Extraordinary the Disconnect

“Photography is a marvelous discovery,[...] a science that engages the most elevated intellects, an art that sharpens the wits of the wisest souls – and the practical application of which lies within the capacity of the shallowest imbecile.”

Felix Nadar (1820 - 1910) Balloonist and photographer.

Tasks: week 4 - 10

Teaser; The Pivot of my Intention

"As for Vertov, Mochu cites the Soviet filmmaker’s contemporaries Georges Méliès, Segundo de Chomón and later Dadaist and Surrealist collage films as stronger influences, as well as Chris Marker and certain essay films from Orson Welles, David Blair and Jean-Luc Godard, which extend the Vertovian tradition and, while sustaining a documentary layer, also employ a heavy layer of trick imagery and effects”

Clip on lenses
Selfie stick

Editing suite - imovie.

Storyboard ideas: Locations: darkroom, plein air.

Use wide angle and fisheye lenses, to make more interesting pictures.

(Photo tricks can make points - perception, perspective, perceptive reality. What you see or feel vs what you know. Emotive vs factual.)

The teaser to my Major Project

At last some good weather !!! Films loaded, rucksack packed and off up Carn Gelli.

'The Greatest Movie Never Made', of course that was 'Napoleon' by Stanley Kubrick, an obsessive study of Napoleon's mind by the great genius of cinema, it probably would have been his masterwork but sadly it was never realised.


I have purchased the book by Alison Castle; "Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon". It is a hefty volume and documents his research, planning and innovations, a stunning document to the detail and depth of the illustrious auteur's dedication to his craft. Most inspiring!

Although Kubrick did not get to make the epic "Napoleon" he did go on to make the saga of "Barry Lyndon" in 1975, as this was set during the Seven Years War he was able to use some of his previous research. I have watched the film several times and purchased a copy of the film on DVD to study in more detail.

It is exciting to note that in order for the beautiful low light candlelit scenes to be shot, Kubrick employed cameras specially developed by NASA.

Research and Thinking

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I do need to keep constantly researching throughout the project as it most definitely informs my practice and makes it stronger.

David Lynch Interview:

"I always say that people are like detectives and our lives are filled with clues. Some people wonder and look around and they take what they see and try to figure out what it all means. And they reach different conclusions. We are all like detectives, trying to figure out the meaning of life. And the same thing goes for film. You want to find a meaning – at least some people do. But now the world goes so fast. It’s just screaming on the surface loudly. And there’s not that much time for people to contemplate things and daydream and ponder.

(On the pandemic) It has slowed things down and people come face-to-face with themselves and it’s scary. People are going nuts and they’re looking for any entertainment or any kind of thing to escape just being by themselves and thinking about things. And we’re all sorta like that. It’s really tough to be on your own. Because it causes something to happen. Things slow down and you find yourself with yourself. But I think something really good is gonna come on the other side of this pandemic and all the changes that are going on. A good time is coming for us all.

You work all day. I mean, if you were to see me, the actual working-working might not be that much, but the thinking goes on all day long.

I struggle like crazy with painting. It’s like mining gold. You hit a vein and for a while, you’re just bringing in the gold. Then the vein runs out and you hope there’s more gold, but you’re digging through rock and there’s just no gold. And you keep digging and then eventually you find it. But it’s tough going from one vein to another. And that has happened many times with a painting, where I burned out that last vein and I’m looking for the next gold. But every medium is different. Every medium is infinitely deep and every medium will talk to you. Once you start working in that medium, it starts talking to you and it teaches you how it works and what it does. And then ideas start flowing in that particular medium."


Blitz Spirit

I stumbled across this BBC program presented by Lucy Worsley: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000sm7s

Interestingly it flagged up staged photographs that twist perceptual reality. During the Blitz of 1940/41 it had been common practice to doctor photographs for propaganda purposes, but only in the decades after the war has this been acknowledged.

There is one famous and very striking photo of a milkman trotting over the rubble in particular. This was taken by the photographer Fred Morely, the 'milkman' was his assistant equipped with the necessary props. The intention was to show the devastation but get past the censors with a plucky morale boosting slant.

'Collidingscape' Marquette Plans

As suggested in my proposal; "How are our perceptions affected by being boxed in during lock down? Looking inwards, perhaps a box diorama containing mirrors, objects and lights, maybe transparencies, painted surfaces that is viewed by looking into it. That because of the internal reflected surfaces reads as a 'tardis', transmitting back the photographic reproductions of perceptual reality and sapience in the human mind kaleidoscopically as a 'Collidingscape'."

I brought up the idea of a 'Collidingscape' as a method of displaying my work at our exhibition during my presentation and Cath suggested that I consider some marquettes.

My first plan is a basic mirror box as per the above sketch, that gives the illusion of a greater depth of field, 'Tardis' like.

Second plan a 'Peppers Ghost Box' that reflects an image off glass that looks 'ghostly'.

Third plan is a basic kaleidoscope that reflects and jumbles objects and or images.

First Shots

My use of model soldiers originally came from an idea I was discussing with my father; as a child during WW2 he told me that my grandfather had returned on leave from Germany with among other loot, some painted lead model soldiers. My father had set these up and photographed them with his Brownie Box camera. Sadly neither the photos, soldiers or camera have survived. So I was knocked out when I discovered the work of Jake and Dinos Chapman, they have taken the staging of model soldiers to the grotesque and macabre, most notably in their installations 'Hell' 1999 and 'Fucking Hell' 2008.

This in turn informed my dissertation:

"There is an excerpt later during Kerley’s film where Peter Kennard explains that in order to create some imagery for anti war posters, he went to Hamleys toy shop and purchased model rockets, to later smash and photograph. His general idea is to create a debate around topical themes, and in order to keep the budget low, will often use inexpensive props. This use of toy models has since been taken to another level with the work of Jake and Dinos Chapman in their extensive installation “Hell”, 1999, although sadly destroyed during an East London warehouse fire in 2004, the remake “Fucking Hell”, 2008 can still be viewed. The Chapman’s first installation comprised 60,000 model Nazi soldiers all torturing each other in various horrific ways. The scale seems immense, that is until you realise that 60,000 executions was just a day's work for the SS back in 1944." Mark Stewart-Deane, Dissertation 2021

I started staging WW2 1/32 scale model soldiers and some Napoleonic soldiers of the same scale in the landscape, up a rocky outcrop a short distance from where I live called Carn Gelli, there are great views and lots of nooks and crannies. My tutor Peter Bodenham asked if my use of Napoleonic figures had anything to do with my square mile; after all Caragwasted Bay, known also as French Camp is within walking distance of where I live, and is the landing site of the infamous 'Last French Invasion' of 1797. I discovered that the French set up a look out post at Carn Gelli and this had already become my chosen location. A place haunted by ghosts of the past, tormented by an uncertain future...

I moved onto using 'Action' men; 1/12 scale figures, they have movable limbs and can be set up as I wish, rather than restricted to the poses of the smaller solid model soldiers. The trick is to get them into poses were they might look like real people, not just dolls, it is painstaking and can be quite subtle.

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Some further developments; a set of back up shots for my pinhole cameras with various models, in pretty good sunshine.

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An emerging theme that just sprang into my head while contemplating a burnt out circuit board I had to replace... 'Something was wrong with reality, the menders are trying to fix it'

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I made an experimental camera from just darkroom paper and gaffa tape, continuing on my box/ cube theme. The exposed paper did get slightly damaged when picking it apart, so I made a small box for the folded paper to go into that can be reused. Odin's tesseract was scorched as it entered earth's atmosphere...

Musings on Perception

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Perception is said to occur in five stages: stimulation, organization, interpretation, memory and recall.

Alan Saks explains that there are three vital elements complicit in perception: the perceiver, the target, and the situation. It is the perceiver who interprets the stimuli.

Perception is visual, auditory, olfactory, haptic and even gustatory. It is the sensory experience of the world, recognising and responding to stimuli critical for survival.

Organising and interpreting perceptions is what gives meaning to a persons environment and forms their reality; behaviour is based upon the perception of reality.

“Perception is reality” is a phrase coined by the political consultant, Lee Atwater. What he means is that facts are not important, if you can get people to believe something it does not matter if it is not true, it becomes fact, so perception is more powerful and important than reality.

Perception is a lens through which reality is viewed. The assumption is that how we perceive reality is an accurate representation of what reality actually is.

Richard Gregory's constructivist theory of perception argues that past knowledge and experience (cultural values?) have an important influence, further proposing perception works by making reasonable guesses about stimuli to interpret what it is most likely to be.

Quantum physicists examining reality are finding that everything is energy on all levels, which makes reality itself a very persistent illusion.

To the Darkroom and Beyond...

After three days on location shooting film and paper, I spent a day in the darkroom tweaking my processes. I managed at last to begin to come up with some workable colour reversal prints as well as some useful black and white ones. I spend another day scanning, adjusting and photocopying to create the following galleries.

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In the above carousel I first experimented with scanning the raw photos in batches with both my inkjet and laser printers varying the quality of print on photo paper.

In this carousel I have bunched together all the black and white photos, some from negative paper, others from direct positive paper.

After reading a few online forums on the subject and studying 'The Caffenol Cookbook & Bible' (see bib), using a different recipe, better ingredients, accurate measuring and temperatures we tried again with caffenol to develop my films.

Bingo! The first film came out well, so then I went for it big time, 2 x 35mm films and 6 sheets of 4x5, delighted with the results below!

The Immersive Peripheral

I was first inspired to work with super wide angles and panoramas after visiting those famous symbols of peace, Monet's 'Water Lilies', 1927 at the Orangerie in Paris, and this has stayed with me on and off throughout my various degree projects. I believe that this kind of format is an excellent way for me of not only conveying the enormity of landscape, but also the size of the problem, scale, the fragility of all life perched on a rock flying through space and time.

For the exhibition I think I would like to find a way of projecting endless panoramas, continuous stories without beginnings, middles or ends; cyclic information loops.

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Lomo Spinner 360 camera, 100asa Fomapan developed with home made caffenol recipe, scanned and adjusted CS4.

Sprocket holes are contentious, they have been seen as both a statement of analogue authenticity and also as a gimmick that can be 'Photo shopped' onto digital photographs that may lack something. I feel that they are no more or less than any other photo trickery, regardless if they are in or out of fashion.

My original reasons for including sprocket holes was to describe 'establishing shots' as in a moving picture film. I had begun during my Independent Project just photographing the visual purity of the landscape I was working in, to give a feel of telling a story, before adding staged models.

I think that Visual art has always had something to do with storytelling, and although the avant-garde rejected the figurative in the twentieth century, it has seen a comeback in contemporary art.

Eventually I started not to notice the sprocket holes any longer as they have just become part of these photographs. The panoramas can be sparse and have areas with nothing but landscape and sprocket holes as clues, the viewer has to pan to see the figures, so the story unfolds.

The other wide angle shots I take with the sprockets showing I see as movie stills, they have plenty of action packed into them through the pinhole and water filled lens used, that seems to jam information onto the negative.

Now I leave the sprocket holes in all the 35mm film I use, I like the idea of showing that the photograph is analogue and was developed by myself, not sent to a lab.

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Pinhole camera with water filled ‘Sutton’ lens, Ilford fp4 125asa, developed with home made caffenol recipe, scanned and adjusted CS4.

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4x5 homemade pinhole camera, 100asa film developed with home made caffenol recipe, scanned and adjusted CS4.

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In the above carousel is my first attempt with colour film: (expired) Vericolor III S 160 iso shot with Vemeer 120 pinhole camera, processed with C41 chemicals.

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Above: first colour 35mm film, Kodak Gold 200 asa shot in 360 Lomo spinner, developed with C41 chemicals. As with all my pinhole devices both this camera and the Vermeer do not have view finders, sometimes it can be tricky to line up shots, although I think that hands accidentally included in the shots actually enhance the photos, 'The Hand of the Artist', blurring the illusion of perceptual reality still further.

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In the carousel on the left are all the adjusted colour reversal photos. These were all taken on colour darkroom paper with my home made 4x5 pinhole camera using filtration and long exposures. I can still improve on these and am looking forward to do so. Some of them are looking like paintings from the romantic era, this was not intentional, but I like it!

I have been struggling with working out the reciprocity failure curves of photo paper that is heavily filtered, but luckily I have stumbled upon some software that will now take care of that for me so with my next shoot there should be a marked improvement in the exposure and quality.

I have just purchased a dedicated high resolution photo scanner that will also help improve the results.

Collidingscape Generator Construction and other Logistics

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Design and construction of a 5 inch square Collidingscape Generator and how to get double bubble from one sheet of 16 x 20 darkroom paper.

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In order to be able to change out the collidingscape generators in the field, i had to make a couple of custom light safe envelopes. Using some left over damp proofing material, complete with velcro closings and one specially marked with an extra strip of velcro so it can be identified as the "exposed" envelope within the changing bag.

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At last the ‘Deanocam Superoire’ a pinhole collidingscape generator for colour darkroom paper that accepts filters which can be changed externally!!!

Another day spent making templates and collidingscapes...

Props Department

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Research for Napoleonic uniforms

Cathy helping me make reasonably authentic Napoleonic uniforms from Action Man bundles, job lots and busbys from some old felt.

Our Napoleonic sailor, looks like a bit of a bruiser!

Romanticism, Philosophy and Photography

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Although the romantic style emerged in this project accidentally, I am drawn very strongly now to this style. Particularly elements of composition, colour palette and atmosphere.

I will consider the work of Francisco Goya, Théodore Géricault and Eugene Delacroix when composing my next set of photographs as I think that could make the conceptual context even stronger, raising more questions of perception and reality.

Are these photographs of paintings? Are these photographs trying to be paintings?

Of course chemical photography was not quite invented by this era, but could images viewed through a camera obscura in use during this period have actually looked something like my photographs to the artists?

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During my research I came across these incredible hand coloured photos of veterans from the Napoleonic wars posing in their old uniforms after the invention of photography. (Pintrest)

This reminded me of Roland Barthes' interest in photography. "tinged with necrophilia … a fascination with what has died but is represented as wanting to be alive”.

It is widely acknowledged that the brightly coloured informs of the Napoleonic era were not only designed to be intimidating but also a method for commanders to identify and direct their troops on confusing smokey battlefields.

That some armies uniforms became ever more extravagant was partly due to the vanity of rulers, an expensive obsession more important even than training or other vital considerations and logistics, which the soldiers themselves often had to fund.

The adage ‘war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’, said to date from the First World War. Perhaps taking long exposures of my model soldiers doing nothing, reflecting tension and possible reality of actual soldiers experiences. As opposed to what is portrayed in the epic staged representations of the romantic era paintings.

With Barthes' anecdote fresh in my mind, I was stopped in my tracks when discovering 'Dead Troops Talk', 1992 by Jeff Wall; a staged life photograph I found in Michael Fried's book 'Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before', 2012, suggested to me by my tutor Amanda Blake.

The realism of the photo itself coupled with the opposite of that which is the image, makes the message so incredibly powerful. The hypernormalisation of extreme violence.

Alternative worlds are depicted on different levels and within the same space, no one is looking out of the picture, the viewer does not exist.

In the romantic tradition models have been posed by the artist to recreate a scene (although I understand that Wall digitally stitched several posed photos together).

The Persistent Illusion of Reality

In the next sets of photographs there feature five model soldiers, the number is by no means random. It was by chance that my hand appeared in one of the earlier panorama shots, but this planted a seed in my mind, the artists hand at work, the five model soldiers now each representing a digit.

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The colour is getting better but the framing is a bit out. This can be a problem sometimes no viewfinders, especially as with more subjects in the frame and compounded by trying to achieve a 'Romantic' pyramid or triangular composition; there is this vertical axis as well as the horizontal axis.

2nd colour film Vermeer 120mm f 300 - expired Vericolour III 160 iso, processed with C41 chemicals, scanned and adjusted in CS4

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'Good Comrades'

The soldiers rarely look in the viewers direction, if they do they are not aware of the viewers presence they are always looking beyond.

First colour film through the Sutton water filled lens pinhole 35mm f 168 - expired Kodak 200asa processed with C41 chemicals, scanned and adjusted in CS4

It is quite difficult juggling the troops, getting them to stand still etc !!!

Ready to start using in date film now; I have procured 10 rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 asa both 120 mm and 35 mm. Hopefully the finer grain of this film will enhance enlargements for the exhibition, but also 'harmonise' the colour, so that photos from different formats could be used in the same series for the exhibition.


Caffenol Direct Positive B&W print: Tin can pinhole camera f 250 developed with Caffenol C, scanned and adjusted CS4.

5x7 homemade pinhole camera 85 deg angle. Colour darkroom paper exposed f250, reverse developed in Caffenol C & RA4, scanned and adjusted CS4.

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'Friend or Foe?'

4x5 homemade pinhole camera 85 deg angle. Colour darkroom paper exposed f250, reverse developed in Caffenol C & RA4, scanned and adjusted CS4.

Composition is easier to achieve in this more familiar format; with a wide angle of both horizontal and vertical views.

Exposures are more accurate; compensating for the reciprocity failure curve by shooting with the Pinhole Assist app.

The first photo is with the full filtration of daylight to tungsten, UV and orange giving the most pleasing variety of colours. For the others I wanted to double check what would happen if I dropped the orange filter now I seem to have the correct exposure times; this has had the effect of making the photos appear more greenish blue.

Colour Reversal Developing:

60 sec b/w dev, stop or water (tbc), quick tungsten flash/fog, 45 sec colour dev, extended blix.)

I used caffenol as the b/w developer, it takes a full 5 minutes to have the same effect as commercial developer does in one minute and I think there may be less contrast. I am using the same caffenol recipe as for developing B&W film.

Friend or Fiend?'

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8x10 Colour Collidescapes: colour darkroom paper exposed
f 250 reverse processed Caffenol C & RA4 scanned and adjusted CS1

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16 x 20 B&W Caffenol Collidescapes: photo emulsion on mixed media paper exposed f250 developed with Caffenol C scanned and adjusted CS4.

No Problems - Only Solutions

I found that the mixed media paper 'flopped' inside the collidingscape generator, it is not really stiff enough to stay in position by itself, I will use some velcro tabs to fix it in place next time. Also the same paper did start to disintegrate with the folding and soaking, I will have to try some other papers like perhaps heavy inkjet photo paper and see if this is suitable.

I have discovered that for the collidinscapes to all appear the same, I need a 'correct way up'. I have decided that this should be with the aperture at the bottom which then serves to anchor the images. To maintain this uniformity I must always load the collidingscape generators with the aperture flap of the paper folding down towards me and make sure that the shutter always open up in the opposite direction to that. This ensures that as the image is inverted it will actually be the' correct way up'.

In order to solve the issues I have been having with framing shots, I thought about getting a director's viewfinder, the kind of thing seen slung around the necks of the great auteurs. However I found that these instruments are not only rather expensive, hundreds of pounds, but they also have limitations for my purposes. After some research I was able to find that there is an app, simply called 'Viewfinder'. This is a much more versatile option and it cost me less than a fiver! This little beauty gives you previews of camera framing for any combination of camera and lens. It can also be customised to any film size format and focal length, plus it logs all your settings so you can leave your notebook behind.

I have also an issue with posing my soldiers more realistically, they have been mainly seated or propped up against rocks. But I have come up with an idea to make it possible to stage them free standing by using wire coat hangers, these can be bent, wrapped around their waists and down their trouser legs out of sight and into the ground.

Recycling Panoramas

The tiny cyclic worlds we find ourselves in ...

Amazing what can be done with some 'digi-pokery'; tiny planets made from panoramic photos taken on film... whatever next?

Ruination, Manipulation and Resurrection

My cameras are all loaded and ready to go, but as the weather has taken a turn for the worse I have decided to spend some time with material I have already shot.

Inspired by the 'spoiled' d-day films of Robert Capa, starting with selecting several of my negatives and subjecting them to:

Manipulation with heat, candle, hot pins

Treat with hand sanitiser, methylated spirits and bleach

Abrade with sharp tools, sandpaper

Mark with pens

Print with letters

Colour with inks

Scan, inverse, adjust etc

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The original images photographed are altered and the negatives themselves as objects, are irreversibly changed!

I would like to pursue this further at a later date after my Major project, other interrogations could include: enlarging, printing out and manipulating further with inks, drawing, paint, collage etc. Printing out as acetates to be used as chemograms in the darkroom, further manipulating using caffenol, colour paper, ra4, resists etc.

Objectivity / Subjectivity - Duplication / Degradation

Photographs of landscapes as visual purity or objectivity immediately become subjective by the selection of the view, angle type of camera, lens, film, paper, lighting conditions etc.

Another level of subjectivity is loaded as staged objects are placed within the now subjective visual purity.

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I began by analysing some of my photos as sources and deconstructing them by first sketching thrusts that I perceived within them and then painting value studies and colour studies over these, looking for deeper meanings.

The subjective studies were scraped, obscuring any representation but revealing abstract, possibly objective information.

The source photos were then transferred to the surfaces, further confusing objectivity and subjectivity.

The photo transfer technique requires much finger rubbing and as I wish to work at scale I tried different weight papers and a car polisher with a terry bonnet to try and ease the workload.

Surprisingly 180gsm paper worked better than 80gsm and I had great success with the polishing tool.

I have always admired the work of Robert Rauschenberg, who was a deft exponent of image transfer techniques, I intend to combine this with painting.

Subjective representation of objects or subjects is further obscured by duplication and degradation; painted responses that have photographs embedded.

Are these photographs or paintings or paintings of photographs?

Is the illusion of reality or is perception the illusion? Is this a pastiche of the 'Treachery of Images' (Rene Magritte, 1929) or the fabric of perceptual reality?

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The results of my experiments are placed in the carousel; how far beyond postmodernism we have come. Like any revolution, if there is nothing worthwhile to replace what is to be overthrown it is doomed.

I maintain that questioning truth itself has thrown up more fundamental problems than any useful solutions.

Like ‘greenwashing’ and 'gaslighting'; misinformation and abuse cause the victim to doubt their own reality and replace it with the reality of the abusers. But for the rewriting of reality to work, does that have to be believed or is confusion enough?

Duplication and degradation, as in the image transfer technique over painting, acknowledges the effect of myth and legend. The ambiguous history of the 'Last French Invasion' 1797 of my square mile, for example.

I currently find myself alarmed by the shift in data control backed by power and money, how hard won rights are now being eroded and protest has become regarded as deviant. There is a pandemic and temporary measures are necessary of course, but inappropriate draconian measures are slipping under the guise of Covid as the Overton Window continues further on its journey to the political right, needs to be exposed. It is vital to debunk myths spun by ideologies, but there is a pervading state of lethargic amnesia that is exacerbated by Covid, so although some are aware of the illusions, less do anything about them.

Failure is an Option!

"By Seeking and blundering we learn" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Better to be philosophical than depressed about the latest darkroom session. Unfortunately even at this late stage I showed myself just how disappointingly unpredictable results can be when experimenting with film photography. Being under pressure now to come up with exhibition pieces I will have to look back to my more successful experiments and try to replicate them so that I have a back up. I have run out of time to rely on breaking new ground, although I will continue to do so. I will list the catastrophes here to exorcise them and then move on.

On a positive note I have enough ruined and spoiled materials from my experimentation and development to be able to put together a series of work consisting blank films and paper or make some kind of collages from them. That could be quite a statement!

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A Catalogue of Failures:

  1. Lost 2 colour films by either relying on the temperature of the bath rather than the contents of the bottle, or the chemicals had already gone off. I am not completely sure. In order to proceed I will mix fresh chemicals and be more diligent about checking temperatures.

  2. Experiments with thicker inkjet papers, to take photo emulsion both gloss 240 gsm and matt 220 gsm disintegrated in the first bath. I will try canvas now as a substrate for liquid photo emulsion, I believe this will withstand multiple baths and would be possible to reverse process, possibly with Caffenol. I could cut it to fit a collidingscape generator and hold it in place with velcro tabs.

  3. Although I made extensive tests with both filtration, exposure timings and chemical reverse processing with a degree of success, using 8 x 10 Konica SR colour darkroom paper cut into 4 x 5 sheets. On using 5 x 7 Kodak Ektacolour 78 and scaling up to 16 x 20 Kodak Supra Endura colour darkroom paper I did not get the same results. Either the paper is so different that it is just not suitable, or because I have been using expired paper it is too far gone. Either way there is the potential for further investigation.

Conclusions and way forward:

16 x 20 colour paper unsuitable for reversal or possibly expired - Save for use as chemigrams/ chemograms

5 x 7 colour paper same as above

16 x 20 camera now for future use with b/w and direct positive paper only (possibly caffenol developer and/or reversal technique) and maybe hand colouring

Large collidingscapes same as above (unless I can pinpoint a brand of colour paper that will work)

8 x 10 paper colour reversal works and can be further refined in; 8 x 10, 4 x 5 cameras and the small collidingscape generators.

Continue with extreme diligence to process 35mm colour films. Repeat tests with remotely operated motoriser for panoramas with ND filters and in date colour film.

I have cut some canvas for one of the small Collidingscape Generators as a test substrate for photo emulsion. In order to keep the canvas in place I am using Velcro tabs.

My prediction is that canvas will be a strong enough substrate rather than paper for regular developing, which is what I will try first.

The question now is can the photo emulsion be reverse processed by Caffenol C, citric acid and hydrogen peroxide to produce a positive image?

I was right, the velcro held the canvas in place perfectly and the canvas was plenty strong enough for the emulsion, developer, stop and fixer.

This is a very exciting set of experiments to be continued after my major project, to try out reverse developing and Caffenol C with emulsion and canvas substrate.

Although the image is unclear, I recognise that with a larger format and a more well defined subject or object this would be a great way forward.

I flipped the image on the right to simulate how this might look when reverse processed and I just love the way the square aperture is reflected as a window letting in light at the top.

French Turn - Contemporary Entryism - Looking for a way in...

My concept pivots around Carn Gelli, the high rocky outcrop used as a lookout during the 1797 Last Invasion at Fishguard by the French forces and how a place haunted by ghosts of the past is tormented by an uncertain future.

The submission will include projecting endless panoramas, continuous stories without beginnings, middles or ends; cyclic information loops with blurred peripheral. Their purpose conveys the enormity of landscape, but also the size of the problem, scale, the fragility of all life perched on a rock flying through space and time.

My photographs and mixed media works feature Romantic era Napoleonic soldiers that rarely look in the viewers direction, if they do they are not aware of the viewers presence they are always looking beyond, they are vulnerable.

The intention of the 1797 invasion was apparently an attempt to stir revolution. An infiltration that preceded the idea of the Trotsyist ‘French Turn’. I think this can be compared to what has become known as contemporary entryism, in its many guises.

In order to change out collidingscape generators on location it is necessary to fumble in a large light safe changing bag.

I have also placed 1/32 scale soldiers in some shots with the larger 1/12 scale Action Men to tamper with perspective and scale, they are not always easy to spot...

Consolidation or Push Just a bit Further?

After a mixed result from my last two photo shoots I am in a bit of a dilemma; I need to consolidate and put my exhibition together and with less than three weeks to go this is probably the most sensible thing to do. But I have learnt so much this last week and I think if I was to go out just two more times up the mountain, I will have the money shots.

This morning while thinking about what to do, David Hockney popped up on breakfast television. He was talking about how he had to persevere to finish his 'Arrival of Spring' 2020, he is the same age as my dad, 83, I thought what would he do?

Hockney explained his lock down work was completed in Normandy, inspired by the format of the Bayeux tapestry and the beauty of nature; that is always harmonious, it's a mad world but beautiful, you really need to look at it to appreciate it.

My aim to pull my show together is threefold; I will attempt to show four panoramas, between four and eight Collidingscapes and two larger A0 image transfers over painting.

360 Panoramas

My panoramas had a setback with two ruined films due to lousy chemicals. I am back on track now, and by trial and error have worked out that I need a good quality six stop ND filter to compensate for the speed of the motoriser that powers the rotating camera head. This is achieving the equivalent of 1/4 sec shutter speed, which with 100 asa film and at f16 (smallest aperture I can go with this fixed lens) produces very over exposed pictures. The cheap filters I have used so far are awful and shift the colours so much that they need to be overworked in Photoshop to look halfway decent. I have ordered the necessary filter and I am certain the next panos will be superb. I have arranged with Karl Sedgwick that the panoramas should be displayed as continuous, there should be no noticeable start or finish, they need to blend seamlessly, this means that I need to turn the camera more than 360 and then trim back.

ND 6 stop filter and much digital adjustment was employed with the above panorama, that is wider than 360. The current scanning mask I have at this size sadly cuts out the sprocket holes, although I have purchased another larger mask that should leave them in as I desire.


When I scaled up from the 8 x 10 colour darkroom paper I had mixed results reverse processing with my 16 x 20 colour darkroom paper, so I decided on my back up plan using direct positive paper. Although I am familiar with this DP paper at other sizes and thought I would get predictable results I was completely surprised and disappointed with what was developed. I conducted further tests and can only assume that the batch I have received is somehow fogged, I am currently disputing this with the supplier, I didn't really need this at the stage I am at now. In order to pull it back I decided on plan C, which is to use standard multigrade B/W darkroom paper, which I have done and from eight shots I think I have four that are suitable, so this is a start. If the supplier does the decent thing in time and sends me out a fresh batch of DP paper I will shoot some more collidingscapes on that, but time is tight and its all weather dependent, fingers crossed.

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There were casualties (above)

But also a degree of success; the collidingscapes on the right were inverted and quite heavily adjusted in Photoshop.

I really do hope I can get my hands on some more direct positive paper for my submission as I am sure they will turn out much clearer.

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Setting up my photo studio for photographing images that were too big for me to scan (below). 2 lights and digital SLR with 50mm lens

I found using handy velcro tabs were great to hold the tricky colliding scapes in place.

I have received some more direct positive paper and have conducted some tests before trying it out on location.

This collidingscape on the left taken at home, has come out better than I could have expected.

I just hope that I will get the same results when using it for real!

Pinhole Material for Image Transfer Paintings

At the same time as taking the collidingscape exposures I was shooting colour darkroom paper in my homemade 8 x 10 pinhole camera. The same paper I have had some successful results with reverse processing. My intention is to either display a selection of these photos and/ or use my best two favorites for image transfers. For the first stage B/W I developed five of these in regular developer, but they came out very blue, so I knocked up some Caffenol C and developed the remaining three in this at the first stage. The result was much more pleasing. For the image transfers I already have the wood to build the stretchers, the paint, canvas and gel is on order. John Benyon is ready to print at A0 for me using the same paper and inks that I have already tested and found to be fit for purpose.

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The results on the left still have some light leaks, I am certain this is from my filter array and that this can be resolved by fitting the filters within the camera as I had done previously.

The photos have been adjusted in Photoshop, but not very much.

On the whole I am very pleased with the colour reversal process now and quite comfortable with it.

I just need to go out one more time and take six more photos and I will be happy. For convenience and to be able to use a small tripod I will resume using my 4 x 5 camera. There is no difference in quality, as although the 8 x 10 are physically larger, my software will work at a maximum of 800 dpi and for the online exhibition this is more than enough.

Another minor setback; the viewfinder on my 'Sutton' water filled pinhole camera broke, the only photo from the whole film that was sort of in frame was this one.

Still at least the colours are pretty good!

The new larger mask for my scanner arrived and below is the same scanned panorama with the sprockets showing, this is a warmer version that actually needed much less adjustment, things are looking promising!

Now that I have some control of aspects of colour film photography, I feel the need to loose that predictability again by trying the soup technique for example; soaking film in miscellaneous potions possibly relevant to a concept for days, weeks, years before or after exposing. The initial result giving random colour shifts and other unknown variables. I thought for example that if I had more time on this project I would collect heather, gorse, other plants and grasses from Carn Gelli, boil them up to reduce into a concentrate that would connect the colour shifts to the place.

As my pinhole paper negatives that are reverse developed to colour positives, refined to a point and then printed as image transfers; this is where I loose some control over the process through the duplication and degradation, something left for chance to interrupt.

Its tame, release, tame and release again, searching for and revealing deeper meanings.

Last Chance Salon

I made three more excursions up Carn Gelli and managed to just about pull it together, I think I have enough material now to edit back and put together my show.

My focus was to produce an online submission, which was fortuitous for me continuing on from the Independent Project, as photography well suited to this brief. We have been advised to provide a physical submission as well and I will do my best to adapt to this, I think my best shot lies with concentrating on scaling up the image transfers.

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Image Transfers

From the photos in the carousel on the left I intend to select two as image transfers at A0.

These were all taken over two days with my homemade 4 x 5 pinhole camera that has a a wide 85 degree angle of view, on colour darkroom paper that has been reverse developed using Caffenol C as the first stage developer.

I managed to cure the light leaks, although there is some lens flare on some (which is a misnomer as there is no actual lens!) even though I was facing north whilst shooting.

The colours on some are more vibrant than others, I have scanned and adjusted in Photoshop to bring out the best of them.

I surrounded myself with books on romantic era paintings so I could mimic their hues, values and intensities.

As Gerhard Richter once stated “I blur things to make everything equally important and equally unimportant, and there is a parallel here with pinhole photographs that give equal focus to the foreground and background, to the figures and the landscape. As I make the image transfers which will be the pinhole photographs over a painted studies that themselves are scraped or blurred, as subjective or objective perception. I could increase blur by scraping the photos in places back to the layers beneath, also adding another more translucent layer over the photos to be scraped again obscuring what is already blurred. To convey the confusion perceptual reality has navigating a moment.

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The first A4 test on canvas over board with an obscured value study and colour study beneath the image transfer, is in the carousel on the left.

The value study was comprised of five values, one for each digit. My palette for the colour study was very limited; Prussian Blue (military connotations), Lemon Yellow (bitter sweet), Burn Sienna (earth and fire), I also used Paynes Grey and Titanium White to adjust the values.

The outcome is more green than I had imagined it would be and I do not think that this is conveying the seriousness of messing with perceptual reality.

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The results of subsequent A4 tests and the under paintings.

I looked again at Gerhard Richter's work for clues as to how to continue and revisited the Birkenau series. After going back and looking at my journal photos of the first and second layers that were scraped and blurred, I realised what I want to say; 'what is the worst that can happen?'. The answer is a terrible truth; in the Birkenau paintings, Richter addresses the holocaust and reckons with identity and collective memory. It is his use of crimson that I think will make this work for me as well, firstly it might serve to knock back the more peaceful green and secondly give more impact as the connections of crimson to; warning, blood, fire and the sashes and plumes on the Napoleonic uniforms are made clearer.

I made a couple more tests with just a value study and crimson to see how that holds up before committing to the A0 canvasses.

The first A4 image transfer was I thought a bit flat. I remembered from my Mike Bernard collage book how he introduced more luminosity by using white in the lower layers. So that added luminosity coupled with the crimson from the Richter paintings, sort of compensates for the greenery and seems to have help lift the work.

Whilst working and cogitating on my final pieces A0 for the submission, I have decided that I will go ahead with the first under painting even though it annoyingly (and accidentally) looks like abstract expressionism, but that was the result of me repeatedly interrupting the information, it will of course be eclipsed by the photographic transfer and only partially visible in the layers beneath. For the second one I am thinking about taking a leaf out of my Ivon Hitchens' book, I will have the subjective truth of painting obscured by the subjective truth of the camera. This under painting will consist of the luminosity I need and the crimson as before, but it will be put together with other elements to merge painting and photography deeper; "This principle runs throughout - dark-light, warm-cool, in-out. Circular shapes, square angular shapes. Large sombre areas - short quick notes, and so on. Thus all the area of the canvas should be consciously planned in movements as well as representing objects." (cited by Khoroche 2020, p 80)

I was not happy at all with the first A0 piece, but have hatched a cunning plan to try and pull it back.

I have two more A4 tests to try out on first. My idea is to connect with the abstract expressionistic under painting by dripping ink from a height onto it, like Pollack, as long as the ink is translucent enough that the work beneath is not obliterated I think this might work and create an aesthetic I can live with.

The first result is on the left, inspired by the graffiti on Picasso's vandalised Geurnica it brings up the old chestnut of authorship etc.

Title: “Kill All Lies(Like a James Bond film title)

I am slightly undone; as all my A0 colour prints are scanned and printed at 300 dpi, any illusion that they could be paintings is crushed by that alone, you can see the dots on the enlargements, plus my under-paintings just seem to clash with those photos themselves. They fail on too many levels. I think the reverse developed colour pinholes are better off being displayed online just as the photos for now, if I had better prints I would go to the trouble. In fact I think I could just transfer them onto canvas without any painting underneath or any disturbances over them and they would both convey the concept and have an aesthetic.

While I am not completely happy with my colour transfers, I was listening to an interview with David Bailey, he was discussing the difference between his photography and his painting and that as far as he was concerned photography was black and white and painting was for colour. I remembered that many of the photographers I has been referencing did work solely or mainly in black and white: Robert Capa, Don Mccullen, Steven Pippin, even Gerard Richter's earlier photography was black and white. Meanwhile all the painters I had been looking at painted in colour.

I reviewed my earlier image transfer tests when I had used black and white photographs, and saw that perhaps they were more successful and that I had become fixated on the colour transfers as I had invested so much in producing the source photos. So I decided to take a step backwards in order to proceed forwards and I scanned two of my earlier black and white pinhole negatives that were developed in Caffenol C to have them printed. So the plan now is that the black and white photographs are printed with their sprocket holes, denoting that they are undoubtedly film photographs, the underpainting serves to interject colour into the conversation and I will go back to my earlier colour palette of Prussian blue, lemon yellow and burn sienna as I think this will now work as I had originally intended.

Meanwhile I have made 2 more stretchers (55 x 19 inches) to start on black and white pieces. Both of these over the shoulder shots have been scanned at higher resolution. They are quite ambiguous in themselves and having a Noir cinematic mood, so to juxtapose this I might use a simple fairly light palette with a touch of earth tone beneath based on my previous Ivon Hitchens research.

I have not seen exactly what I want to achieve with these transfers yet, I do know that it has to have a certain aesthetic, this does make it difficult, but also easier to reject work that I consider does not have that aesthetic.

The black and white transfer tests seem to have this aesthetic I am after, the large prints were at least scanned at 1200 dpi and that makes all the difference. Although I am not proposing them in the same way as I would have the colour ones, as illusions of paintings, these are very definitely film over paint.

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The carousel on the left documents my image transfer process beginning with putting together the canvas stretchers over boards (for support when rubbing the paper away). It is also worth mentioning that I use my own homemade charcoal and gesso in all my work now.

I needed to set up an easel with a mirror on, so I could respond to the reflection of the source photograph correctly. My painted response is fairly basic; I mark out shapes and areas with charcoal, mix the palette, apply the paint as suggestion, scrape it back, finally adding other suggestions with line by means of sgraffito into the wet paint.

A smooth surface is required so the painted surfaces are lightly sanded before applying the transfer gel. The prints are laid face down and allowed 24 hours to dry. Then there is the painstaking task that requires much careful rubbing to remove the paper.

Nevertheless chance degradation still occurs with this method of duplication, and it must be celebrated!

Finally two coats of gloss medium are added to seal the work.

Derrrida's Hauntology ties in neatly with my idea of the past haunting a place tortured by an uncertain future, and the transfers certainly have a spectral/ noir atmosphere.

"Spectrality does not involve the conviction that ghosts exist or that the past (and maybe even the future they offer to prophesy) is still very much alive and at work, within the living present: all it says, if it can be thought to speak, is that the living present is scarcely as self-sufficient as it claims to be; that we would do well not to count on its density and solidity, which might under exceptional circumstances betray us." Fredric Jameson, (Cited by Davis 2005)

In the carousel below are the results of several 16 inch tests and one 55 inch finished piece.

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After much agonising I transferred a print that had been aborted before being fully printed out as it was not completely black and white; it has a greenish brown tinge, probably from the Caffenol C used to develop the negatives.

It seemed a waste not to use the A0 boards I had ready for the pinhole colour reversal A0 prints.

The chance this miss-print was about A0, is a happy random and looking at it again I see it transmits something that I had not noticed before, its very much like a contact by William Klein. But I have chosen not to paint on it. It is a portion of both images selected for the black and white image transfers.

I think this will make a great triptych; 'Hauntological Dimensions', glad I picked it up thinking I might use it sometime, this is most excellent !!!

360 Panoramas

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The panoramas above were taken with my motorised 360 camera, on fresh Kodak Pro Image 100asa film using an ND 6 filter and developed with RA4 chemicals in my darkroom. The colours are vivid and there was hardly any adjustment needed for either the exposure or colour.

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In order to create seamless 360's, Karl has given me a tutorial on using a masking technique in Photoshop.

I need to cut, paste, flip and blend on each pano taking particular care over the sprocket holes (which do not line up) to give the effect of an endless panorama with no beginning or end.

The files then are shared with Karl who drops them into another program that will display them online.

The carousel on the left illustrates this process.

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The carousel on the left contains three 8 x 10 'Collidingscapes' all shot on direct positive paper and developed with Caffenol C.

If I have enough time I would like to try hand colouring these works with the set of traditional photographic inks that I have. I would base the palette on information taken from my colour pinhole photographs and attempt to inject some more romantic era influence to help make the illusion stronger.

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The carousel on the left contains four larger 16 x 20 'Collidingscapes' all shot on direct positive paper and developed with Caffenol C.

I had thought of displaying these as boxes; reconstructing them by folding them so the viewer could either look into them through the aperture and see the little world within as an ontological introspective, or fold them outwards so that the cube projects the image as a phenomenological external.

If they are displayed as they are now opened up, they have the potential to exist either way, that is, if an image that becomes an object does actually exist.

Again time permitting I may attempt printing some off and hand colouring.

Shadows AND Reflections

I have trusted that my final body of work for the project will come out of experimentation in the last few weeks before the exhibition; still believing that resolved outcomes are the residue of crucially creating art. I hope I have enough time to both separate those that stand out and correlate other pieces worthy of presentation into a series.

During one of my recent photo shoots some hikers walked through the set in front of a camera that was actually taking a photo. Initially i was a bit put out, but in any case the particular photo did not come out for some reason, probably due to a miscalculation with filtration or exposure. However this gave me another possible conceptual bonus; as I am already considering ghosts of the past that haunt a place that is equally tormented by an uncertain future, so I would like to stage passersby walking, like giants blurred through the frames of a few shots, I think it may be a strong idea. Aware or oblivious to the past, present or future of the space or place they inhabit. Unfortunately I have run out of time to stage these particular shots, something to consider for the future now, hopefully like Kubrick I can use the notion on another project.

Further Experimentation:

Over the course of the project I have stumbled over many processes and experiments that I wanted to try out or pursue further, but these might have taken me in different directions. I have put them on the back burner for now and will continue at some point during the summer after submission.

Here are a few of the ideas I am very excited to continue with:

Reverse develop dark room paper and canvas coated with emulsion with commercial developer/ caffenol
Test out multipinhole cameras with b/w and colour film

Reverse develop b/w film with caffenol to make 40x40 super slide format positives for use with slide projectors.

Hand colour photographic slides.

Try out the 'soup' technique of soaking film and darkroom paper in potions prior to developing.