The FP4 negative of this scene has bothered me for some years. It is basically nicely exposed, but over time it has degenerated to the point that it resembled something that looked like a rat had made its home in. Also, this was from a bunch of films that I’d sent back to London for commercial processing, and it was developed a little bit dense.
I’ve made half-assed attempts at it in the past, but today I really wanted to see if I could get a picture that I think finally lives up to its potential. So, first of all, I washed it and hung it up to dry.
I find it quite amazing to think that one can take a negative from a quarter of a century ago and give it a wash, and that it will shed the accumulated detritus of time - and the guilty evidence of ordinary to bad storage - and come up pretty much as good as new. But this one did.
Then, having taken it down from the hanger nice and dry and clean, it was time to scan it. This was done to pretty accurate tonality but then there was a lot of burning, dodging, localized contrast control and general finessing to do.
Lately I have found that my ideas of what constitutes a good “print” (or in this case internet image) have changed from what they were in the past. Another thing I’ve been doing over the last few days is looking over some of the old prints I’ve had stored outside in the shed. From this I think I’ve gained a new appreciation for how I want to look at a print and how I feel a print should “speak”.
The result in this case is quite different to what I would have gone for or accepted in the past. I am really happy that this picture makes me “recognize” the scene pretty much the way Sue and I saw it as we sat in that café in 1987.
The next thing to do will be to get James to turn it into a sensational inkjet print, and perhaps even try to print it in the darkroom as well.
And I am reminded - again and again - that for me, nothing holds a candle to a beautiful black and white print.