Kallitype Weekend Update

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:

Kallitype of large aloes or some kind of agave or succulent; I love this one but it is a little too dark for hand coloring
This one definitely has the right exposure, but could benefit from a teeny bit more contrast for my liking


Kallitype of snap peas and squash blossoms – also a tad too dark for hand coloring


Kallitype of kohlrabi – pretty good, but see if you can detect the ‘invisible’ root (it was purple and came out so dark it looks barely there)

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!


Kallitype Chemistry is like shifting sand beneath your feet

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.

Drift wood, stack of stones and traboccho, (fisherman’s stand) at Punta Aderci, along the Adriatic ‘Trabocchi Coast’

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.

Magnolia pod, Cividale, Italy

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.

Church door, Punta Penna, Vasto, Italy

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.

Shadow of seagull on the awning above the breakfast terrace of our hotel, Venice, Italy

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.

50th Anniversary of the Annual Barcolana Regatta, largest in the world with over 2,600 boats of all classes, Bay of Trieste, Italy

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.

Door, Casalbordino, Italy

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….)



Kallitype Progress Report

Happy Monday everyone! Jen Perena here with a look at some of my recent work.

Over the past couple sessions, I have been focusing on making prints that feature vegetation of some sort: vegetables, flowers, herbs, cacti, grasses, etc. In this post I’ll share an image of chive flowers and another of squash blossoms.

My intention with this part of the series is to produce images that I can watercolor over. When I initially conceived of this grouping, I was visualizing slightly underexposed images that would allow me to paint the entire image without ‘losing’ too much of the color in the shadows. I selected a set of vividly-colored iPhone photos, converted them to black and white, digitally manipulated them so that they would produce ‘dense negatives’ and then began contact printing. But it is never easy.

I started by printing with the very smooth print-makers paper that I mentioned a few posts back. Process-wise, when you expose the paper, then remove the negative, you are looking for a ‘whisper’ of the image. In both cases, after 5-min exposures, I got great ‘whispers’….but upon development, most of the chemistry washed away, and by the time I got to toning, there wasn’t much left. For these, I would have needed much longer exposures….however, the resulting lighter gray-toned images should work well for the watercoloring process.

Here you can see the ‘whisper’ on the left after the print came out of the UV unit, and then the final image, dried down, on the right, looking washed out and underexposed
Same thing here with the squash blossoms image – ‘whisper’ on the left, final image on the right

I next coated some of the watercolor paper I had been using. Same 5 minute exposure times, but the watercolor paper retains the chemistry much better, so these came out looking really overexposed.

Here you can see the chive flowers looking very dark, too dark to water color over and actually too overexposed to use
And for the squash blossoms, though I think this is also too dark, I really like how it came out, and I would consider not coloring it

I haven’t decided which I like best yet, but I plan to do more printing: using the watercolor paper again I’ll print shorter exposures, and using the print-makers paper I’ll print longer exposures, and see if I can get a more happy medium of resulting images with both papers. And then hopefully it will be easier to decide which to use for the watercoloring.

Stay tuned for samples of the watercolored images….

Plastic Waste

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.

Plastic waste picked up along Hamlin Beach

Plastics: Our Human Waste has 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

Go Green, Braddock Heights Beach
Black Plastic, Braddock Heights Beach

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.

Bottle caps in all colors and sizes are strewn across our parks and beaches. To be recycled, a plastic cap must be kept on the bottle otherwise it is considered a contaminant. Caps get into our waterways most often by way of littering. Littered bottle caps are washed into storm drains, making their way into bodies of water. Eventually breaking down, the plastic become false food for marine life. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #KeepTheCapAttached

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.

Plastic tampon applicators are abundant along Lake Ontario beaches. Photo by Daryl Thaler. #Refuse

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.

Plastic debris recovered by Juan Pablo Munoz’s marine biology lab at the GAIAS Institute in the Galápagos Islands. Photo by Ben McLauchlin

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.

Sea life sculptures made from discarded plastic found in Binghamton, NY by Ben McLauchlin

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.

Mermaid created out of plastic waste found along Lake Ontario beaches, by Kelly Cheatle of Airigami Balloon Creations

Remember: Reduce. Recycle. Reuse. Refuse.

It is called the American Flag

My work has focused to explore the different ideas about identity, what defines it… and how it is molded. These questions came back to my mind when I started to live in the US.  How people identify themselves as “Americans”. I’ve found it surprising how many people feel like they are from everywhere in the globe, less from the USA, but that doesn’t stop them from feeling less patriotic…

The project “It is called the American Flag” was arising to reflect about this idea of “be american”, to show the relevance of a symbol in our everyday environment and maybe with images show different ideas around them. I need to say, to me it is impressive how many flags are outside homes or public spaces, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first foreign person who has noticed. When I asked about it, the first answer from my friends was something like it is common to see them outside conservative houses, but that doesn’t apply for everyone.

Definitely the creative process of each artist is different between them. To me working and continuing to post about an ongoing project is difficult because it is not complete. I need to organize my thoughts and clarify my ideas, about what I’m trying to communicate, to express… to show. Also how I want to do it, which are the best media, which are the best ways to work on it. In short I need to create a visual and mental map.

At the end I decided the best way to approach this subject would be through instant photos because they represent to me a unique piece of visual culture, but the snapshot themselves could be seen as common and valueless. I started by taking instant photos of every flag around me, starting with the ones around the places where I had been living since I arrived in Rochester, creating a set of maps…  To me these maps represents the nets that I’ve been creating around, showing them as a net that connects different areas and different periods of my life here.

Plastics – Our Human Waste

Passionate about litterplastic pollution?

When I started working on my personal project as a Photography Artist in Residence at Flower City Arts Center, I had no idea it would change how I see the world as much as it has. I mean litter, how original can I be with that subject? I photograph people…yet to my surprise I have raised my own awareness!! Excitedly the community is joining me in cleaning up our Lake Ontario shoreline and parks in Monroe County and beyond, you can too!

I will be hosting plastic picking pop-ups as a part of my upcoming exhibit Plastics: Our Weakness. Perhaps we can start a movement together.

Unlike mini Clean Sweeps these events will be freelance so to speak. You will need to provide your own gloves, nifty grabbers, and bags for sorting. I have no doubt plastic litter will inspire the artist activist in you!!
I’ll be in the north side parking lot along the shoreline, furthest to the east in a dark blue, rusty ford escape. Message me at arleen.thaler@gmail for more details!

A small portion of plastic litter picked up along the Lake Ontario shoreline this summer.

Join me: GEM Gallery Talk

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 1 p.m., George Eastman Museum
Please join me as I guide visitors on a tour of the exhibition The Run-On of Time, the first museum retrospective of Eugene Richards‘s work, while I share my own experience working in Rochester, New York as a photojournalist, photography artist-in residence and teaching artist at the Flower City Arts Center where I offer the Social Reportage class covering the issues that face our time while raising a visual awareness through thoughtful immersion.
Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944). Henry’s boots, Still House Hollow, Tennessee, 1986. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eugene Richards. © Eugene Richards
Free to members; included with museum admission.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
1 p.m.
George Eastman Museum
Members Free

Opening Doors for Community Conversation

Several weeks ago I was called out about the photo walks I give in the city of Rochester, NY. They were likened to a tour in a zoo due to the marginalized neighborhoods we went in, neighborhoods I’ve lived in. Most recently a Rochester based journalist contacted me to let me know she wanted to talk with me. She was transparent. The reason, she wants to critique my walks because there is a charge for them and the neighborhoods are primarily African American and poverty stricken.

I mentioned that I do not get paid, the money taken in for these walks directly supports youth programming and scholarships. After reading an article on these sorts of walks, the issue goes much deeper.

Over the past several years, almost weekly someone asks to walk with me to see how I photograph through immersion (even the fellow who likened it to a zoo trip and now sells images of strangers in Rochester for profit –go figure) Not thinking anything of it, I most always said yes. These photo walks offer me the opportunity to teach and share how I make meaningful connections in the community.

Another part of the inspiration for these walks was my recent completion of 18 months as the Northwest team leader for Flower City AmeriCorp walking specifically in poverty stricken neighborhoods doing surveys, outreach, etc. for the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. I am proud of the projects myself and my team members created to help those in need. During this time I documented the City of Rochester’s amazing programs for the youth residing within these neighborhoods. I am honored to have my images used in the 2017 Summer Recreation Program guide.
City of Rochester 2017 Summber Recreation Program Guide
My curiosity over the comment and interest led me to google photo walks, street photography workshops, etc. I am not naive to the issues today regarding race and come from a racially diverse family. I am educated on ethical issues regarding photojournalism. In my search a recent article popped up about walks/tours in Bushwick, I was shocked but I wasn’t shocked. White led groups of white tourists in marginalized areas…reading that sounds strange and awful. Cringeworthy.

I reflected on my walks. As a part of my artist residency at Flower City Arts Center, I decided to offer photo field trips. The premise of these walks –to build bridges, make connections, explore, meet new photographers and enjoy the city I have lived in and documented for some time. They were also a way to answer the question put forth by African American artist, Sharita Towne, How do you take pictures of somebody in a way that brings them to the table instead of putting them on the menu?”

What I didn’t realize is how these walks could be perceived by some. The walks themselves never gave indication of being gratuitous or exploitative. Strangers became friends. Participants made connections with people we met along the way, had meaningful dialogue on issues the city faces while exchanging  phone numbers and linking on social media to share the images created.

All that aside, I’m pretty certain that my integrity, my heart, and my love of the Roc that make up the foundation of these walks will not be received that way by some. And that is okay.

I see every side, I’d like to think that is one of my strengths as a photojournalist, being mindful of those who are or could be potentially hurt. On that note, the photo field trips are no longer available. I don’t want to be THAT photographer. Sometimes we do things that are pure of heart not realizing that pure of heart may have a negative effect on other’s hearts.

It is time we all truly need to listen, step outside and check ourselves. Forget field trips into the city, listening is truly bridge-building and heart work.

The eye-opening article:

Arleen Thaler
Rochester, NY

So Long 2016

As most of us can attest 2016 was filled with many highs and big year-end lows with election results dividing us in many ways. As a Photo Artist-in-Residence at Flower City Arts Center, I am using photography as a tool to help bridge that divide and to unite us. In the Autumn of 2016 I began photo walks with students and members. These walks brought us into neighborhoods in Rochester, NY, and gave us the opportunity to connect with real people instead of a sea of avatars.


Over the next couple weeks, Megan Charland and myself will be building a wall map of the #ROC where participants will be hanging their photos. This exhibit will not only allow our community to view the images, but to use the photographs to create conversation. We are currently planning a reception for the project where participants will share their experience immersing themselves within communities different than their own.

Part of the inspiration behind this project comes from my own experience immersing myself with the different communities in Rochester and my want to find a way to use social media in a positive way. It is easy to get caught up in division social media can create. Taking a break from the screen, hitting the streets to meet and greet people in person is vital to realizing we really are a lot more alike than the differences portrayed on the interweb.

Happy New Year!