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  • Betty Girardeau

Picture Of A Picture


Yesterday was a perfect day to drive up onto the Cumberland Plateau and revisit the little village of Rugby as well as to learn something new. It was rainy or misty almost all day. But that did not dull the colors of the trees up on the Plateau, where there are vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges everywhere. The colors have not yet totally made it down in the Tennessee Valley, though the promise is there. It's going to be an amazingly colorful fall, one that I think is well deserved as we continue to endure this Covid year. I love going to Rugby anyway, despite the fact that it takes me two and a half hours to get there. But I had a real purpose yesterday. I was going to take a class in cameraless photography. It is really a pretty simple darkroom process. We gathered flora from the surrounding woods, decided on a composition using them. We then went to the darkroom (in this case a repurposed furnace room), and placed the composition on a sheet of photosensitive paper, which we lit for only one second with a hand held flashlight. The paper was then first placed in a tray of developer where we left it until our image had appeared with the strength we wanted. It was then moved to a tray with a Stop chemical in it, which stops the developing process. After a couple of minutes, the paper is moved to a tray filled with a Fixer chemical for another couple of minutes, and finally to a tray filled with water. The result is a black and white negative of your composition. In the image above the very bright area is where I had propped up one of the leaves with a small mushroom. You could not actually see the mushroom under the leaf. But it raised the leaf at that point enough for the one second flash of light to especially catch this raised area. Had I known this would happen, I am not sure I would have used the mushroom for a prop. But it is all a part of the learning process. We each were able to create three different images. By the end of the afternoon there were a lot of little pieces of forest debris in the developing solution, which caused the finished images to have a bit of a sparkle effect to them. As a result, my last image looks a bit like a picture of a Christmas decoration. Our instructor shared a list of supplies, their cost, and a url link to purchase them if we want to try this on our own. It's pretty inexpensive, and I just may make the investment after I figure out the perfect spot for my "darkroom" and how best to rig up the safe light (that's the red light that you have probably seen being used by old style film photographers.). Our instructor had several of his creations for sale at the little art gallery in town. They are very lovely. But I wonder how many he has sold. Like a lot of gallery art, the prices are pretty high. They are all beautifully framed and matted, though, which likely accounts for some of that. Anyway, it was a fun day and I am glad to have learned something new to do.

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