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Negative stress

One of the joys of home developing is the opportunity to experiment. I mean why make photos like everyone else's. Sure, some people may abhor what I'm advocating here, for many people the negative is precious, to be protected at all costs, dust and scratches the natural enemy. For me though almost from the start I've been interested in distressed negatives. Some folk like to scratch their negatives, I've heard of people using sandpaper or wire wool to rip into the emulsion. There are those crazy film soup recipes which give strange trippy effects with colour film. I've heard of people literally sacrificing their negatives to mother nature for weeks if not months on end, hanging the developed strips in bushes, even burying them! Well anyone who knows me will confirm that I'm not the most patient of chaps, I want instant results! So I've been exploring the dark art of reticuliation.

There is no secret to it, the basic principle involves subjecting the negs to alternating extremes of temperature, the trick is how cold, how hot and for how long, its not difficult. This results in the silver particles clumping together to form cool little patterns, interestingly they never seem random to my eye, there's always a uniformity. Modern films don't seem to reticulate at all, you need to use expired emulsions, the older the better. Even then some don't work as well as others. I've tried it with my tasma stock- nothing, some old Paterson phototec 100 again nada but PC1, now that stuff rocks! To my eyes the effect really works best when the scene has a lot of negative space, i.e. Lots of sky or swathes of water or sand, basically any flat boring areas, I like it a lot. At its extreme the scans or prints can take on a background texture similar to old parchment or leather, be more conservative with the times/ temperature and agitation and it will be more subtle. The golden rule I think is to not be afraid. Try it first on a test roll, shoot something that doesn't mean anything to you, remember to include areas of flat negative space in your compositions and one more thing, I think it looks better with less contrast so I recommend not pushing your film too much and subdued winter light is your friend.

So what are your thoughts? Have I lost the plot? Does it work for you? Oh yeah, almost forgot. There is one other magic ingredient in these shots... the lens but thats for another post. Lastly is there anyone out there who develops their own colour film who's crazy enough to try this? I think the results could be spectacular!

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