My Photography: The Shock of Latent Imagery

The Shock of Latent Imagery Non-Imagined.

I use black and white film in a Pentax LX SLR camera with 3 core lenses. I have more but use the 50mm often, the 120mm for portraits of which I take very few and a 28mm sparingly because it tends to bring in too much information from the surrounding scenery. Every so often I am presented with a photograph I have taken which produces what I call ‘The Shock!’ The shock is what we have all experienced.

Older, as I am, I was brought up seeing film based photographs. My Dad was a keen photographer with an Olympus OM 2 that he always took photographs with/on. I remember putting a film through a Brownie bought from a charity shop when I was about 18. But that was my one ‘attempt as a photographer’ experience right up until I was about 48/9ish. When I was child/teenager I remember the slap of a packet of photographs as they hit the floor from the letterbox and my Mum and Dad, on looking excitingly at the photographs individually as a snap in that fragment of time, either letting out a laugh, a ‘wow, that’s a peach of a photograph’ type comment or a groan of disappointment or embarrassment. Nowadays, a button deletes disappointments and embarrassments, if Facebook doesn’t get them first! And a small telephone screen doesn’t portray the complete splendour of a Godsend photograph. That moment of ‘Did I actually take this?’ exists, for myself, in the form of film still. Yes…..For me it was when the film, housed in the enlarger negative holder, shed its darkroom enlarger light on the ancient photographic paper and the developer/stop/fixer solutions brought the whole ‘hoped for’ to life. It lay in the water wash tray as solutions were being removed and the “the photograph” was forming it’s own magical solution by cementing itself into my mind. I remember looking at them as little treasures I knew I would love for a long time. Is it pride? No, I don’t believe it is. Wonder hits first, then satisfaction. I didn’t grow the grass or produce the grains of sand and then blow wind strength breath onto them to create shape, rhythm and collective beauty. I pushed a button on a camera that let it all be captured on a little negative piece of film. There in lay the wonder of it all. Pride?

Zen Master Yuanwu:

”If you have the idea of superiority and are proud of your ability, this is a disaster”.

Modern digital thoughts? I’ve took the odd photographs on my phone. But, invariably I delete them. My wife, daughter and brother-in-law are the expert family portrait takers. And their work just rocks. They use digital and it’s format affects emotional senses. Kipling wrote,

“Smells are surer than sounds or sights to make your heart-strings crack”.

My interests are photographing the outdoors. So, the smell of salty sea air or a deep, damp, dark, musky woodland smell may influence the timing of the button as the grass, sand, water and trees whisper their ethereal songs to the subconscious self. That or a fairy sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, ‘Take the photograph……NOW!’ Whatever the answer, it’s firmly fixed on paper in the end.

Kipling’s second line reads:

“They start those awful voices o’nights that whisper, “Old man, come back!”

But, I digress, when you see the darkroom tray produce a photograph with what I like to call ‘Shock of Latent Imagery…….Non-Imagined’ (SOLINI), it produces one of those sprinkled fairie dust moments that sends a shiver up and down the spine. Goose-bumpy and brings a smile to your face. Strange though, because my work is pretty Gothic in nature. Not true renditions of sunshine and grass. But, nevertheless a moment that has crept into the psyche of my artistic soul.

So, what is a SOLINI photograph. I have about 10 out of thousands. Not a top ten. Just ones I’d put in a journal, akin to “ Sleeping with Herodotus as in the film The English Patient”. Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes et al.. The pages would include my own history, photos, ramblings and experiences whilst cutting and collecting others’ materials that knock you sideways when read or seen. A personal sanctity of memories rather like a travel journal, but a lifetime’s journey in one journal. It’s like an equivalent survival kit that you put into an Altoid box. Pull out a photograph, a bit of poetry, or your Grannies secret recipe from within it’s pages. Emotional survival existing in memories from a carried treasure book. If dementia comes to me, I’m a nurse and have to be realistic of what-ifs? A journal would be there to jog my long term memory whilst my short term memory struggles and grasps at straws. Maybe I’ll choose a favourite book and keep those memories within. An antique, rough around the edges, earthy smelling splendid tome that itself can be read countless times. A book that can be considered to bring enlightenment at each dipped in perusal. Or a simple life changing inspirational tale or story that never tires after countless reads. So many……..

So……..the Latent Image.

A latent image on photographic film is an invisible image produced by the exposure of the film to light. When the film is developed, the area that was exposed darkens and forms a visible image. In the early days of photography, the nature of the invisible change in the silver halide crystals of the film’s emulsion coating was unknown, so the image was said to be “latent” until the film was treated with photographic developer.

Having taken a photograph using film, the latent image that exists before development is truly a mystical entity. As said…….Everyone has a photograph that has taken them completely by surprise once developed. I am sharing this experience with others and picking the photographs I have taken that have made me go “WOW”. See below

8 thoughts on “My Photography: The Shock of Latent Imagery”

  1. I’ve now read my way through all your posts (very enjoyable) and, as you say elsewhere, we have a lot in common. Some ways similar, some very different. I’ve never been a potter and I’ve never used Pentax. I have however been a pretty creative cook for a while, have used an OM2 (I still do), have a Mamiya Press rather than a Pentax 645, prefer black and white, my ‘darkroom’ project is also on the back burner but spiders have nothing to do with it, followed ‘The good life’ (probably a little in love with Felicity Kendal – wasn’t everybody?), have changed my ‘career’ every ten years and advise others to do the same, never been a nurse but have ‘looked after’ severely disabled children for a while in Romania, have never played guitar but have played in ‘a band’ (if you can call that) for a while, am not vegetarian but eat ‘veggie’ twice a week, I don’t sign but I do speak Romanian which is fairly unusual for a native English speaker, I don’t draw but I do try to write, and I own a crossover T2 (bought from a little south of you – the little Newport) though far from renovating he (‘Lofty’) will soon be sold. Oh, I’m about a decade and a half older! I’ll look forward to reading your future posts.


    1. Thank you Roger. Those differences between us two allow us to remain individuals in spirit and adventures sought. But our tenacity is pretty much akin. Read more of your blog site in episodes over today and enjoyed the reads very much. My God, you’re a fighter. By the way, my good friend Paul, who is renovating my bus says power steering is an easy option on a T2 Bay. Although I appreciate the added worries of an old VeeDub likely to break down at the drop of a hat. But….it’s a thing of beauty anyone would be proud to own. My Dad sold his T25 after my Mum died. The family immediately took it to Italy and got back in touch with us regarding their adventures. Thank you for describing our similarities. I now know there is another strange person that confirms that we are in fact the normal ones who are little triers, rub our hands in anticipating what’s to happen-ers and seekers of life’s gifts and opportunities that exist on our planet. We’ll be in touch soon I’m sure. Good fortune in all you do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I did consider adding power steering to Lofty but two problems = I cannot now do all the little jobs necessary and in particular getting into the engine is now beyond me – even topping up the oil is a problem. Having driven the Dacia Duster 4,500 miles to Romania and back last year without a problem I decided, reluctantly, I had to be more realistic. A modern Transporter didn’t appeal. Fortunately we like tent camping so have returned to that though how much this year we’ll see.


      2. PS. Do you use Facebook. I hate it and generally do not but I did make a closed group to document Lofty’s trip to Romania and could give you access to that: Lofty2Romania.


      3. No. I have a private Facebook account with my family and best friends only having access. It helps keeps me in the loop with my grandchildren’s photographs that my children take. They live at distance, so I get to see them sometimes months apart. Of course, FaceTime, which my wife has on her set up, is priceless. I’ll look up Lofty2Romania. Thanks.


      4. I understand your reservations in this. They are difficult to maintain, and especially to a year by year standard that keeps you safe. But you know that. It’s important to get out there. Not to recede into a hermit existence. So, go Duster.


  2. Reblogged this on Gray Summers and commented:

    I’d like to revisit the SLR camera photography experience. Although not in earnest as once was. But still obsessed with Black and White film and vintage photograph grain ambience. The poetic and ethereal philosophy that is involved with film’s ‘Latent Imagery’. No longer have a darkroom set up, so will have to send results away. Re-blogging this old post from early 2018 to remind me that in all of us who choose our hobbies and interest in various subjects, as we move on through life, there is no sense in forgetting that they were once very enjoyable. Made us smile. Made us happy. So if they give us a tap on the shoulder? I’m all for a revisit. Mind you. I bet buying and then getting film developed is very expensive nowadays.


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