Another Happy Accident

This is a lesson to myself about keeping my eyes and my mind open to ideas.

One night some years ago I was trying to make a black-and-whie print of a negative I had made years earlier than that, of our friend Deb Stinson. Those who have printed black-and-white know that despite a number of efforts to use technology to help, nothing worked for determining exposure better than making test prints. On that night, I was attempting to do so with this negative when, as is sometimes the case, the first attempt was seriously overexposed. As it developed in the tray of Dektol (the ubiquitous Kodak print developer), it started turning too fast, then rapidly became too dark.

Another one-of-a-kind image: the portrait of Deb Stinson developed in Dektol and darkroom trash.
Another one-of-a-kind image: the portrait of Deb Stinson developed in Dektol and darkroom trash.

Oops, I thought, and pulled it out of the soup right then without even turning on the lights, throwing it in the trash.

I went about my printing business, making a successful 8×10 of Deb. At some point in the sequence I looked into the trash can and saw the edge this print. Most of it was stuck emulsion-down to another sheet of 8×10, and had been in the trash for some time, being repeatedly exposed to room light, emulsion, and drying, sticky developer. I am unsure of the exact combination of light and soup and kitchen trash bags, but when I saw it, I turned off the lights, peeled it from its partner, washed it thoroughly, then fixed it. When I turned on the lights, the result was mesmerizingly bizarre, a peculiar combination of solarization and undeveloped blank areas.

There is no way I could have created this image on purpose using the equipment and techniques of the day, so I am very glad I let myself be open to this excellent, unconventional “found object” image.

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