Cafe Ideal, Cool Blondes and Paradise revisited

I worked on the project that became Cafe Ideal, Cool Blondes and Paradise for around ten years, and the final on-line version I mentioned in a previous post is only one of several ways that I showed the work – there were also several different physical shows. But all of these only really scratched the surface of the project, for which – at a guess –  I took around 20,000 images.

Recently a group of 25 of them have been selected for a museum collection and I’ve been getting down to scanning the negatives – mainly from around 1990 – for the first time.

Technically it wa a project that was made possible by my switch to colour negative in the mid 1980s. Until then colour neg had largely be seen as an amateur medium, while pros shot mainly on transparency, which was always demanded for repro work.

Many of the images I too for this series would simply have been impossible on transparency material, as the lighting contrast was simply too high, and shadows would have blocked to an impossible extent on the higher contrast material. The presence of lighting of differing colour temperature would also have been a challenge  on some images, but was easier to handle on neg  – though sometimes it meant waving CC filters under the lens over parts of the printing the darkroom.

Like many other things in photography, this would have been so much easier with digital – and the prints from scans are very much easier to correct.

Almost all these pictures were also taken with a shift lens, which again was essential to the project, enabling me work from the viewpoints that were possible and also to exercise some control over perspective. The framing in these images would not have been possible without the vertical and horizontal displacements that this lens allowed.  I still often find myself trying to push the lens to one side when working with other lenses on a digital SLR.

Many of the images chosen are ones I’ve not used before, and previously I’ve mainly scanned enprints rather than negatives, so it’s been interesting for me to see this work again in a new light. I think I will end up scanning many more images from the project and re-evaluating it.

One Response to “Cafe Ideal, Cool Blondes and Paradise revisited”

  1. […] One of the other problems I faced was that window glass is often rather coloured, and although filtration when printing with colour neg might deal with this, when using a wide angle, rays from the edges of the subject travel obliquely through the glass with a longer path, sometimes leading to a noticeable colour shift.  It’s a problem that would be much easier to solve working with digital images than in the darkroom, where I sometimes resorted to dodging and burning with different filtration. I worked on scans of some of the images and wrote about it in a post here in 2008, Cafe Ideal, Cool Blondes and Paradise revisited. […]

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