Saturday, 12 September 2015

Zoo Quest

For some reason, I recently had a very strong memory of a dream-like photo I took around 1985, so I looked it out and made a scan of it.  The original photograph was made on film that I developed in the bathroom and printed myself in an improvised darkroom that was, essentially, the corridor of my flat, and only really suitable for use in the hours of darkness.  As I have written before, I do not miss working in the darkroom at all.  I particularly do not miss occasionally putting my foot into a tray of developer left on the floor when getting up for a pee in the early hours, after I had printed myself into exhaustion and neglected to tidy things away.

I thought this slightly mysterious monochrome image would combine well with some of the digital colour photographs I brought away from my visit to Marwell Zoo this week.  It had been a beautiful, early September weekday, with warm afternoon sunlight bathing everything, and the zoo was half empty, all the kids now being back at school.  The only other visitors seemed mainly to be women with rather more than the usual number of infants in tow, which made me wonder whether the weekday zoo is a favoured resort of childminders, in the same way it is the divorced father's "custody day" outing of choice at weekends.

The interesting thing, though, is how much more satisfying this digital monochrome version is than the original.  I was never a great "analogue" printer -- far too unsystematic, way too impatient -- but subtle tweaks to contrast and so on are simplicity itself to achieve once you've got a decent scan, compared to the repetitive, time-consuming and wasteful process of making a series of "wet" test prints from a negative.  And people say there's no such thing as progress...

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