Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mottled prints

The one thing I like about traditional photography is it can be unpredictable. Even though the method you use is tried and tested, guaranteeing to a certain extent, good results, when the unexpected happens there are a lot of questions. Checking the method and chemicals used is great when a clear mistake can be tracked down, but what happens when there isn't?

 Sometime ago I pulled a set of FP4+ 120 format negatives from the processing tank that at first glance looked normal. I was studying the negatives in their sleeve when I noticed that the grain was not as usual.
Anyway, I did no more about it until I printed a number of them, then it became apparent the grain structure was different, so much so that it gave the photographs a mottled affect. I was not impressed, however once the prints where dry I filed them away. 

I went back over the way I processed the negatives, checking everything, but could not find an obvious reason for the way they had turned out. To add to the mystery it was not present on all of them. At the time I had just started using a new batch of PMK Pyro developer. I asked myself a lot questions about: 'did I mix it properly?' 'in the right order?' etc. etc. but could not come to a clear answer. So I shelved the developer metaphorically and literally.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that recently I have been looking through some of my boxes of prints when I came across these pictures again. The funny thing is I now quite like those mottled pictures, so much so that I'm going to print some of the other negatives and do some reprints on different paper. I find it baffling that when revisiting prints or negatives that did not appeal at the time, either compositionally or technically, they have now come into vogue. It is almost as though you are not mentally ready for what your eye is telling you works. In other words you need to keep an open mind even if it is not what you set out to do.

Since writing this I have been reprinting some of the negatives making me question again whether it was a developer fault. There is only one way to find out.