I have had eight images published at Eastern Sierra Center for Photography’s website in their “Paradigmatic Nudes” gallery online. Most of these images you’ve seen here before on my blog. The images featured are my whole-plate sized gum bichromate prints of Philip, a model I’ve worked with and my Type 55 Polaroid 4×5 format shots of my friend Jose. I’d like to give a big shout-out to Laura Campbell, their curator and director, for repeatedly selecting my work and having faith in my creative vision. Please go check out their website and see the entire gallery.
Meet Hans Zeeldieb, the street photographer working outside the Pompidou Centre. He was set up with his vintage 5×7, paper negatives, and portable darkbox doing portraits for 15 Euros a pop. He shot and developed them on the spot in 15 minutes. We struck up a friendly conversation when I saw his camera and he saw mine and talked a lot about photography. He sent me down the street a few blocks to the Centre Iris to go see an exhibit of wet plate collodion images by Jacques Cousin and several of his students, as well as some work by my friend Quinn Jacobson. Several years ago, I was involved in a gallery space in Hyattsville, Maryland called Art Reactor, where I curated a show of photographs made using the whole plate format*, and Quinn was one of the artists I selected. I think I made Hans a little nervous, as he overexposed the image of me. He did capture a good expression of me though, so I was happy to support a fellow working photographer.
In the first photo, I caught Hans with his hands in the darkbox, processing a print. The way it works, he exposes a paper negative in the camera, then develops it in the box. After the negative is developed, he sandwiches it with another piece of paper, opens a window in the dark box to expose it again, and processes the second paper, which now has a positive image. There are several advantages to this process – by working with paper, the development and fixing is much faster than with film, and you can use the same chemistry for both your negative and your finished print. I’ve seen or read about other itinerant photographers using much the same technique around the world, from Madrid to Kabul.
Here is a portrait of Hans outside the Pompidou Centre, just a close-up this time without the camera in the frame. He seems a little lost in thought – I think he was counting time for the print he was developing.
* Whole Plate format is the original photographic format, defined today as 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches. It is not entirely certain how this size was chosen by Daguerre as the plate size he wanted to use, but reasonable speculation ties it to book printer’s printing plates. It has varied in its specification over time, but it settled on the 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 size by the late 19th century.
Just came across this post on The Online Photographer (a great blog if you’re not familiar with it):
Although I do not consider my Whole Plate cameras to be “Single Use Devices”, I am truly in love with the format and am very happy to shoot with it, and even moreso to find another member of the (very small) whole plate clan.
Three recent gum bichromate prints. Gum bichromate is perhaps the most labor-intensive photographic process because it involves building an image, one layer of pigment at a time. Most gum images need at least two layers, but often three or four are a minimum. Even working rapidly, you can only do about two layers a day. Gum is one of those processes that is all about the choices you make adding up to a finished product. All three images are whole-plate size images, 6.5 by 8.5 inches. Whole plate is the original photographic format, having been designed by Louis Daguerre for his first camera. Whole plate has a long and varied history, having come in and out of fashion repeatedly. It is enjoying a small modern-day renaissance not only for its historical echoes but for its aesthetically pleasing proportions and relative size.
This first image is a gum over Ziatype. Ziatype is a printing-out version of Palladium. A printing out process is one where the image is fully formed during exposure, and does not need a chemical developer to produce a final image. Ziatypes are really neat because they offer a very wide range of contrast, color and tonality depending on how you mix the chemistry. I do the Ziatype under the gum to start with a sharp base image with well-defined shadows and midtones. The gum builds on top to add physical texture and create color.
The second image is a pure gum image, with only two layers, black and blue. As you can see, it is possible to create a successful gum image with only two layers of pigment. I manipulated the layers to bring out the blue color and the detail in the hair.
The final image is a four layer gum bichromate. It is a pretty accurate representation of the model’s actual skin color, but it is made from a single black-and-white negative. I worked it over with a watercolor brush during the printing process to bring out the highlights on the model’s back.