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Contact print frame, part 1

I finally managed to start working on my contact print frame. I found a large stock of glass panels of about 38x30cm, which was great news. They come from our sheds: one has a glass wall (or at least, something that aspires to look like a glass wall) but it’s all small panels set in putty. The putty is quite old so panels have started dropping out, which is not a good idea with a little kid around. So we decided to replace the whole glass construction with something else, perhaps plexiglas (acrylic glass).

Frame with my workspace in the background (outdoor stairs)

I’m building my contact print frame around one of these glass panels. The frame consists of a front frame and a container frame. To expose, I will put the glass panel + a large negative + photo paper + a backing panel into the container frame. This whole will be pushed against the front frame, which holds it as it has smaller internal dimensions.

On the photo you can see the container frame on the right. The board on the left is part of the front frame, but it’s much too wide. I will cut it along its length into two narrower pieces and screw it onto the the container frame.

The wood is quite rough so I’m using sand paper to make it smooth. It’s taking a bit more time than I expected, but it’s fun.

After the contact print frame is done, I’ll be checking out several plants in the garden to see if I can use them for dyeing paper. By exposing this to sunlight, the exposed parts should lose their colour, giving a positive image. This way of printing photos is called an anthotype.

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Selecting wood

I took a look at our wood stocks today to select what I will use for my contact print frame. Because I want to spend no money, the choice is limited to what has been left by the builders who renovated our home. It’s not ideal. The frame will have a total thickness of more than 8 centimetres and will probably weigh a ton. For an A3 frame (42x30cm), the frame should be about 57×45, adding a whopping 15cm in each direction. And then I’m not adding any margin in the frame itself, which I should because the part that holds the glass will be 2cm thick, casting shadows over the sides of the photo.

Should make a nice frame !

Tomorrow I’ll be buying glass and probably a back cover in light wood. I could use a leftover plasterboard but I expect it’d be messy. It’s also hard to cut accurately. I have other leftover boards, but they’re heavy and quite thick. When I get the glass and I have exact measurements, I can start putting the pieces together.

About this blog

After more than 20 years in photography, I started wondering: what is it actually, photography ? How does it work ? How do I make an image ? What do I make it with anyway ? I concluded I didn’t know. Right now, I use a sensor and a PC to “make photos”. A long time ago, I used film: I bought the film and chemicals, put them together in a tank and shaked the damn thing in the way described in the technical spec. Magic ? Hmm, there should be more to this.

There must be some photographic material in here

I decided to start stripping down. I’m selling off the cameras that I’m not using any more, which are a 1980s film SLR and a digital point-and-shoot. And I’ll be trying a few things. There are two rules:

  1. I will spend no money except for what I have earned.
  2. Every step will be taken towards doing more by hand to produce photographs.

A bit of elaboration on the spending. The initial money will be the earnings from selling my unused cameras. If I need to spend more, I will need to earn it first through selling what I produced. Photography is sometimes regarded as an expensive hobby, but I disagree.

About the second principle: I want to do it myself to understand it better. With a mechanical camera, I learnt about exposure, something I couldn’t do with an all automatic one. With the sunny 16 rule, I could learn to understand light better than with a light meter. By making my own photosensitive paper, I will understand sensitisation and exposure behaviour of paper better than by buying paper.

It will be a road to travel. If I was looking for results, the road I am taking would not be particularly efficient. But then the road to results has become so efficient it’s boring: grab any digital camera (preferably a DSLR), shoot and the camera will make sure it’s good. Nothing interesting about it because the engineers who designed the camera did all the hard work. But how about painting a paper in blackberry juice and exposing it ? Could I get that to work so that I can make my own blackberry post cards (the fruity ones) and mail them home ? Now that would be something !

Ah, a final rule. No photography on this site, except by myself, of course.

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