Earlier in the year, Euripides, the course leader brought into the basement a flyer for a competition that entailed using Ilford film and paper to produce a print.
The competition, run by Ilford, was titled A Different View and encouraged Students to produce images that looked upon a subject or scene from a different angle or perspective.
I’d contemplated this competition when I was thinking about going to Leeds for the exhibition at the University Of Leeds, Another Brick In the Wall. I took my Canon A1 with a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus (ISO400) to use on the campus and capture some views of the brutalist buildings that are abound on the university grounds.
One problem I had was that the week before I’d dropped the camera in a puddle and got it wet. It was all working and I never had any apparent issues with it, that is until I processed the film in my downstairs bathroom, hung it up to dry and then scanned it in to my mac using a Canon 5D and the Essential Film Holder over a lightbox.
Each and every image I’d captured on film was scratched. A couple of smaller scratches on some images but there must have been a small piece of grit that had been left in the camera back when dried out. This appears to have got jammed on the film plane of the camera or even in the cartridge entrance and as the film has gone across it, become scratched. I was devastated as I was originally happy with the images I’d made in Leeds. I tried several different methods to get a print out of them, even resorting to the “Nose Grease” method. Nothing worked and each of these had a non-ignorable defect.
Below is a scan of one negative showing a “look up” picture of a part of the buildings on the site. Not immediately obvious perhaps is the scratch that stretches from the top all the way through the centre down to the foot of the photo. I tried this on the enlarger to see if I could create a print without the obvious mark.
The nose grease I mentioned earlier is when you have a damaged negative and you run your finger tip into the crease of your nose and face near the bottom of the side, there is a bit of greasy substance if you have oily skin. Touching this area of your snoz and then lightly rubbing it over a mark on a negative can cause the enlarger to diffract the light through the grease and create blur that hides the defect. I picked up this skill from the YouTube channel ShootFilmLikeABoss and whilst it does sound disgusting it can be used to overcome small problems. Didn’t work on these bunch of negs though so I had to bin off any idea of using them.
I reverted back to some of my previous work to see if there were any that fit the “Different View” category and I came up with two such prints. One was originally titled “Red Corner” which shows a man and child walking underneath a ceiling corner from a higher viewpoint at the Barbican Centre in London. The print was tricky to produce as the negative was a bit weak for some reason and I originally struggled to get a usable image out of it, but this print had come out well. I used Ilford MGRC Pearl finish paper for the prints as I prefer it to the glossy finish.. (MultiGrade Resin Coated)
The second image, shown below on the right, was taken from the top of a multi-storey car park looking down at the traffic directing arrow marking on the road. I liked the perspective of the shot when I originally made it and the print came out well this time too in the Black & White darkroom.
I pasted the entry form on the rear of the 10×8″ prints using the trusty pritt stick and then inserted them into archival sleeves so that they’d reach the judges in the best possible condition. I placed a piece of board int he envelope and then wrote in big letters across it “Photographs: Please Do Not Bend” I always remember my Dad telling me postman often saw “Photographs:Do Not Bend” on envelopes and then scribbled “Yes They Do” on them, so I always add the please..
After submitting them I sat back and waited.
Then in the middle of March I had an email from Harman Technology’s Hannah Gross.
This year was possibly the most difficult year that we have ever judged. The standard of entries was extremely high, and we opened the competition up to students from all over the world. We received mor than 500 entries from Asia, Australia, America, Europe and the UK.
Whilst your image wasn’t selected for a prize this time, we wanted to let you know that that your image made it to the table for the last round of judging.
This is a huge achievement, and you should be very proud.Hannah Gross., March 2023
I don’t know which of the two images, if any, landed on the table for the last round of judging, but it was nice to get a reply back from them. I messaged this to Euripides and let him know, which he replied with a “maybe next year, and I’ll help you prepare a print”
If I’d had more time and my negs weren’t scratched I would have engaged his help as a black and white photography expert to help me produce the prints but I was short on time once I realised that the Leeds images were shot.
Did I learn anything from entering this competition? Yes, absolutely. I learnt how difficult it can be to select images based upon a title. A different view could have led me down the path of images of protests for instance but I chose the path I did because that’s what I had time for and what I was most interested in.
I don’t think I should take pictures of subjects I don’t find interesting to me, just for the sake of a competition as it should really still be my style, my usual practice. Unless I want to particularly go off the rails.
I learnt a bit about how grit can damage negatives and that I shouldn’t drop cameras in puddles.
Timing was another thing I learnt, don’t leave it until it’s too late to get the images in the can. If you leave it late and there’s an issue, there’s no time to drive to leeds and get a reshoot in.
I will definitely enter the competition next year when I see it pop back up, but not only that, it might mean that i enter other competitions too now I have an increased level of confidence. What’s the worst that can happen right? They send me a note saying it wasn’t what they were after. That’s all. Dealing with rejection is part of life so this is another life lesson.
In the words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stranger”