Wednesday, March 09, 2011
When I think back to when I was about 19 or 20 I remember a girlfriend I had at that time, Debbie Barber. Debbie had a brother called Ian. Mr and Mrs Barber and their two children lived on a commercial chicken farm about half way between Johannesburg and Pretoria. How I came to know them I can't remember but we spent a lot of time in each others company, especially Debbie and I. Ian was younger than Debbie but we were friends too and started playing around with photo negatives and doing contact prints in black and white.
In those days digital cameras were not yet invented and colour was not yet well developed.
My father had a Richoflex twin lens camera, which took a 6x6 neg roll, and enjoyed black and white photography so getting hold of unexposed neg was not a problem, it's a lot more difficult these days, you now have to go to one of the more specialist photography suppliers. Times have really changed haven't they?
Contact printing involves taking the developed negative, fixing it to a sheet of unexposed photographic paper, exposing it to light for a second or two and then developing it with chemicals. I can't remember what the chemicals were but I'm sure someone can remind me in the comments section. Everything took place in a cupboard at the Barber's house which we had sealed with some sort of tape to keep the light out. As can be imagined Debbie spent a lot of time in the cupboard with us and when the lights were out was always a good time for a kiss or two. Anyway we all loved printing pictures and it wasn't long before we built our first pinhole camera. If I remember correctly it was Ian's idea.
http://jewettgallery.wordpress.com/applied-arts/2010-2011-workshops/pinhole-cameras/#comment-2711 Then out into the wide wide world to take our first picture. Great excitement and anticipation. I think our first picture was taken in a "donga", a place where water seeps out of the ground on a hillside forming a tiny little rivulet before joining others to eventually form a stream. Well we got down on our knees and sort of aimed the box in such a way that the pin hole was facing the rivulet, removed the tape for a second or two, closed it again and headed back to our cupboard. Here we opened the box, removed the negative and dumped it in the chemicals for a specified time, once again my memory fails me with times and things.
When we eventually took the negative out of the chemicals and switched the light on again lo and behold, there before our eyes was a picture on the negative. By this time we had already installed a red working light. We could see something there but obviously everything was in the negative form and it wasn't until we had done a contact print that the true wonder of what we had captured became evident.
WOW! Here was this incredible landscape with huge boulders and waterfalls stretching over vast distances and completely in focus. We were amazed. The place we had taken the picture was no bigger than about 6 square inches.
Unfortunately with all the moves I've done over the years I no longer have those pictures. What a pity.
I eventually acquired my own enlarger, tanks and trays and with the support of my amazing father became quite proficient at not only taking pictures but developing them too. Unfortunately I lent my equipment to a friend of
mine and never saw it again. Photography became very expensive for me, being a single parent, so my photography took a back seat in my life but with the advent of digital photography has once again come to the fore. I miss the excitement and exhilaration of doing my own development and printing but I too have learned to move with the times.
Maybe one day when I win the lottery I may go back to developing and printing, in the mean time I will take pleasure in the versatility and affordability of digital photography. Thank you Lord for digital cameras.