19th century adventures

This post was originally published on Photogwife in July 2011

Recently our home has been filled with activities related to Scott's alternative photo process projects.  It started last fall when he was browsing the bookshelf at home at picked up this book...


He built his own box camera based on a project in this book.  The camera is made for a 6x6 inch negative.  He even built a beautiful carrying case.


And of course, you can't build your own camera and not also build your own film...so a few weeks ago the book came out again and the next phase of what I'm calling The Old Timey Photo Project began. The book Primitive Photography is a little strangely worded at times, so while building the camera and preparing the negatives Scott has been juggling information from it, his own brain, and another book on alternative processes. He's trying a few different techniques for making paper negatives...some with wax, some without, some with extra silver nitrate...


Our bathroom now converts within a matter of moments into a darkroom capable of supporting a variety of photographic processes of the last 150+ years...which of course requires a variety of chemicals...


...and safety equipment too. The fun/interesting part of this project is that it follows the ancestral roots of photography...a slow, complicated, and somewhat unpredictable process. What an interesting challenge for a modern photographer and an opportunity to more fully understand the subject he is so passionate about. And then there's me...I've been having fun jumping in with my iPhone and taking photos in an instant which I convert to 'Old Timey' with the flick of a finger (all the pics here are via my iPhone, converted with the Sutro filter on Instagram).


The first round of exposures yielded some promising results when they were developed (above) and Scott will try making prints from these in the coming weeks.  The second and third rounds have been an exercise in problem solving (too much gallic acid? not enough contrast in the scene? ...?). I'll keep you posted. 

If you'd like to read more about this project from Scott's perspective (and see his self-portrait wearing safety gear) check out his blog Mountain Over Water under the category "Projects" or feel free to drop me a comment or email with your questions.