Hi everyone! Jen Perena here, fresh out of the darkroom. Well, 15 hours ago I actually left the Silver Den, but it FEELS like I am fresh out of the darkroom!
I finally resumed making work this past weekend (after almost a month of not making any work!), with a goal of finishing all of my printing so I can fully concentrate on water coloring the pieces for the ‘vegetation’ half of the show. I’m not 100% sure I accomplished that because I left work drying on the rack, and it always dries down darker, but I feel good about it.
Here are a few pics (iPhone photos of the work fresh out of the wash, so please excuse the reflections…) of what I made on Saturday. I spent 5 hours in the darkroom and made 8 prints that day. This set had close to the “right” exposure times (3.5 minutes) based on the richness of the final tones, though they look a bit too dark and flat to me:
On Sunday I returned to the darkroom, but when I checked the rack, I felt that the dried-down images from Saturday were a bit dark, so I reprinted everything at 3 minutes, plus added a single drop of the dichromate contrast booster to the emulsion chemistry. After washing each one, I felt they looked closer to what I am going for in terms of slightly underexposed so I can watercolor into the grayer areas. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the second set; after 6 (more) hours and 9 (more) prints I was pretty tired, and it slipped my mind.
Next week at this time I will be in Guam; I am heading there for work for 2 wks and will be back Nov 17. I will try to make at least one post during that time…but it won’t be about my work (kallitypes nor watercoloring nor actual reason I am there)….more likely tropical waterfalls and beach scenes, which I know you will all love as November gets colder and grayer! But soon, I promise a sneak peek at my watercoloring!
Ciao! Jen Perena here, just back from visiting family in the Abruzzo region of eastern Italy. On the run up to the trip I was busy juggling my full-time work and prepping at home, so didn’t manage to get into the darkroom; then I was gone for about 10 days, so there was a little gap in my posts. I have been home now for just under a week, but am not 100%….I managed to develop a double sinus infection and ear infection during my travels….so instead of getting right back into the darkroom, I’ve begun watercoloring some of the vegetable prints I made in September. Photos of my work-in-progress coming in the next post!
In the mean time I wanted to share some pics from my trip (inspiration for more kallitpyes) and also some things I have been pondering over the last weeks.
The title of this post hints at a constant challenge I face each time I make new kallitypes.
Let’s say in a perfect world I mix up a batch of fresh developer, fresh toner and fresh fixer for each session. When the first print goes into the developer, the developer immediately begins to weaken, as it leaches some of the emulsion, turning slightly yellow. After developing and washing, the print goes into the toner, and when the selenium reacts with the silver, it also starts to weaken and begins to darken. Then the print is washed again and fixed, and though the fixer doesn’t change color, you know it is becoming weaker, because it is getting absorbed into each sheet of paper. On top of that, the darkroom vent fan is causing all of the chemicals to slowly evaporate as it suctions up fumes.
So basically, after the very first print hits all three baths, each of them is in turn slightly weakened, slightly older, slightly aged….each time you pass a new print through the same baths, you are already at a kind of disadvantage because the chemistry is not the same as when print #1 passed through.
By the end of a 3- or 4-hour long session, the developer is usually exhausted, and though the selenium continues to be usable, it takes longer and longer to get the tone shift you see when the solution is fresh. I usually save the selenium into a plastic bottle, and some of the particulate settles to the bottom, yielding a lighter-colored selenium for the next session, but it is still aged.
Next session, I mix up fresh developer again, and then I reuse the same selenium and fixer. And the next session after that, same deal, until the selenium is visibly exhausted and no longer produces the color shift I want. So next session, fresh developer again and fresh selenium, but I continue to use the same fixer for at least another batch of prints.
Typically: my one batch of ammonium citrate developer yields 7 prints and by the time I discard it, it is pretty dark yellow; my one batch of selenium solution yields 14 or so prints and by the time I discard it, it is pretty dark black; my one batch of fixer yields roughly 25 prints, and though it is still clear when I finish, there is much less chemistry in the tray than when I started.
Moral of the story: not only is each print unique because of the way I coat the paper, the amount of chemistry I use to coat, the paper I select, the exposure I use, and the age and strength of the bulbs in the UV unit, but the chemistry in each bath is always different – developer stronger or weaker, selenium fresher or closer to being exhausted, etc. In order to get a more consistent result I would have to mix fresh everything for each print, which isn’t feasible, not to mention economical or practical.
And so there you have it. A dilemma which results in a feeling of constantly chasing what I have termed the ‘perfect imperfection’. There is no chance that two prints will be exactly the same. And that is perhaps what I most love about this process, even as it is endlessly frustrating knowing you just cannot control all the variables. Fino alla prossima volta! (Until next time….)
Through my documentary photography I explore the human condition and the individual paths people take on their journey. Photography for me, has been an exploration of self-discovery as I tend towards issues that have affected me personally. My hope is always to raise an awareness and open the door for conversation.
Plastics: Our Human Wastehas been an education unlike no other. The evolution of this project came about due to my anxiety over litter. It seemed to me that many of the issues I document have
no concrete solutions. Litter on the other hand seems an easy fix. Don’t litter. Recycle. Pick it up. I am now aware that it is not that easy. My approach to Plastics came about after spending a day at Hamlin Beach along the shore of Lake Ontario. Looking around I was blown away at the amount of litter washed up. This wasn’t just any old litter, it was all plastic.
Picking up this plastic as though it were sea glass, I started sorting by color, shapes, and size. Working my way through Braddock, Durand and Webster beaches picking up plastic became a daily routine. The enormous amount of multi-colored plastic waste became overwhelming.
Researching plastic in Lake Ontario was scary:
In 2012 and 2013 NGO 5 Gyres sampled areas of Lake Ontario, they recorded levels of plastic as high as 1.1 million particles per square km. – NOW Toronto News
Alex Mifflin of NOW Toronto states, “Just like the infamous garbage patches of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, our own backyard has been turned into a plastic soup – only our lakes have even higher concentrations of plastics than the biggest ocean garbage patches.”
I raised an awareness within my own family. Thinking we have a relatively small footprint, I was so wrong, plastic is used in every facet of our lives. It is my hope that these images alongside the actual plastic collected from the shores of Lake Ontario will raise an awareness in you.
Saturday, August 19th, I will be hosting an Artist Talk on Plastics: Our Human Waste at the Flower City Arts Center. I have several guests joining me to include photographers who participated in documenting plastic and litter Jacalyn Meyvis and Erica Jae, my husband, Daryl Thaler who ventured out with me weekly collecting plastic waste along beaches and Ben McLauchlin, a Rochester native and Binghamton University student focusing on environmental studies and graphic design. Ben has participated in research in the Galapagos Islands studying plastic and will be talking about his experiences as well as sharing his images.
While at the talk you can check out images of plastic collected along Lake Ontario beaches and litter from Rochester area parks, the actual plastic that was swimming in the lake, and some cool artwork created by local artisans from the plastic.