The 52 Project, Week 31: Swanson's on Sandusky Street
What started as a quick practice in large format camera setup has suddenly become my most successful 8x10 B&W to date. 0__0 Here's the low-down.
It was about two weeks after my trip to New York, I was bored, starting to feel the winter weather creeping in, and really starting to miss shooting that big 'ole 8x10. There were still many prints to be made, as I was in the early test stages of fine-tuning my Pyrocat HD developing regimen; aka, the initial contact prints looked horrid. For those of you that follow the blog regularly, you can take this post as the big excuse why my posts started to backup throughout December.
So anyway, I had these god-awful contact prints on the cheapest fiber paper known to man, made under darkroom conditions unbeknownst to cause horrendous post exposure fogging ("Doh!"). I was taking them to my good friend Leslie over at Findlay's only photo-related shop, Imagine That! for some peer review. What I love about Leslie is that she's too nice a person to tell a bad photo off, unless you ask her for her honest opinion. Of course, I did just that and got the earful that was needed; my consolation prize was getting to pet with the "shop cat" Schmoop, a monstrous rag doll cat with enough fur to take out an army of allergic soldiers. With my now low-hanging self-esteem, I sulked back to the car, when I happened to notice Leslie's next door neighboring business for the first time. It was a quaint little '50's style barber shop with a simple everyday scene occurring. I was so struck, I went in to ask Mr. Swanson's permission for a picture while he finished up yet another haircut. There was very little time for the setup and capture to occur before this haircut was over, and daylight was fading fast. This was the perfect opportunity to capture something meaningful with the 8x10.
And here's what I got:
The exposure was quite a long one, 5-6 seconds, with a LOT of faith placed on the busy barber and his patient patron. I needed as much light hitting the film as I could possibly get, so a lot of swing was used to manipulate my depth of field while keeping the lens close to wide open. Only after processing the film did I realize there was MORE than enough light captured, I had in fact created the most dense Pyrocat negative I'd ever seen. >__< Just to get the "crappy" print on RC paper needed a low f-stop and a lot of Grade 0 time on the enlarger. Translation: I ignored protocol and consistency of calibration in order to get a cool shot, much paper would be wasted in obtaining a good print.
All in all, the severely diluted Pyrocat HD came through for me in preserving the highlight detail in the fluorescent bulbs while pulling out plenty of shadow detail towards the back room of the barber shop. No complaints in the image department, except maybe the overall framing (or frame within a framing :p).
When I started printing bigger, 20x24 fiber prints to be exact, you can bet multiple, multiple copies of this print were made. They're all pretty close to one another, with some softer in contrast than others. Dodging and burning gets a little trickier when dealing with split-grade printing; more about that insane process another day. So far, the prints have been doing incredibly well. It's three for three thus far, getting into:
- Art Space Lima's Annual Photo Show
- The Findlay Art League Photo 29 - Winner of Best B&W
- FAVA Biennal Photo Show
So what was learned from this image?
Something Good: It appears to have an impact favorable to a majority of viewing audiences. Perhaps its the simplicity of the image, or the familiarity of the subject matter. Either way, it's doing quite well in the aesthetics department.
Something Bad: This neg is dense, like 5+ minute print times dense. I'm terrified to use reducer as I've heard horror stories about what it can do to pyro stain. The flip side is this makes a fabulous negative for Platinum/Palladium printing should I ever have enough disposable income to start "printing money".
Something Learned: Judging from the very few images I've taken which include other people, I'm starting to tell that I like environmental portraiture, a lot. Not that head-on portraits without context are a bad thing, I just feel they're a waste of the detail capturing power of 8x10.
Next Week: We're going back down to medium format, for some off-beat fun shots. Don't wanna get too serious for a personal blog. :p