Things that I have found quite interesting

Darkroom Experiments

My husband was a professional photographer, and a very good one, for many years.
He made himself a darkroom in a shed in the garden, and did his own colour printing.
I was not, it must be said, over-keen on working in the darkroom; I used to say to George, " It's dark all night, and I don't want to waste any sunlight."
It was hot, and dimly red, and smelt of chemicals in there, and the garden was alive with scented flowers and butterflies.
However, I did like to help when I could.
I was very good at judging what colour filters were needed to get flesh colours really natural, and George taught me how to develop & print, and I learnt all the processes, and practised enlarging.
Often really large portraits were needed, and I was fascinated to see how a small negative could be used to produce a much,much bigger print.
For my own interest I had sometimes set up photographic sessions indoors on my desk (I have a folder of black & white negatives of snails!), and I had the idea of photographing some of my collection of oddities and greatly enlarging the negatives.
I also took some puzzle pictures for a "What is This?" quiz, again from my collection.
Recently I found some of the experimental prints I made.
Here are some of them.
I did all the procedures myself: photography, developing negatives, enlarging and developing prints.

My first enlargement was of my kitten's tooth.
When she lost her baby teeth, she swallowed this one and it was caught in her throat and caused an infection.
After an operation she was fine, and the vet gave me the tiny tooth in a matchbox.
I put it on the blue paper on the back of the box and photographed it.
The rough texture of the cheap paper, and the size of the tooth, clearly show that this is an enlargement.

This little glass pig was given to me by one of my pupils. I loved the way it trapped the light.

I photographed and enlarged some of the bubbles inside it.

I had a Victorian pot-lid, and photographed it, enlarging two of the figures( a soldier and sailor, representing the Army & Navy Store!)

The crackles in the glaze become clear under enlargement.

I had the idea of photographing my teenage daughter's eyes.
At the time she spent a lot of time and money on eye-makeup, and the result could be quite dramatic.
I liked the contrast between nature and art, clearly shown up in black & white. Her eyes really shone!

One of my favourite books was a Kate Greenaway Nursery Rhyme book.
The illustrations were beautifully coloured, and I wanted to show the different textural patterns used, so I enlarged sections of one page.
I particularly enjoy pictures in books of this period.

The different spot-and- dash-and-speckle patterns are actually clearer when tone replaces colour.

Black-and-white film is a wonderful medium; technicolor was not necessarily an automatic improvement.

On the title-page of the book,above the publisher's name, was a little baby in a basket.
I traced the picture so that I could compare sizes, and went on to enlarge the baby's head.

Again, the different patterns used for each colour are very clear.

I had a Victorian box of slate pencils: here is a photo, taken this week.

During my printing sessions, I enlarged the Britannia on the label, and then just the head.

Over the years, the glue has darkened the label, but it is clear how much the picture was enlarged.

To finish, here are some black and white studies of oddments from my collection. First, two kinds of bread(!)

Here is the top of a scent-bottle...

This is a gold-framed portrait of a little girl, painted on ivory.
On the reverse,under glass, is a curl of golden hair.
Sadly, this could have been a mourning locket, and the little girl had possibly died; I hope not.
I bought the locket from a stall in 'Funny Street', as we used to call it, many years ago in Brighton.
Such a beautiful lttle face.

I bought the brooch below in the Vatican, from one of the painters who are allowed to work and sell to tourists there.
It was hand-painted, and is a copy of a detail of one of the paintings.
Once again, the black and white film sharpens the image.

This was a peacock feather which I picked up in the street, in the rain, late one evening in Brighton.
I was on my way home from a lecture.
An odd thing to find, like an unexpected gift.

Here are two pictures from my puzzle quiz. Can you see what they are?

The very last picture is of what was once a pretty little porcelain ornament, typically Victorian in theme but not in good condition.
It was another 'Funny Street' purchase.
I bought it for our house, and have always loved it.
The Guardian Angel, almost wingless, is watching over the little girl as she crosses a narrow bridge. Both of them have lost an arm.
Not a very good testimoniall to the average guardian angel!

In spite of the damage, I still treasure this, perhaps because it was one of the first things I ever bought for my own home.
I have photographed it this week, so that you can see it in colour.
I have had it for 64 years, and it has not lost even a little chip!
This article is dedicated to Katy, who likes pictures! I hope there are enough?......


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