Posts Tagged ‘Transparencies’

My old slides

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

I took my first colour pictures years before I was a photographer. I’d long had an interest in photography, assiduously reading Amateur Photographer from cover to cover in the local library each week and around the age of 13 had saved pennies from my very limited pocket money each week, finally managing to buy a Halina 35x, which looked like a real camera. But it was around 4 years later that I could afford to buy my first film and send it away for processing, an Ilford black and white film which was returned with 36 postcard-size deckle-edge lustre prints, mainly of ancient oak trees in Richmond Park, though one of my father in our back garden in tie and cardigan uneasily holding a garden fork still adorns an oval hole in one of those family composites put together by my wife on our landing.

But the second film I took, I think the following year, was Agfa colour transparency. Most or all of it was taken of a girlfriend, an aspiring model, sitting in a blossom covered peach tree (grown from a stone) again in our back garden. I’m not sure if any have survived and the romance certainly didn’t, perhaps largely because as a penniless student I didn’t have a sports car and couldn’t take her to clubs, restaurants and pubs like the older men she met.

For the next few years I was a film a year man, a roll of colour transparencies taken on holidays and outings. I did take a couple of rolls of black and white when still a penniless student, but my photography was rather more curtailed when I dropped the camera in the lake at Versailles on my first overseas holiday, a week in a student hostel on the outskirts of Paris with my future wife. Fished out after some minutes underwater it never worked reliably again, the leaf shutter closing when it felt like it rather than following the set speed.

Around five years later I could afford to replace it with a cheap Russian SLR, and by then I’d also taken a short darkroom course and was living in a flat where I could set up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen to develop film and make black and white prints and my photography really began. But I continued to take the occasional colour slide film, mainly still for holidays. And by the time I really began photography seriously I was usually carrying two camera bodies, one with black and white and the second colour film.

Until 1985, all of that colour film was transparency film, partly because at that time most publications would only accept slides, and I aspired to have my pictures published event if they seldom where. Most of it, largely on cost grounds, was in those early years taken on film which used the E3 process, and it hasn’t aged well. E4 which replaced it towards the end of the ’70s has done better and what little Kodachrome I took (it was more expensive) best of all. Of course my slides have been stored in far from ideal conditions at home which will have accelerated their ageing.

Thanks to the Covid lockdown, I have managed to complete the scanning of all those slides which I can find which seem worth scanning. A few in the past were scanned on a proper film scanner at around 20 minutes per image; a few years ago I found I could get acceptable results from my Epson 750PRO flatbed (though only by not using its automatic location which crops unacceptably) but have now found a bellows and macro-lens much faster and better. Retouching to remove spots and mould can still be time-consuming, and I’ll only do this when I need to use the images. I’ve found little if any gain in cleaning the slides other than with an air blower – and using cleaning fluids and cloths seems to make those in card mounts even dirtier.

At the end of last month I wrote a little about a cycle ride up the Loire valley with some pictures on Kodachrome from 1975. The pictures in this post are from Paris in 1973 and have survived better than most I took in the early years. You can see them larger by right-clicking and choosing to open them in a new tab.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Stephen Shore small camera

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Stephen Shore is one of the photographers featured in Sally Eauclaire’s ‘The New Color Photography‘ published in 1981, though I had seen his work a few years earlier, certainly in Modern Photography magazine and possibly elsewhere. He also featured among the ‘New Topographics’ featured in the presentation by Lewis Baltz at his workshop I went to. Euclaire’s book certainly can be described as seminal, a significant milestone in the acceptability of colour photography as a serious medium for photographic artists – and perhaps more importantly for museums to collect and galleries to sell.

Of course colour in photography was not new. The first photographs had been taken in colour over a hundred years previously with technical demonstrations by James Clerk Maxwell and Louis Ducos du Hauron, and since the early days of the Daguerreotype colour had been added to photographs by hand. Autochrome, the first fully practical single plate additive colour processes was introduced commercially in 1907, and both Kodak and Agfa marketed their subtractive processes which were the basis of modern colour film photography in 1936.

Colour became used increasingly in some commercial photography from the 1950s on, and increasingly by amateurs in the 1960s. Its use by photojournalists was restricted not by the availability of film but by the huge bulk of publications still being printed in black and white for cost reasons, but as magazines changed it became more common.

I took one or two colour films (perhaps one per summer holiday) before I could afford to go seriously into photography, but when that became possible, partly because I was earning money rather than being a penniless student, it was also because I had learnt how to do photography on the cheap, loading cassettes from bulk film, developing and printing my own work – largely on surplus and often out-of-date paper. Colour was still expensive in comparison, though later I learnt to use bulk colour film and develop it myself, using cheaper alternatives to Kodak’s E3 and later E4 and E6 chemicals.

Kodachrome in some ways remained the gold standard, or rather the yellow box standard, but a film that was impossible to home process and which remained expensive to use. So though I used the occasional roll (mainly for those holiday snaps) and was fortunate enough to win a brick of the stuff in a magazine competition, largely I worked with cheaper films which could be brought in 50 or 100ft tins.

But certainly back in the 70s I was serious about colour, even if I took fewer colour pictures than black and white, and if the results weren’t always particularly successful. I studied colour, not in an art school but at home with books such as Johannes Itten’s ‘The Art of Color’, first published in 1920 when he was leading the “preliminary course” at the Bauhaus:

Itten theorized seven types of color contrast and devised exercises to teach them. His color contrasts include[d] (1) contrast by hue, (2) contrast by value, (3) contrast by temperature, (4) contrast by complements  (neutralization), (5) simultaneous contrast (from Chevreuil), (6) contrast by saturation (mixtures with gray), and (7) contrast by extension (from Goethe).”

David Burton, quoted by Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Itten

When I went to teach in a sixth form college in 1980 I found the art students there carrying out exactly the same exercises devised by Itten.

So while I appreciated the colour portfolios that were published in Euclaire’s book I reacted rather negatively to the suggestions that this was the beginning of serious colour photography – and I think we are now much more aware of earlier colour work than was then the case.

I began thinking about Stephen Shore and ‘The New Color Photography’ on reading an article online at The Guardian by Sean O’Hagan, Stephen Shore: ‘People would chase me off their lawns with my Leica’. Although Shore became well-known for the work he made in colour with a 10×8 camera, he was also carrying a Leica with him. It’s an interesting article that tells me more about the photographer, though I don’t think it illuminates his work in any respect for me, but perhaps may for those coming to him anew.

I’ve not yet seen the book, Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 which is published on March 5th, but the preview suggests it is rather more interesting than the small selection of images illustrating The Guardian article.