Darkroom Part 3

Set 1:


Set 2:

I booked back into the darkroom a few days after my second attempt. I wanted to reshoot using some of the feedback that I’d had from the OCA South West group.

I wanted to frame the images better and make more of a feeling of depth. For the former, I had had a custom sized piece of glass made with smoothed edges. Fortunately, as it turned out, I also had a larger piece made. For the latter, I planned to work with multiple layers per image where possible.

I got to the darkroom and set up to find that due to bad packing on my part my small piece of glass had acquired a small scratch. I was alone in the darkroom without the ability to lock it completely behind me if I went out, so I decided to use the larger piece of glass and try the images without the frame. I had the whole day to play with and it turned out I was happy with the results without the frame.

I tried to be more organised and kept a list of the filter settings and exposure settings for each image. Once I found the tiny window showing the aperture settings I was able to record those settings too. I made test strips/prints for everything, using either 12×16 paper cut into quarters or 5×7 paper whole or halved. I have kept all these as I think they will make an interesting handmade book or scrapbook.

I finished with ten best images, on 12×16 Ilford RC Satin paper. Of this ten, six were quite high contrast (Set 1 above), whereas four had slightly less definition mainly due to being of garments made of very pale mesh or netting (Set 2 above). This might be a criterion for selection – a high contrast set or a more nebulous, ethereal set? They are not 100% perfect. Some have an unexposed strip on one edge because of errors placing the work (I need to use tape or something to mark placement guides). A couple has tiny marks from the glass that I used to hold the item flat, this was from lint or fibres picked up from the fabric. One has a small “tidemark” from where the paper wasn’t fully submerged soon enough in the tank of fixer. I think this work is far enough evolved though to go to my tutor and any rework needed I will do in a session after feedback arrives. I need to bear in mind that photograms are a manual process and that the odd evidence of this is not necessarily a bad thing but equally a little more diligence in cleaning the glass between images is not necessarily a bad thing either.

I need to consider remaking this on larger paper (16×20) for assessment. A consistent comment, from Jesse at OCA SW to the darkroom owner is that they could do with a little more room to breathe. This is achievable – the darkroom enlargers can accommodate that size (though accurate positioning will become even more important), I can have a larger piece of glass made and I still have all the various garments. This does come into category of decisions that I will seek my tutor’s thoughts on. The more I look at this set the more I think that all the bras need reshooting, generally for positioning reasons but also to see if I can improve the Cross Your Heart image. It looks like it’s back to front but actually is the right way round. Despite its multiple layers of netting and lace it is almost entirely transparent under the enlarger and you can see straight through to the back. I’m also unsure about the zipped lace thong body, I’d like to even out the gusset a bit, but at the moment you can see the lace peeking though a tiny hole which I quite like too.

The work that I now need to do is to make a selection, photograph them all, and write up the blog posts needed to finish this work. I am wondering about making some of them into a Viewmaster disc and will try that too.





13 thoughts on “Darkroom Part 3

  1. Emma September 20, 2018 / 3:51 pm

    These look great. I love the blurred effect where they don’t quite touch the paper, very tangible, and the slightly ‘unnatural’ shapes they make on the paper (like the asymmetrical cups on #5). The zipped gusset adds variety, I would keep it in. I also like the combination of high contrast and ethereal. Not sure what your statement will be about but it speaks to me of the different aspects of femininity.

    • Kate September 21, 2018 / 12:45 pm

      Thank you Emma. I cut the foam out of all the bra cups, I too like the “unnatural shapes”. I love that the garments have inherited the form and curves of the people who wore them.

      I haven’t started the statement yet, am still putting the context together. It’s challenging because there are two aspects to the work – the tribute to Fox Talbot and the feminist/feminine/life-size strand. Thank you for encouraging me to think!

  2. Simon Chirgwin September 20, 2018 / 5:07 pm

    These are cracking. Really nice. And I bet the photograms look nicer and less cheap than the real items of clothing. I keep thinking of minute deep sea organisms. You could try cyanotypes…

    • Kate September 21, 2018 / 12:41 pm

      Thank you Simon! Much appreciated. And you’re right – looking at photograms you can’t tell the difference between Aubade and Ann Summers. I like how they seem to float in some unidentified void. I actually started off with cyanotypes last summer but didn’t get the definition I wanted. I may well return to it though next summer, working with bigger sheets of paper than before and adding the chemicals myself.

  3. Catherine September 20, 2018 / 5:10 pm

    I admire the fusion between art and science here which really comes through in this particular post. It’s almost like a forensic look at what women wear everyday. I’m just wondering what it would look like if you asked a range of women to send you their underwear. There’s so much scope for a longer project here Kate.
    I’m not even going to delve into past glories!

    • Kate September 21, 2018 / 12:39 pm

      Thank you Catherine, as always lots to think about there. I very much like your view of the work as a forensic reading of the female very day.

      There is so much I can do here, the knack is going to be knowing when to stop I would love to do a set that is entirely from underwear brought on ebay or from second hand sources. I don’t know how I’d feel about requesting underwear … it’s definitely worth thinking about. The thing I like about buying on ebay is that once the transaction is done there is no further obligation to the seller, or need to consider how they might feel about their item being available to the public gaze (again). Thank you again 😀

      • Catherine September 21, 2018 / 1:00 pm

        Yes, I can certainly understand your point of view. An alternative method could be to ask women to buy a piece of underwear of the type they always wanted to buy but daren’t!

  4. elizabeth509713 September 20, 2018 / 8:45 pm

    Great progress Kate. Personally, I think that a mix of the high contrast and more ethereal images could work very well together. I also think that it would be really interesting to try making larger versions of these images. Not only would it give them a little more room to breath but it would make them really ‘ in your face’ sort of images. People tend to shy away from discussing/considering/thinking about intimate issues, so I rather like the idea of forcing them to confront something so blatantly private.

    • Kate September 21, 2018 / 12:34 pm

      Thank you Liz, for your helpful and encouraging comment. Oddly, “In your face” was on my list of possible titles 😀

      My work is often (very often) about foregrounding the personal in the public. I think I am going to end up taking the work larger, it definitely has more pros than cons.

  5. sarahdandrews September 22, 2018 / 6:31 am

    This so interesting. I am wondering how the approach with other lace items. How different would the emotional impact be with, for example vintage lace handkerchiefs or nursing caps ? ( believe it or not a lace edged cap was what I wore on qualifying as a nurse in 1970!)

    • Kate September 22, 2018 / 11:15 am

      Thank you Sarah! I think the impact would change with other items – hankies and lace edged cap would move the work more into the past. Interesting to think about!

      • sarahdandrews September 22, 2018 / 5:09 pm

        Exactly the reply I expected! I do not hanker for the past. The connotations of the past represented by that cap were completely at odds with the radicalism of the ‘60’s of which we had been a part. Interesting that lace has survived! Really looking forward to where your work goes next.

      • Kate September 22, 2018 / 5:25 pm

        That’s such an interesting pairing of images. I wonder how long it will take us to recognise and uncouple these things going forward. We’re only just starting to put mothers’ names onto marriage certificates, after all.
        I am so fascinated by lace, I know there is more there for me. Ideally I want my work to go to my tutor next, hopefully next week but as it’s A5 I need to make sure the blog is fully complete before it goes off.
        How are you getting on? Where’s your current blog, so I can follow you please? 😀

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