foam core for submission. 

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The work of Roger Fenton in the Crimean War

Roger Fenton (1891-1869) is a significant figure in photographic history. Founding the Royal Photographic society in 1853, he gained widespread recognition for his images of the Crimean War in 1855 which are among the first to depict conflict at first hand. Fenton captured around 360 images over a three month trip.

Fentons Van with his assistant Marcus Sparling, 1855

Drawing some similarities to my own practice, Fenton captured his location images using what we would now consider to be a large format 14×18’ plate camera. Fenton used the wet plate collodion process to record his location images and travelled the Crimea in a horse drawn “Photographic Van” that enabled him to prepare his plates and process them on site, as is required of the wet plate collodion process. Fenton’s “Photographic Van” enabled him to live within the spaces he worked, as well as afforded him the essential darkroom access he required.

Within my own practice shooting on a large format camera I am to understand and appreciate the handwork and manual, mechanical process involved in creating images this way requires. The wet plate process dictates exceptionally slow shutter speeds of around 10 seconds, not far from the paper negative process I am using. This slow and methodical process of capturing images is mirrored in my work at Stokeleigh Camp. Working in this way builds a strong link between photographer and location as the sequence of capturing images requires precise observations over a prolonged time to ensure each image meets its potential.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is perhaps one of Fenton’s most recognisable images. The road in a ravine was named by the British soldiers who came under constant Russian bombardment while sheltering there and borrows its name from the twenty third Psalm of the Bible, a popular funeral text. The scene is devoid of humans yet the scene is strewn with used cannon balls. Victorian sensibilities dictated that human destruction should not be seen. As Fenton had been sent to the Crimea to raise public support of the war, death was not likely to feature in his work. Instead, the used cannon ball provide a visual metaphor to the many fallen at this location. Ins several ways, what is not shown but alluded to is more important to the image that what is shown.

…in coming to a ravine called the valley of death, the sight passed all imagination: round shot and shell lay like a stream at the bottom of the hollow all the way down, you could not walk without treading upon them… 

Roger Fenton

Two versions of this image exist, one with cannon balls and one without. This is the cause of debate over whether Fenton interacted with the scene and placed the cannon balls himself to enhance his image. Other believe the close grouping of the balls is the result of them being gathered from the surrounding ravine for reuse.

 

Mortar batteries in front of Picquet house Light Division, 1855

The Mortar batteries located at Picquet house show soldiers of the Light Division in a man made defensive position. What is depicted in this scene is a man-made encampment designed to be defended which is in many ways reminiscent of Stokeleigh Camp. Clearly visible in the image is the mounding earth and the placement of collected stone to create a fortified space. This manipulation of space and material is a tactic to enhance what is already present within the landscape and its purpose is to protect the people within it. Although Stokeleigh Camp predates Fentons image by thousands of years, the intention and technique is largely the same.

Also within this image are the photographic abberations present within Fentons wet plate collodion process. The scratches and marks present on the the print add to the utilitarian nature of its content. We now consider these artefacts to be reflective of the era in which it was created as this was once cutting edge technology.

 

Plains of Balaclava, 1856

Fentons use of the wet plate collodion process dictated many factors in his work at the Crimea. Whilst in modern times we have grown accustomed to images of conflict that capture action in a fleeting moment, the use of wet plate has ruled this out. Instead his work is mainly made up of landscapes and posed portrait images.

Plains of Balaclava shows one of the large expansive plains that Crimea is known for. The mist visible in the image could be attributed to smoke generated through gun fire or simply early morning weather, it is the terrain of battle. The resulting image has an eery and atmospheric quality to it. The mist could be considered the rising of the dead to heaven or an air of destruction across the landscape. There is a beauty to this sublime image that causes the viewer to make their own conclusions. It is an enchanting image that challenges the viewer to consider the invisible carnage of the scene.

Critical analysis of the work of Roger Fenton in relation to the work of Sally Mann

I think it is important to recognise the similarities between the work of Roger Fenton and that of Sally Mann. Although captured over one hundred years apart, there are some factors that should be highlighted and compared.

Fentons work in the Crimea was created in 1855 and relates directly to the carnage that happened in that first industrialised war. The work of Sally Mann, although shot in the later half of the nineteenth century onwards, relates to the American civil war of 1861 to 1865. While the comparative works were shot many years apart, they both relate to the bloodshed and turbulence of largely rural communities. The two entirely separate instances of war occurred within a relatively short time of each other.

Another important distinction to establish is that both Fenton and Mann used the same wet plate collodion process to create their images. Fenton, in 1855 was using the wet plate collodion process out of a matter of necessity as this was a modern process in the Victorian era. Sally Mann however made the elective decision to utilise the wet plate process for her Southern American landscapes. Mann has her reasons for selecting this process over a more modern technique, and this decision is largely linked to its abstract qualities and slow process that she required as part of her image making process.

The main difference between the key works of Fenton and Mann is their approach to subject matter. Fenton visited the Crimea to capture war and all its glory for a British public searching for morale boosting news. He was a witness to the bloodshed, and was embedded amongst the action and attempted to record what a Victorian audience wanted to see.  His positioning was by default on the inside looking out.

Sally Mann however had (and continues to have) a differing position of approach. She was not a witness to the American civil war. Capturing the remnants of a long since ended war, Mann’s work positions her as a modern observer. Although she is deeply rooted in the spaces she is capturing, this placement is in a modern context looking and reflecting on bloodshed that happened many years ago. Her approach is historical and the work positions her away from the ancient violence due to the passage of time. She positioning on the outside of the events her work is concerned with and remains looking inward.

Linking to my own practice

I have long been an admirer of the work of Roger Fenton and revisiting his activity in the Crimea has allowed me to make some additional sense of my own practice at Stokeleigh Camp. My own work and that of Fenton share many parallels. The use of large format photography and processes that dictate a slower approach has allowed a more coherent link between the image making process and the landscape being depicted. It is forced upon us to slow down and consider the spaces being photographed.

Aesthetically both bodies of work share similarities, where depth of field and focus is sometimes less than perfect, but that is not important to either body of work. The alluding to war and destruction in Fentons work is comparable to the assumption of human presence on the landscape in my own work.


References

A terrible beauty | Tate. 2019. A terrible beauty | Tate. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/terrible-beauty. [Accessed 06 May 2019].

Roger Fentons photographic processes. 2019. Roger Fentons photographic processes. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.rct.uk/collection/conservation/roger-fentons-photographic-processes. [Accessed 06 May 2019].

http://www.metmuseum.org. 2019. No page title. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rfen/hd_rfen.htm. [Accessed 06 May 2019].

Roger Fenton – 19th Century – Peter Fetterman. 2019. Roger Fenton – 19th Century – Peter Fetterman. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.peterfetterman.com/19th-century/roger-fenton/featured-works?view=slider#2. [Accessed 06 May 2019].

Shoot – 13/4/19

This shoot felt like the hardest work so far of the project. Contrast was a real issue under the bright sunlight and the good weather made the fort unusually busy with people wondering around. It has become quite difficult to recover loose soil required for the integrated mud bath as the ground has hardened and I really do not want to have to damage the ground in this scheduled ancient monument by digging at the earth.

And so it has started to feel like my shooting at Stokeleigh Camp is coming to an end. When I started this project in January the trees were bare and the soft overcast days of winter provided favourable lighting to the paper negative process. As we approach May the days have become much longer and the harsh bright sun of spring is becoming increasingly difficult to shoot in. The previously stark trees are now covered with leaves and the blue skies of spring are nearly impossible to render on photographic paper. And so I have now decided to start focussing on my final outcome and reediting the images I have shot over the last few months.

I have updated my website with some images from the project but from now my attention will be focussed on printing my images for submission. I have decided that I will submit some 12”x16” framed images. The frames will be black and of a low profile with the images mounted to board but without an aperture mount. I feel it is really important to have the border of the images visible to the viewer as I want to express that minimal editing has taken place. Having experimented with different print processes earlier on in this project, I have decided that I will print my images digitally onto Ilford Multigrade black and white paper which is the same paper used in the negative process. The next task over the coming weeks will be to decide which images will make my final selection.


Galley of Images

Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate Printing Experimentation

As potential alternative to the Ilford silver based prints I have already experimented with, I have also investigated the options of Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate prints as alternative means of producing my final outcomes. I have worked with basic Cyanotype printing many times before with my own students but Gum Bichromate printing was entirely new to me.

During a university workshop I used an acetate negative to produce both basic Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate prints. The acetate I used was from a previous location project but this provided an interesting comparison across the two types of prints.

My initial conclusion was that the bright blue of the Cyanotype did not lend itself to the predominantly dark images shot at Stokeleigh Camp. The Gum Bichromate with its brown pigment provided a more relevant outcome for my current project. The possibly of incorporating the soil samples I had collected at the camp was a real attraction as one of my primary aims with the Stokeleigh Camp project was creating a link between the space and the final outcome.

Moving forward I created a new acetate negative of one of my images at Stokeleigh Camp. I made a basic Cyanotype print of it again onto heavy watercolour paper. Referring back to the brown of the Gum Bichromate test print I had previously made, I found this aesthetic fitted my images better. I decided to tone the new Cyanotype print in a mixture of Tea and recovered soil in an attempt to recreate this aesthetic. This outcome created a strong link to the camp and provided an outcome with the location embedded into the print.

This has been a really worthwhile and enjoyable exercise but I feel it is not the right technique for producing my final images for the Stokeleigh Camp project. The Ilford silver prints have a more detailed and refined print quality that I believe this project demands. Thinking further forward to my next project, I am keen to extend my work on incorporating agency between location and final outcome. The print making processes I have experimented with could be a really strong starting point. This experience has made me consider shooting some seascape images and recovering seawater from the location to later use in a printing process. This is just an initial thought but a very exciting one at that.

The ultimate physical feel and texture of the heavy watercolour paper was the main issue for me as I find it too far removed from the refined print quality of the silver based print I had previously decided was to be the likely basis for my outcome. The lack of image definition also plays a key part in my decision. As the images were shot in a large format in the first place, it feels like the more abstract qualities of Cyanotype and Gum Bichromate prints take away a lot of the detail captured in the paper negatives. In conclusion, I am likely to continue with the Ilford silver based prints for the final submission of my Stokeleigh Camp project but remain enthusiastic to revisit this area of print making for a further project.

Martin Newth – Sentinel

Martin Newth is an artist working in London and a graduate from the Slade School of Art.

His project Sentinel explores World War Two Pillboxes placed within the British Landscape that where build between 1940 and 1945. The work culminated in an exhibition first displayed at George and Jørgen, London in 2011. The work unites monochrome external photography, video installations and utilising the Pillboxes as cameras. The project explores the relationship between Pillboxes and the spaces they occupy, notions of the picturesque and sublime, and ideas of landscape and memory that underpin photography and vision. The photographic images within the exhibition culminated as a book.

 

The Thames at Dartford

 

The Thames at Dartford is C-type print in monochrome. The image shows a Pillbox in Dartford, Kent which is clearly an urban space. The surrounding area to the front of the Pillbox is overgrown, adding to the notion that this is a forgotten space. In the background it is clear that this Pillbox is located in an industrial area that was once of strategic importance. To the left of the image appears to be a river, probably the River Thames which could explain this locations importance. Placed behind the Pillbox the viewer can see modern lamp posts, and the framing of this image has almost centred one coming out of the roof. This metaphorically suggests that this particular Pillbox is highly important, in the same way a monarch would fly a flag over their residence to assert importance.

 

The Thames at Dartford

 

This image is again a black and white C-Type print of an unrecorded location. The Pillbox is situated on a beach or mud bank or an estuary, again probably in relation to the River Thames.

This image spells out a sense of isolation, as the Pillbox stands alone in scene with just the water featuring in the background. An interesting element to this particular image is the erosion visible to the right of the Pillbox. It seems probable that the rising tide has slowly eaten away at the ground underneath the once solid and secure building, thereby rendering it like to collapse and fall apart. Much how memories of the soldiers who where once stationed within the confines of this space are likely to be fading over time, so is the material presence of the building that housed those memories.

 

Sentinel – Medway 1

 

Together with the monochrome exterior images of Pillboxes, Newth also developed the Sentinel project to repurpose the Pillboxes to be utilised as cameras. The aim was to record the view from the fortified slits from within the Pillboxes. By blocking the slit holes and mounting a lens facing outwards, Newth projected images into the interior of the Pillboxes and recorded these images on to colour photographic paper as a negative.

Colour paper when exposed to white light renders a magenta or red image. This particular panoramic triptych shows the view from three horizontal defensive slits which roughly align with each other. The vista is sublime in that it represents an unparalleled view of the river, this would be a very disable view to behold. The red fogging of the negatives again suggest a dream like reality of the river and is reminiscent of the interior of a war time submarine.The concept of memory of the landscape is also presented. Perhaps the river was once used by submarines when the Pillbox was serving its build purpose. This is the defensive view that this space once defended.

 

Redend Point, 2011. 3 single channel HD video projection

 

 

In addition to the photographic representations of Pillboxes within the Sentinel Project, Newth also created video installations. Many Pillboxes were purposefully placed at coastal locations, with the intention of defeating enemy invaders before they landed. Many of these Pillboxes have suffered from coastal erosion over the passage of time. The Pillbox at Redend Point, Dorset has experienced particular coastal erosion and is slowly giving up to the water that it once protected. The angled view of the screens represents the slowly collapsing pillbox as the ground beneath it gives way with the video camera replacing gun. The videos depict the slow, persistent rhythm of the sea which again represents the slow decline of the structure.

 


 

Linking to my own practice

I have very much enjoyed studying the Sentinel Project and has come away with some ideas to develop my Stokeleigh Camp project further at a later point. The use of video is something I have yet to explore, but I am now able to consider it in context.

Newth’s use of colour photographic paper to make negative images shares some similar ideas to my own work. While Newth’s work depict red, negative images images my own paper negatives are black and white. There is a well considered link between the red images and the spaces they show. The dream like images have a strong suggestion of war time that creates an agency between the negatives and the locations they depict. My own paper negatives create a similar agency between space and printed outcome in terms of the embedding of ancient soil into the negative process.

The exterior images Newth created share a similar sense of melancholy represented in many of my own images. The overlooked and forgotten location of Stokeleigh Camp was once heralded with such importance that it was fortified to be defended from others in exactly the same way the locations of Newth’s Pillboxes were considered. From this I have taken some reassurance that my concept for the Stokeleigh Camp project is sound.


References 

Martin Newth. 2019. Martin Newth. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.martinnewth.com. [Accessed 31 March 2019].

ArtRabbit. 2019. Sentinel (South) Martin Newth + Pippa Oldfield – Exhibition at Arts University Bournemouth in Poole. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.artrabbit.com/events/sentinel-south-martin-newth-pippa-oldfield. [Accessed 31 March 2019].

Shoot – 23/3/19

Continuing with the project I returned to Stokeleigh Camp on Saturday the 23rd of March. I visited very early in the morning in bright sunshine and near cloudless blue skies. I was already well aware that the blue skies would cause some problems as the paper is especially sensitive to blue light and tends to render them over exposed. I am quite happy with the images I shot however and am really pleased with the aesthetic I am getting. Moving forward from feedback from my previous shoot, I specifically shot some double exposures which have created a really interesting outcome and a denser negative. I did manage to fall down the largest rampart and injured myself in the process, but again this is in a way linking me as artist to the space I am working in. The space I am working in is now physically affecting me.

On Monday I returned to the darkroom to process the negatives and it was pretty obvious I was going to be having some issues with extreme contrast despite the pre-flashing I had done before loading the slides. Again, I continued with my additional “mud bath” which is adding to the notion of linking space to outcome. The effect of the mud is subtle, but certainly an integral part of the development process. Additionally, my slight laziness in handling the exposed paper with damp hands has a tendency to increase the presence of finger prints on the negatives which again is an element I am keen to preserve in my final images.

The overriding theme as this project develops is the clear link between me as artist and the manmade location I am photographing. I am really keen to research and develop further the notion of space, artist and outcome being interlinked. The presence of my fingerprints and the scratches on my negatives are allowing me to establish agency between myself and the hill fort, while the inclusion of minute amounts of soil matter from the fort create a further forensic link to the location itself.

There is a particular aesthetic that I am now getting which is especially reminiscent of the Collodion wet plate process used by Sally Mann. The multiple exposure images and those that have scanned particularly dark seem to be more successful than the cleaner, more perfect exposures.

As I move forward with this project, I find the idea of less than perfect exposures and almost deliberate carelessness seem to create the visual aesthetic I am aiming for. Perhaps another way of explaining this would be to say that “perfect” images from good exposures have become less important to the project, where as integration of location and artist are of more value. Coming from a commercial background where perfection in images is paramount, this recoding of approach is a refreshing and exciting idea to be part of.


Gallery of Images


Additional experimental images

In addition to my paper negative work, I also recovered some small bits of plant foliage to experiment with. I made one Lumen print and two Cyanotypes with the plants. This is not an area I am really interested in pursuing further at this point as I am focussed on the paper negative process. I may choose to revisit these images at a later point though.

Shoot – 13/3/19

My third shoot was technically a bit of a failure yet I don’t mind. I managed to pre-flash the paper with the enlarger wide open instead of stoping it down to F.8. The resulting images where overly flat, but they have been rescued with some additional contrast being added. I have also managed to expose one negative twice, and therefor did not expose one at all. Of all the images I am most pleased with this accidental double exposure as this is getting close to the wet-plate aesthetic of Sally Mann that I was trying to emulate.

During this shoot I had decided to move away slightly from the obvious views of the towering ramparts of the camp and instead focussed more on the detail of the landscape. I believe there is a place for both of these types of image within the project but felt that this area needed to be addressed. My next shoot will contain a mixture of both.

New to this set of images is the additional processing phase of the muddy water bath I have introduced in the darkroom. This has created further scratches on the images resulting from the wet emulsion, but more importantly it is adding an element of location materiality to the images. I hope this process is achieving agency between three factors; myself as artist, the space I am shooting and the ancient human scared landscape. This is something I am trying to introduce having researched the work of Chrystel Lebas whose work is concerned with the discourse between herself as artist,  the historical and human factors of the spaces she works in.

Overall I am really pleased with where this project is going and the results I am getting. I am trying really hard to not order some more silver based test prints from Ilford for now. This is a decision purely based on cost. Over the coming weeks I will set myself a deadline to end the shooting phase so that I can concentrate on re-editing and printing my selected images. In the meantime, I will have to hold my nerve and avoid temptation.


Gallery of Images


Double exposure disaster or experimental happy accident?

This is the negative I managed to accidentally expose twice. It might not be so clear to the viewer but I can see the puddle of water and the stack of cuttings in the foreground don’t quite match as they are from entirely different scenes. I am however very pleased with this image. There is a dream-like quality to the image reminiscent to the Sally Mann wet-plate work I have been researching. The dense shadows are similar to the shadows achieved with uneven coating of collodion. I am also pleased in the sense that I feel I have managed to capture the space as I see it, evidence of recent humanity on the landscape in terms of clipped branches and the puddle actually being the ditch of a flooded rampart.

I will continue with some double exposed paper negatives as achieving this aesthetic is an area I would like to develop the project in.

Field Studies – Chrystel Lebas

Chrystel Lebas was commissioned by the Natural History Museum in 2011 to create a new body of landscape work after the discovery of 1400 glass negatives in the museum archives. It transpired that the collection discovered at the museum was created by Sir Edward James Salisbury (1886 – 1978) who was a Botanist, Ecologist and Photographer.

Lebas set about retracing the routes taken by Salisbury and chose to capture her work on a large format camera using film. The collection of images Lebas shot sits alongside Salisbury’s original topographic studies and creates a discourse between the historical relationship humans, plants and the environment have.

The images are fascinating to view, some record an exact location as it once was and as it exists now along with the various adjustments nature and human being have made over time. Other images record a similarity to the originals created by Salisbury depicting details of plant species in approximated locations. This collection of photographs has allowed the photographer to define her role alongside Salisbury, where art and photography meet science and history.

 

This pairing of images depicts Ben Vorlich from Glen Loin, Salibury’s image captured in 1928 and Lebas’ image captured in 2013. It is an incredible record of how the scene has changed in little under 100 years. The foreground shows a sparse woodland area in the 2013 image while the 1928 version shows a clear mountain view. The modern version also shows a how human interaction on the landscape has seen the development of managed woodland that once stood as a lone tree. The older image shows a lack of contrast and marks of uneven development, unimportant to the original creator as this image was shot merely as a historical record.

 

Within this pairing of images the location of Rothiemurchs Fen View is depicted. Lebas has selected to use a panoramic camera to record the scene as it today which extends on Salisbury’s original historical record. By creating this comparison Lebas has linked herself to the scene as an artist where Salisbury made the link as a scientist. The images are contrasted by the sight of the original tree now fallen, and the two adjacent trees nearby depicted as mature examples. The original version of the scene once again has its unique historical imperfections, a result of early twentieth century photographic process.

Context within my own practice

These images are a record of the passing of time. Within the timeframe given, we are able to see the changes made to the landscape by both nature and by human action.

Within my own work I am hoping to record similar concepts. The passage of time is made visible by the ever-encroaching development that nature has on the landscape. In comparison, the human-made scars on the space of Stokeleigh Camp remain clearly evident. Perhaps disguised by nature and dumbed down by thousands of years of naturally occurring sediment, but still very much visible within the landscape.

I am especially interested in the discourse this body of work produces. The relationship between humans and the landscape is something my own work is centered around, and I like the way Chrystel Lebas has linked herself as an artist to the landscape by creating a record of the spaces she visited as they appear right now. I am interested in making my own link to the area of Stokeleigh Camp by continuing to record it using the paper negative process.­­­


References

Chrystellebas.com. (2019). chrystel lebas home. [online] Available at: http://chrystellebas.com/Re-visiting/re-visiting.htm [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].

YouTube. (2019). Looking at past habitats through a modern lens | Natural History Museum. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxtrOsFnvq0 [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].

S; Hagan, S. (2019). Field Studies by Chrystel Lebas review – a photographic journey into the UK’s wild places. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jul/24/field-studies-chrystel-lebas-photographic-journey-britain-wild-places-plants [Accessed 18 Mar. 2019].

Processing to final prints

The whole process involved in shooting large format paper negatives has been a steep learning curve.

My first shoot involved exposing 4×5 sized pieces of Ilford Multigrade paper loaded into dark slides in the dark room before finally shooting it in a large format camera. I quickly realised that this resulted in a problem with excessive contrast and that the paper is especially sensitive to blue light, rendering any hint of blue sky hugely over exposed. To mitigate this I have experimented further with pre-flashing the paper to lower its contrast. The experiment involving this has resulted in a fair amount of wasted time and paper, but finally I found a decent combination that delivered a good result. I am settled on pre-flashing the paper for 2 seconds at F.8 prior to loading into dark slides. I also resolved that exposing at ISO 2 instead of ISO 6 which I had researched online presented a better result.

The images I was getting have plenty of imperfections which I feel add to the aesthetic of the process. The most exciting of these are my own finger prints visible on the negatives. I like the idea that each negative is unique and is linking to me as its creator. Serendipity is the word that best describes this discovery! I could work to limit the artefacts visible on the negatives, but I find the marks they add build on the aesthetic of the paper negative process.

Once negatives are exposed, the darkslides are returned to the darkroom for dish processing. Again, through a process of trial and error I have decided that development by inspection is the best process to opt for as many of the negatives need to be removed from the developer at exactly the correct moment to avoid too denser images. I have read about creating my own Developer using the Caffinol C recipe online which is a developer home-brew. Mixing cheap instant Coffee, crushed Vitamin C and Soda Crystals can create a weak one-shot developer. I am yet to experiment with this as I have a load of premixed developer to exhaust first.

Incorporating the landscape into the printing process

This moves me forward to the next area of project. I decided that it would be interesting to attempt to incorporate part of the landscape within the images. Having researched how Sally Mann feels linked to the images she produces, I was keen to develop a similar strategy.

On my last shoot I recovered a small amount of loose soil from the camp and I have recently experimented with mixing dissolved soil into the photographic chemicals. This has enhanced the scratches already present in the process and again builds on the aesthetic. While the negatives are wet and processing, the emulsion remains soft and so tiny particles of the soil become embedded within the images. While this feature is subtle, I am pleased to be able to incorporate a tiny fragment of the spaces being photographed into the final images in some way. I have found the best way to incorporate the soil is to add a muddy wash stage prior to final wash and drying. 

Once the negatives are dried the next dilemma presents itself. Initially I tried contact printing the 5×4 negatives, but this was not hugely successful. The images do not print well as the final image is printed through the paper backing of the negative and therefore makes them much harder to print. I have read about treating the paper with hot Bee’s wax to make the backing more opaque, but this is an experiment I decided not to pursue. The reason for this is that the resulting final 5×4 contact print will still be only 5×4 inches in size and I want to create large exhibition prints for this submission.

With this in mind, I have been scanning the 5×4 negatives on an Epson flatbed scanner and creating digital files to output from. Whilst not ideal, this process does give me the opportunity to enlarge the images to a size I am happy with. I am committed to limiting the amount of digital manipulation of the files as I want them to remain authentically analogue based.

Test Prints

For many years I have experimented with print output processes using my own images and those I have shot commercially. The thing with digital monochrome prints is that they have never looked quite right. I have used the Inkjet Giclee process many times with various types of different paper. Many of the papers available have characteristics which add to an image, but there was never anything that matched a true monochrome print. They all seem to lack depth or shadow areas become flat and muddy. A cheaper alternative was to print black and white images on to RA4 colour paper using the C-Type process. This is a cost effective option but the papers available tend to have a plastic feel that does not match that of a traditional black and white wet print. The other factor with the C-type process is that by using colour paper there is always a slight hint of colour in the prints.

Finally I discovered that Ilford now have an online printing service where users can upload images to print in just the same way as any other professional printing lab would. The crucial difference here is that Ilford will print on to their own Ilford Multi Grade Monochrome paper therefore delivering a true black and white print of a digital file. The costs are comparable with professional C-Type prints but the results are neutral in colour and without the synthetic feel of colour paper.

I have had some test prints made by Ilford and I am delighted with the results. The images look so much better on authentic black and white paper. Whilst the process I am using within this project does include some digital processing, I am thrilled to be able to output to true monochrome paper. The print quality is beautiful in comparison to other processes so I can safely say I have settled on my method of final output.

Top two 10×8 images printed on Fuji Crystal Archive RA4 colour paper, bottom three 10×8 on Ilford Multi Grade paper. Not clear to see from a quick photograph but the difference is significant.