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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