A strange assignment that, in retrospect, is analogous to modern over processing...

An art director who had seen some of my hand colored portraits called me and got a bid for making a number of still life constructions, photographing them using 4x5 Polaroid Positive Negative film (Type 55), printing large prints from the resulting negatives and then lightly coloring them with Marshall's Transparent Oil Paints.

Each of the construction was used as a facing page or illustration in a four color brochure for a financial services company. We shot 12 set ups over the course of three days, in the studio.

At the time I was using a Linhof TechniKarden 4x5 inch view camera with an older set of Zeiss lenses. Most of the images were done with shorter lenses, in the range of 150mm to 210mm. To get different lighting effects we were spraying light through glass bricks, clear marbles and odd screens. It was the early 1990's and torn paper was chic.

The process was fun. We'd work on the constructions and keep photographing them with the Polaroid film. If the art director liked a construction we'd take the resulting negative and soak it in a sulfite bath to fix it. My darkroom was adjacent to the studio and at the end of the third day we had clotheslines full of curly, thin negatives hanging in neat rows.

My assistant and I contact printed all the "keeper" negatives and shared them with the art director. She made final selections and I headed back into the darkroom to make black and white prints on matte surface photographic paper. Once the images were printed (I made multiple copies as hand coloring is anything but an exact science) I sat down at a big table in the middle of my big studio and started coloring with little brushes, balls of cotton and cotton wrapped around little wooden sticks.

Once the prints were finished and presented we grappled with the fact that the color separator wasn't too thrilled about wrapping still malleable oil painted surfaces around their very expensive drum scanner. We ended up using an Apo lens on the Linhof and shooting copy shots of the large prints. The color separator did their work from the resulting 4x5 inch transparencies.

The process, from bid to final copy transparencies took, cumulatively, about ten days. We shot at least 150 sheets of Polaroid black and white, positive/negative film. The images worked well in the brochure and the brochure won some awards. everyone was happy.

When I look back at jobs like this I wonder where planning and patience has fled to in the world of advertising and the graphic arts.

The image above is a snap shot of a copy transparency of a work print from that time. The final image, presented above was taken with a Sony a77 and a 30mm macro lens with the transparency precariously balanced on the frosted plexiglass top of an old light box.

Just mellowing out to a bit of nostalgia this morning.