Thursday, January 3, 2013

Proofing negative files.

  40+ years of sheet film negatives, all processed, sleeved, numbered and boxed.  The only thing I didn't regularly do until about 10 years ago was PROOF everything as I shot it.  Now I have several thousand unproofed negatives sitting in archival boxes.

  Last year I decided I would start whittling away on this project.  Adding proofs to the boxes of negatives won't fit in the files, so I go through and toss out the worst exposure, pinholed extra negs, shots ruined by flare, et, et. Should have done that earlier and would have done it if I was proofing as I went.

   For years I shot both sides of a holder at each scene so there are a couple of each.  Sometimes I started shooting before something happened and shot until it stopped so there may be as many as six or eight negatives of one scene.  Easy to cut down.  The spares don't go in the trash- they move to other boxes.  They'll hit the trash later I'm sure.  Probably along with everything else.

  Since I have shot film my whole adult life it's like going through a personal visual diary.  I can remember where I was, who I was with, what the light was like, what lens I was using and so on.  There are negatives of the cars I was driving.  I go back to the same rock faces out West time and time again.  Quite fun but also pretty revealing about my visual growth or lack thereof.  I'm not very sacred.  It's been a struggle and there is certainly a case to be made that I haven't improved at ALL beyond learning the technical ropes and being able to afford more lenses.  (Boy, I wish someone had made me shoot 5X7 -with a wide angle, from day one.)

  Very rarely do I find a negative I don't remember well, though there are some boxes I haven't looked at in 25 years or more.  I'm not finding any great gems but I there are some pretty interesting shots and some I will be interested to look at more carefully as soon as I finish proofing them.

  I did find one little series: The Lewis Hotel- a little fleabag three-story dump just off downtown here in Tyler that I got obsessed with.  It was a ruin and being gutted out for restoration when I started looking at it.  No power inside.  Full of doorways, bouncing light, bad wall coverings, scuzzy windows, cracking paint and crazy piping.  I used a Sinar with a bag bellows and a 90mm wide.  I shot every few days.  There's enough to make a little exhibition.

Bad bathroom.  In that white window are the downtown Tyler skyscrapers.  Might be able to conjure them up in a real print.

The front exterior after demolishing a whole set of add-on rooms.

Main staircase at the front door.

Hallway.  No air conditioning ever so each room had a screen door and a real door.  The tied-up curtains are for privacy.

Room view.  I'm just iphoning these files.  This can be a really rich print.

That's five shots.  There are easily 20 pretty good images from close-ups of old room numbers or paint cracks to exterior full-building scenes.

  It was about 1982.  I made a very distinct decision to shoot in PERFECT light and go back time and time again to the same scene until they wrecked it out or I was satisfied.  It was the first instance where I seriously manipulated lighting by blocking off windows and/or adding reflectors.  I printed a couple at the time but that was it.  Pretty easy negatives.

  Boxes and boxes of negatives.  It takes a day to proof one box in the darkroom.  Probably take a couple of years to finish, God willing.  I proof all my stuff before filing now.


Kim said...

This is really interesting. Especially the screen doors. I do not remember this place.

Robert Langham said...

It's still there, just over the railroad tracks on Ferguson street East of downtown. That wold be downtown Don Juans street, keep driving, cross railroad tracks, look right. Randy Gilberts law office.