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Thread: Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

  1. #1

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    I came across this article about a long-time street portrait photographer in Bangladesh. The technology of the camera interests me. Contrary to what the article states, I think the camera uses a glass lens with very small aperture, for wide DOF yet shorter exposure time than what pure pinhole can do.

    The images in the slideshow reveal the size of the paper negatives to be much smaller than the size of the camera, hence my feelings that this is a portable darkroom. I see a cloth arm sleeve in the rear of the box, and there may be some additional light baffles (cloth curtain with hole, or some sort of labyrinth?) The negative also looks pretty sharp, again indicating a stopped-down glass lens.

    One of the image also shows him focusing the front lens, by peering through the back door. Must be a removable ground glass.

    I believe the photographer processes the paper negatives in the box right after exposure. Not sure if he even uses fixer for the paper negative processing. I'm assuming he then contact prints the resulting negative straight away, while the negative is still wet, inside the box, and processes the resulting print. He is quoted as being able to turn out a completed print in "five minutes." Perhaps uses a diffuser on the front of the lens as the contact printing light source? The last image of the slide show reveals several objects atop the camera, one of which looks like a diffuser built into a frame, perhaps for contact printing in direct daylight (and then processing inside the box.)

    I'm interested in pursuing building a version of this camera/portable darkroom, to experiment in making finished prints out in the field. Will use a glass lens, perhaps variable aperture for various bokeh effects, although a fixed, tiny aperture would make the process more reliable in terms of focus accuracy and repeatably good exposures (in bright light.)

    Any thoughts?

    ~Joe

  2. #2

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    This is a really cool idea. I sketched a few ideas that just came to me.

    * re-sealable food storage containers for chemistry
    * diffuser built into the top for contact prints

    Such a contraption would be quite a hit on the streets. Attached files

  3. #3

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    g'day Joe

    i was also interested in this story and left comments on the original thread

    like you i tend to believe the camera is fitted with a small apertured glass lens

    the problem i've encountered, using similar equipment and materials for portraiture, is finding the right balance of lighting/aperture/exposure time to get a result other than a stiff, forced pose from the sitter

    to build such a contraption, portable camera/processing box is a great concept with many difficulties to overcome, wow what a great project!

  4. #4

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    I saw one of these cameras in use once. It was during a Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the mall in DC. They had brought over an Indian photographer that had this same camera. But instead of just portraits this guy made combination prints, superimposing his subjects on tourist attraction backgrounds. There was a darkroom inside the camera and he put his arms through sleeves in the side. He used paper to make a negative portrait of his sitters, developed and fixed in camera then pulled the negatives out to wash them in a bucket. After they washed a while he would trim out the figure with scissors and by wet on wet adhesion stick the portrait on a suitable tourist background. I had my portrait montaged with the Taj Mahal. Then he adjusted the camera and flipped up the front of the bed rail to make a copy platform. He placed the combined negative prints on the board and made a second picture on B+W paper again processed in the camera to make a positive. Somewhere around my house I have slides I took of him and his camera plus my Taj Mahal print.

  5. #5

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    It sounds fun Joe but I don't know if I have the dedication to try and put it together....but somehow I think you of the falling plate camera ilk do .

    I do remember seeing one that had an amber or red glass in the top that could be used to see inside but that may have been a more modern set up using wet plates.

    Keep us updated might be interesting......

  6. #6

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    Great sketch, Eric; I was thinking of something very similar to yours. Before building one of these from scratch I'll probably first test each portion of the process in the darkroom, especially ensuring I can make good contact prints against a diffuser while the negative is still wet.

    Chris and Marv: thanks for the first-hand accounts. I haven't personally seen one of these; except I recall, years ago (late 1970s) seeing these "street" photographers in the Phillipines, but didn't take the time to watch them in operation (I had other priorities at that time!!).

    Ray, you're right; in the original article there's one shot of the photographer steadying and positioning the subject's head; I suspect it would take much experience to get a relaxed-looking image that's sharp and distinct. The art of the portrait. Despite their low-tech appearance, these guys are true artists to be able to render good portraits in such a venue with the equipment they work from. It's an inspiration.

    ~Joe

    And for some reason I forgot about the original thread on this subject, hence the reason why I started this thread. If Tom sees fit he can merge these threads.

  7. #7

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    Quote Originally Posted by 1351
    I came across this article about a long-time street portrait photographer in Bangladesh. The technology of the camera interests me. Contrary to what the article states, I think the camera uses a glass lens with very small aperture, for wide DOF yet shorter exposure time than what pure pinhole can do.
    I'm interested in pursuing building a version of this camera/portable darkroom, to experiment in making finished prints out in the field. Will use a glass lens, perhaps variable aperture for various bokeh effects, although a fixed, tiny aperture would make the process more reliable in terms of focus accuracy and repeatably good exposures (in bright light.)

    Any thoughts?

    ~Joe
    No thoughts at all but this camera remembered me immediately of what's called in Brazil the "lambe lambe". Have a look on the following ones and you will understand:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudiolara/362436897/
    http://images.google.be/imgres?imgurl=http://www.laurie.com.br/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/antigas/20050706-lambe1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.laurie.com.br/2005/07/&usg=__AXM0nVbRC7NB0cz6Gv9X0CBDBEQ=&h=300&w=400&sz =44&hl=nl&start=5&tbnid=2_-oa9f-uDodUM:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3DLambe%2BLambe%26as_st%3Dy%26hl%3Dnl%2 6sa%3DG
    http://images.google.be/imgres?imgurl=http://img.olhares.com/data/big/72/722241.jpg&imgrefurl=http://olhares.aeiou.pt/lambe_lambe_foto722241.html&usg=__qjr7WA11img3yP2R t3HiUTfdtcM=&h=750&w=466&sz=77&hl=nl&start=6&tbnid =h5n34ZOgBKbmfM:&tbnh=141&tbnw=88&prev=/images%3Fq%3D%2522Lambe%2BLambe%2522%26as_st%3Dy%2 6hl%3Dnl%26sa%3DG
    Or just google for images with the exact name "lambe lambe" and you will probably find what you need.

  8. #8

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    Taco, thanks for those links. Much more information available.

    Well, I've started by looking at the processing part of the project. I found this little plastic cubical stack of plastic drawers at Walmart, costs about $6us, large enough to fit 5" x 7" negatives.

    I've marked the bottoms and front of each drawer, using a permanent marker, with the type of chemical in each drawer (helps in the clean-up process to avoid cross-contamination.)

    First image shows the drawers empty, second shows the "D" developer drawer pulled out. I've planned on processing the paper top down, so drips don't backwards contaminate the developer. When the drawers are fully extended the overall length is 14"; closed up the cabinet is about 7.5" deep. Attached files

  9. #9

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    Stop bath and fixer drawers pulled out. In actual use the top drawer will be opened first, negative inserted, then the drawer closed up; near the end of processing the stop bath drawer is pulled out all the way, then the developer drawer opened, the negative retrieved, allowed to drip off, and then inserted into the stop drawer. Repeat same process going from stop to fix.

    Attached files

  10. #10

    Portable Paper Negative Darkroom

    Drawers filled up with chemical, ready to process several paper negatives exposed today. The second image shows the size of the cabinet relative to a 4"x5" Riteway film holder.

    Attached files

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