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Thread: paper negative thoughts

  1. #1

    paper negative thoughts

    Waiting for the weather to change and some warming happening, I got to reminiscing about my experience with paper negatives. Early in 1959 while starting a new job in photography Iíd tried to make a Ēfine artĒ picture by setting up some props and photographing them with a newly acquired 4X5 Graphic camera. There was a lacy edged table cloth draped over an ornate picture frame with a pitcher and cup in the fore ground.
    Being a novice I hadnít thought about smoothing out any creases or folds in the cloth so when later printing the ďfine artĒ picture found all the afore mentioned folds to appear unsightly and was disappointed. A more knowledgeable associate asked if Iíd like to try a paper negative technique to save the picture and of course I did (not having a clue of what he was talking about).He had me print an 11X14 print and darken any light areas with a soft pencil then contact print it and darken any light areas again and finally contact print this paper negative resulting in a print without the offending creases etc. but it now resembled a charcoal drawing. This was my only experience with a paper negative till many years later. Spring forward to 1996 after traveling to Colorado with some friends to see the aspen trees turning in September and finding we were a week late as most of the trees had dropped their leaves. We stumbled upon a beautiful tree still glowing with itís golden leaves in the little town of Como and I had to capture it on film, 35 mm color transparency slides. After processing and mounting the film I found that although the tree and itís immediate surrounds looked good there was a suburban neighborhood with power lines and a lot of clutter behind it. Worrying about this picture off and on for a year or so, it came to me that I could enlarge the slide up to an 8X10 paper negative (the largest paper I had at the time) and block out the unwanted areas with pencil , magic marker and opaque paper taped to the back of the print. Then contact it (slightly under exposed) on to another piece of photo paper and using light oils and colored pencils return it to a color picture. It isnít a photograph or a painting but I feel I saved a picture that I liked. I realize this could be done in Photoshop but I didnít have access to that program or know how to use it at the time and I kind of enjoyed the process so will probably do it again. Since then Iíve discovered in-camera paper negatives and fallen in love with itís look and feel, taking portraits and scenicís, etc. Really canít figure out why I never tried it before. Think maybe you all are responsible for my finding this technique.
    Canít thank you enough,

    Guess that's enough rambeling for now.

  2. #2
    500+ Posts jon.oman's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
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    Interesting history, and nice results!

  3. #3
    Great post, and it reminds me that I have an old photography book on paper negatives that describes much the same technique, of drawing on the reverse side of the negative with pencil or charcoal as a way to add density in areas of the image that might otherwise be blown out with little detail.

    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
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  4. #4
    500+ Posts earlj's Avatar
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    That's a great post, Don. It's fun when something lies dormant in one's brain for a long time, and then becomes relevant again. Keep on rambling.
    "a squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous, got me?"
    -Don Van Vliet

  5. #5
    Thanks for the kind comments guys.
    I thought a long time before posting as I wasn't sure it fit this forum but somehow I feel you all are more like kindred spirits than I've felt on other forums. I've enjoyed the others and learned a lot but this one feels like home.
    Thanks again,

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