No return

In one of my biggest projects so far I've created a thematic series of images from a day in the life.  The series is a collection of 24 images which have been created over the last few weeks while in the UK and France. Being in the heart of rural France really lent itself to inspire the narrative I wrote for this series.  I was surrounded by old farm buildings that date back to the 1700s, away from modern day distractions.  Using my environment I created a sort of ghost vs. Alice in Wonderland story.

"A young girl starts her journey after waking from a short sleep to find an old door standing nearby.  A key lets her open and enter another land which takes her to a secret garden.  While exploring she feels as though she's being watched.  Suddenly she discovers faces peering at her through some ivy.  Curious she approaches and raises her arm to touch one of the faces.  The glare from the face startles her and she flees, not realising she dropped the key that allowed her to enter.  The young girl runs and runs for miles down old trodden paths into a dark forest.  The door she hopes to see never reappears and she falls to the ground having given up hope.  At the end we see her join the other lost soles in the ivy."

I took inspiration from Salvator Dali for his method of using wire to levitate items and Duane Michaels for his use of reflection of which I love.  It was important that the face of my model be prominent, so I used a white foundation to lighten the skin tone.  Black eye shadow was then applied in and around the eyes, feathered out to give a smoky yet subtle look.  To help with choice of colours I looked up a colour wheel which had a corresponding version in black and white.  This was really useful to get an idea how colours translate over to black and white shades.

I wasn't entirely sure  how the make-up would work out so I did a trial run using my DSLR.  I converted the images in Lightroom over to black and white, which provided valuable insight into how the make-up would look.  It paid off as I felt the eye shadow was too much and needed to be feathered out more for the actual shoot.

A diamond and pearl hair comb was also used to breakup the dark hair and complement the white nightgown.  My trusty Rolliecord camera was used with Ilford Delta 100 professional medium format film.  For each shot I also used a light meter to take both incident and reflective readings to help set the final f/stop and shutter speed.  The use of a light meter vs. doing it by 'guess' work really paid off in this project as the images had beautiful tonal ranges, complemented by the fine grain of the film.

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Were there any disasters?  Oh boy were there!  The first roll of film I developed at home using a changing bag.  I had reservations about using it at the back of my mind as I've had problems in the past but put it down to user error.  For whatever reason the film just wouldn't wind onto the reel.  The problem with the bag is that it becomes very warm and humid.  This led to the emulsion on the film (of which I had already taken the paper off completely) becoming tacky, this caused the film to stick to itself!  As you can imagine I was becoming increasingly frustrated and anxious that I'd loose my work.

In the end I had to move, hands still in the bag and get myself into the darkest room in the house... the downstairs toilet!  Here I got the film out of the bag, gently pulled the film apart and finally got it to wind onto the reel.  A number of the negatives were damaged and scratched up but for the most part I was able to repair them using Photoshop.

My problems didn't stop there!  On my last roll of film I had run out of the Ilfotec DD-X developer solution that I had been using.  At this point I was in my local darkroom having binned the changing bag and used some developer that was in the cupboard.  Problem was though, there was no date written on the bottle to show when it was opened.  I took the decision to run with it... come the moment when I lifted the reel from the tank my heart sank.  The negatives were so thin that I initially thought I didn't have any images at all.

So a word from the wise, steer clear of changing bags and be confident that the developer you're using is OK.  I'm just going to buy my own bottle of developer and take that in with me for future developing.  I'm also going to keep the paper on the roll as I load it on to the reel.

Anyhow, here is the series 'No return'.