Back To School – The Wonderful Thing About Film

Photogram 1

Yesterday I attended my first lesson at college for my AS level in photography. The course focuses on black and white photography and requires the students to work with film.

We spent most of our time in the dark room, learning the basic principals of using an enlarger with light sensitive paper. The aim was to make a photogram.

In case you donâ??t know what a photogram is (I know I didnâ??t until yesterday) hereâ??s a quick breakdown of how you make one:

  1. get a piece of light sensitive paper
  2. put stuff on it (the idea here is block light from reaching the paper â?? semi opaque objects and objects that can reflect / scatter light seem to work best)
  3. expose light to it using an enlarger
  4. develop, wash, fix and wash the paper
  5. take a look at what happened

For those that like to know, the photogram at the top of this page was created by using muti-coloured plastic cocktail sticks and exposing for 4 seconds at f8 onto Kentmere VC Select Fine Lustre M.Wt. The paper was then developed for 1minute, washed, fixed for 5minutes and then washed for 5 minutes.

If youâ??ve never made a photogram and have access to a darkroom I strongly recommend you give it a go. If nothing else itâ??s a pretty fun way to spend an afternoon.

I started getting into photography properly about the same time that digital was becoming a decent way to take photos. I made a conscious decision that I would embrace the new technology and shunned the â??old wayâ?. Until now my only experience of using film involved waiting in line at boots wondering how many of my photos would come out pink or even worse would have that â??Sorry. You really messed this one upâ?, sticker plastered across them.

This was the first time Iâ??ve used darkroom equipment and although it was by no means a total experience it really opened my eyes to something. I think I finally understand what is so appealing about working with film. Itâ??s not the fumes from the reasonably hazardous chemicals or the constantly thumping my leg on things while moving about the incredibly dimly lit room. Itâ??s not even the losing the white photographic paper on the enlargerâ??s white baseboard (who decided that was a good idea?). Itâ??s the excitement of seeing what youâ??ve got – that short delay between exposure and sluicing the paper in the developer until the image literally fades into view. If youâ??re working efficiently weâ??re only talking about a minute but in that minute you get to experience something that you just donâ??t get with digital – anticipation.

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