12 October 2015
I. Inverted Image
II. Original Image
Let me know which you prefer and why. Click onto photograph to enlarge.
When my children were small, I spend hours in my darkroom producing black-and-white prints of their activities and adventures–personalities included. Recently, I was reminded of the steps that were realized to make one print—a print that was brought to life by chemistry, experience, intuition, light and technique. Today many of those early prints remain on the walls of my home. Today this gallery of family is a mixture of analog and digital–a sort of archive of photography’s technology, including my use of the SX-70 Polaroid camera.
The mammoth gap between analog and digital is made even greater if you actually develop film into negatives, use an enlarger to expose them onto photographic paper, and bathe the paper in a chemical solution to produce a positive. Toxic fumes are one of the cautionary tales that come from this process. As important, traditional processing is not forgiving, once you make decisions you must go forward. A second here and there is critical to the result.
Last week’s post showed an image of a dried red zinnia in black and white that was post-processed in FX Photo Studio. My discovery of the app’s feature to invert an image was the moment that those darkroom days returned to the surface of my thoughts.
Digital photography allows us to still the world in seconds and that image appears faster than an instant Polaroid of the 1970s. Oh, and the analog darkroom process can take one-two hours to produce a single print.
My iPhone miraculously does the following in seconds: creates an image that can be seen almost instantly, can be edited and shared in minutes, rises into the iCloud and onto my computer in minutes, and remains available for editing and post-processing at my whim. Really…all these results and not a chemical in sight.
Still, there is much that is missed by these digital advances. When you take a step-by-step act of image-making a whole world of thinking occurs, thought lines blur, ideas burst into being, and creativity is given time to advance. Some would argue that time spent at a computer using Photoshop or Lightroom or other software to post process a photograph takes the place of such darkroom maneuvers. Or the nuances and steps to make a digital print can be laborious too. Others also might argue that editing an image on a Smartphone is comparable.
But to me nothing can compare to the slow appearance of an image in the darkroom tray. That analog process is an art that is lessening its grip on photographers–amateurs and professionals. So when I find an app that allows me to simulate a bygone (for me at least) way to produce my photographs, I celebrate that ingenuity. I do not dwell on the past but embrace the present.
In the Lens section is an example of FX Photo Studio and its feature that inverts the image from a positive to a negative. It also brings sweet memories alive and well, recalling how each image created in the traditional darkroom is a unique, one-of-a-kind photograph. But that conversion also has a subtle connotation, implying loss that is a reality through the technological jump from analog to digital.
Tip of the Week: I like to introduce my readers to art competitions and exhibitions. Some of the reasons include: inform artists who want to submit their work to juried shows, and inform those who want to attend exhibitions to view current and past artists’ work in various media. Visit this website (click here) and on the left side select location for information about deadlines, which start this month. The list includes those who live inside and outside the United States.
View entries to this week’s challenge:
As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog. My photographs for the mobile photography challenge are taken with an iPhone 6.
If you’d like to join this Mobile Photography Challenge, please click here for details and history of the challenge. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Panorama, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.
I am so late in commenting!!!! I am all for the first image because of the disembodied parts of the whole. And our eyes fill in the rest. I think the other thing about processing with paper is the kinesthetic experience of working with earth materials. the eye hand coordination gives a whole other dimension to the artistic process. Creating with a computer or a handheld device leaves us in our heads a lot. Kind of like reading a book vs a kindle… 😉
I appreciate your thoughtful comment. Yes, technology of the digital kind certainly has moved us away from some important internal and external experiences. Thanks so much/
Once again I’m here at the end of your week Sally and this time I’m going to go against the grain and say my favorite is the second image. Maybe it’s Halloween showing through but I really like the hand isolated against such a dark, black background. 🙂 Have a fantastic week!
Lisa, I’m happy to have you part of the challenge. I will be gone from Wednesday until Saturday. If you are going to enter tomorrow’s challenge, I’ll need it by Wednesday morning. Or Saturday night through Sunday. Thanks.
I’ll do my best to be ready by Wednesday, Sally. 🙂
Lisa, great. If not, I’ll be back late on Saturday.
Hi Sally! What great memories this post sparked for me. So many decades in the darkroom, although I don’t miss the chemicals at all I do miss the mysteriousness of the red lights and the shadows of the chemical baths against the white paper as the images were revealed.
I do prefer today’s darkrooms and will likely never go back. Maybe it’s my old-fashionedness, but I prefer the original image and the balance and reality over the high key version. It’s a classic.
We are fortunate to have the background and experiences of the darkroom and the marvels of today’s digital world. We truly have the best of both worlds!
Tricia, I do agree. We have the back story of a magical experience, and you know exactly what I mean. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
I kept returning to the inverted image. Something about it speaks to me. The first thing that came to my mind was a science fiction story concept. Hmm.
On another note, I’ve always loved watching scenes of photographers at work in a darkroom. I like the careful process. There’s a poetry to it. Why do they use a red light, though?
Nadine, I’m having fun with the inverted images. The red light is used, because it’s the only spectrum of color that does not expose the paper. It allows one to see in the darkroom, and does not interfere with the process. Thanks so much.
That’s so cool. Thanks for the little lesson. 🙂
I love the first one best – some magic to it…I too remember the dark rooms, but never worked in it. My best friend did. And hung her photos on an ordinary laundry line.
Leya, yes, I hung mine on clothesline as did many. Thanks for your comment and visit.
Thank you for always being there!
That’s lovely. I’m humbled.
I like the inverted one best. It’s lighter (visually) and a little bit more mysterious. At the same time it doesn’t feel like a negative, I believe because of the tones of hand still works as if they were natural. And yes, the SX-70 Polaroid camera brings up a bunch of good memories…
Otto, I continue to use my SX-70. While the film made by The Impossible Project is getting better and better, they still have not produced the original film that seemingly gave an image almost instantly. Regardless, there is something magical about the Polaroid camera. Thanks for your comment.
I like both Sally! I also worked in darkrooms during my years in college. I still can’t believe the digital revolution we’ve gone through!
Maria, I know. It seems that it’s been forever since I was in the darkroom. It also seems a long road that the digital revolution has taken. Thanks.
I’m liking the inverted photo the best! I joined you this week with both macro and black and white! 🙂 https://livingwithmyancestors.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/sally-ds-mobile-photography-challenge-macro-3/
Linda, and you tried the inverted feature. That’s great.
Well, Sally…I am putting my big girl panties on as they say. I am getting an iPhone 6s plus in two weeks! My FIRST smart phone ever. Maybe I can learn a thing or too from you. smile.
Laurie, great, any way that I can help, do not hesitate to ask. Much of it is intuitive, and it is a terrific addition to your photographic tool kit (among other uses).
I prefer the first because it is more mysterious!
Thanks so much for your comment and visit. I really enjoy your artwork.
I like the first one. I enjoy the way it highlights the hand.
I won’t have a post this week. I just got a new phone and the process of exploring it has taken much longer than I thought.
I will await your next entry. Congratulations on a new Smartphone. It’s always fun and frustrating to get a new toy. Thanks.
I too am a high key fan Sally, nicely done.
Tina, lovely to hear from you. Thanks.
Ah, nostalgia! Reading your post, I could smell the developer (and see the image slowly emerging), stop, and fixative….
Sue, indeed, it all comes back and the toxic fumes too. Thanks for your comment and visit.
I love the inverted image, Sally. High key is gorgeous.
Lucile, I’m enjoying the results of the inverted image. Thanks so much.
My pleasure, Sally. I once learned to do that in a darkroom and loved it.
Yes, it is magic.
Sometimes I feel like using my analog camera and finding a lab to develop the films. I followed the course after the university and enjoyed the time spent there, but work took my undivided attention later on and I didn’t continue studying photography. It’s so much easier now, isn’t it? But not had the fun of doing it yourself instead of Lightroom.
Exactly, in fact, there is a camera store near me that will convert the film to a DVD. I have done that a few times. But it is not the same as going into the darkroom.
i like the negative one. when I was a child I loved looking through the collection of negatives my mom had stored in a box
I’m so glad that I could bring the memory back. Thanks for your comment and visit.
There was a whole mystique and mystery to photos back then, wasn’t there? I was never a part of it Sally but I always thought it a magical process. Amazing the comparison with today! 🙂
Absolutely, digital has taken away much of that “mystique.” Thanks so much for your comment.
Very cool, Sally! I like both 🙂
I think I prefer the first, the inverted image just for the extra secret of it. Plus I like how it reminds me of an ink painting, abstract but slightly tech-y.
It’s been beautiful to read about how photography has been just a couple decades back. Reminded me how my parents loved photography, and that dad had a huuuuuuge collection of cameras and lenses and the whole bazinga of a chemistry kit that went with it; the paper and so on. Sadly, I myself have never quite learned it: first I was too small (but we experimented with the matchbox camera, they’d try everything to get me hooked on physics, but that’s another story), and then there was Polaroid… 🙂 And soon it spiralled into the digital age of course.
So the idea of an app emulating the darkroom is pretty amazing to me! In other news, there’s an app that makes watercolours from your pictures, and that’s also pretty mesmerizing to watch, in particular when you have learned how to paint (the app’s called Waterlogue).
Lovely to hear from you and your response to my words. I am particularly pleased that the back story of my darkrooms days sparked memories of your childhood and parents. Thanks so much.
That’d be the magic of photography! 🙂
I remember the “magic” too when the image started to appear in the darkroom tray. I do miss that. Do you think there will still be a place for darkroom developing despite the advances of digital cameras and instant electronic processing? I wonder. I know darkroom techniques are still being taught in college programs.
Patti, those darkroom techniques are being taught in high schools too. The act of learning to use a SLR is invaluable. I believe that there will always be darkrooms, and I even think that there is a tiny resurgence. But the benefits (e.g., no chemicals, instant results and low cost) of digital will always win.
I remember hauling out the darkroom equipment and setting it up in our kitchen. 🙂 Yes, I agree there will always be darkrooms.
Patti, I was fortunate to have a basement where I had an entire area for my developing. It was restorative and tranquilizing most of the time.
I do like that first photo for the little feeling of mystery. Working in the dark room must have been a magical thing, to see your photos slowly coming to life in front of your eyes. An extension to the joy of seeing the scene as you snapped the shutter of your camera. Have a good week.
Angeline, it was one of the most creative and often frustrating experiences: a time of quiet and silence between the image and me. Thanks so much.
I like your first photo the most. High-key and stripped of mid-tones makes for a powerful image.
Thank you for sharing your trip back through time into the darkroom. I, too, spent many hours in the chemical-dark waiting, waiting, waiting. Only to start over again when the desired results were not achieved.
As you said, it was good training—for the photographic process and the personal growth. I found out that as I became more adept at shooting images with the correct exposure, and developing the film for the best negatives, I spent less time manipulating light from the enlarger to the paper. My time in the darkroom became more efficient.
Now we measure time in fractions of minutes. If it takes too long to edit an image there can be an urge to move on. Patience is a virtue, but it is a difficult concept to teach.
Allan, thanks for your thoughtful response to my memories of a time that (as you said) serves me today in the evergreen world of photography.
Oh I definitely love the inverted image, Sally. It visually expresses the extraordinary wonder of all this cell-phone, wifi stuff that we now take for granted and see as a right 🙂
Tish, thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Sally, although I didn’t work in a darkroom nearly as much as you did, I do remember those days. A very different world in many ways, but the photographer’s eye is still one of the most valuable resources. I like the first photo because it has a different feel to it, one that makes me look at it more than once.
Have a wonderful autumn week!
Janet, yes, I agree that how we see our world is a key to our creativity. Thanks so much.